Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm gobsmacked after reading this.
Never in my life have I ever read a novel (short or otherwise) that steeped me more in someone's spite, self-hate, revenge-fantasy, pettiness, obsessiveness, or mud-wallowing.
Of course, it's not quite as simple as that. The unnamed character has some erudition and a load of self-awareness and he doesn't shy away from telling us, even from page one, just how overflowing his SPITE is. It doesn't matter whether it harms him immediately or later on. The driving force is everything, and so we get to be shown just how far he can fall down the hole.
A modern retelling of this would have wound up in a suicide-by-cop situation or becoming the GOP Senate Majority (or Minority) Leader, but in point of fact, it is limited to crashing his frenemy's party, debasing a distressed woman, and being a total all-around jerk to everyone.
Of course, it didn't end on a huge bang. Indeed, it just holds up a freakish mirror to the reader and makes us feel like shit. I, too, have suffered amazing stretches of depression filled with anger. I, too, have spent a great deal of my life solacing myself with books and hiding away from others. I've even engaged in revenge-fantasy if any of my taste in books tells us anything.
But the fact is, this horrible, horrible person might as well be us. Any of us. That's the brilliance of this quite brilliant Dostoyevsky novel. We are all worms and he shows us proof of it.
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