Notes from Underground; The Double
‘It is best to do nothing! The best thing is conscious inertia! So long live the underground!’ Alienated from society and paralysed by a sense of his own insignificance, the anonymous narrator of Dostoyevsky’s groundbreaking Notes from Underground tells the story of his tortured life. With bitter sarcasm, he describes his refusal to become a worker in the ‘ant-hill’ of society and his gradual withdrawal to an existence ‘underground’. The seemingly ordinary world of St Petersburg takes on a nightmarish quality in The Double when a government clerk encounters a man who exactly resembles him – his double perhaps, or possibly the darker side of his own personality. Like Notes from Underground, this is a masterly study of human consciousness. Jessie Coulson’s introduction discusses the stories’ critical reception and the themes they share with Dostoyevksy’s great novels.
‘Notes from Underground, with its mood of intellectual irony and alienation, can be seen as the first modern novel … That sense of the meaningless of existence that runs through much of twentieth-century writing – from Conrad and Kafka, to Beckett and beyond – starts in Dostoyevsky’s work’