Dostoevsky’s classic pitting one man against society
Widely considered to be the first existential novella, Notes from Underground presents the diary of a bitter, misanthropic man. The unnamed narrator has, in an act of supreme defiance, withdrawn from society completely. Formerly a civil servant, this “sick” and “wicked” man suffers from incurable ennui and forsakes all interaction. Rallying against what he perceives as human evils, like war, love, and utopianism, he exiles himself from all humanity in favor of exalted loneliness and suffering. Readers bear witness to the friends, lovers, and crippling social pressures of nineteenth-century Russia that made him this way.
Notes from Underground, which preceded masterworks including Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, is among Dostoevsky’s finest works, melding fiction and philosophy.