Notes from Underground

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Notes from Underground  (1918) 
by Fyodor Dostoevsky, translated by Constance Garnett
a short novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky written in 1864. It is considered one of the world's first and finest existentialist works. It presents itself as an excerpt from the rambling memoirs of a bitter, isolated, unnamed narrator (generally referred to by critics as Underground Man) who is a retired civil servant living in St. Petersburg.


  • Part 1: Underground

The author of the diary and the diary itself are, of course, imaginary. Nevertheless it is clear that such persons as the writer of these notes not only may, but positively must, exist in our society, when we consider the circumstances in the midst of which our society is formed. I have tried to expose to the view of the public more distinctly than is commonly done, one of the characters of the recent past. He is one of the representatives of a generation still living. In this fragment, entitled "Underground," this person introduces himself and his views, and, as it were, tries to explain the causes owing to which he has made his appearance and was bound to make his appearance in our midst. In the second fragment there are added the actual notes of this person concerning certain events in his life.

  • Part 2: Apropos of the Wet Snow

     When from dark error's subjugation
     My words of passionate exhortation
     Had wrenched thy fainting spirit free;
     And writhing prone in thine affliction
     Thou didst recall with malediction
     The vice that had encompassed thee:
     And when thy slumbering conscience, fretting
     By recollection's torturing flame,
     Thou didst reveal the hideous setting
     Of thy life's current ere I came:
     When suddenly I saw thee sicken,
     And weeping, hide thine anguished face,
     Revolted, maddened, horror-stricken,
     At memories of foul disgrace.

(translated by Juliet Soskice).

This is a translation and has a separate copyright status from the original text. The license for the translation applies to this edition only.
This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1946, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 60 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.