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Editorial Reviews

Walter Zimmerman strikes an intellectual, angst-ridden note in his performance of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground, a foundation text among existential writers like Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre.

The first part of this novella sees the jaded narrator musing philosophically on whether human action is motivated by reason as well as the concept of suffering. In the second part, we get a more dramatic portrait of the "Underground Man". Here we see him obsess over a cruel officer and cruelly spew his anguish upon a young prostitute.

The narrator in Dostoevsky’s novella is meant to be fascinating but not fully sympathetic. Zimmerman deftly conveys both his intelligence and his arrogance.

Publisher's Summary

By the time Dostoevsky was 40, he had spent four years in prison and a further four years in the army as punishment for his part in a political conspiracy. His health was broken. He was gaunt, fervid, anxiety-ridden, and close to bankruptcy. It was in this state he wrote Notes from the Underground, a masterpiece of the psychology of theoutsider.

The book, published in 1864, marks a turning point in Dostoevsky's writing: it announces the moral, political, and social ideas that he will further examine in Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. The book opens with a tormented soul crying out, "I am a sick man...I am a spiteful man." This is the cry of an alienated individual who has become one of the greatest anti-heroes in all literature.

©1982 Jimcin Recordings

What members say

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  • Overall
  • jb
  • Boston, MA
  • 05-28-05

Brilliant

Notes from Underground is one of the seminal works of modern literature--devastating for what Bakhtin called Dostoevskii's "negative dialectics", the author's amazing ability to run equally valid propositions against each other, leaving the reader gasping. In Notes from Underground, we find the foundation of Dostoevskii's better-known works: Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Brothers Karamazov. We also find the foundations of existentialist literature--wherein the main character deliberately defies reason and self-interest for the greater good of freedom, of unharnessed human volition. Here too, Dostoevskii deliberately challenged the extraordinary defense of human freedom in Part I against the devastating portrait of a misanthrope enslaved by his own past in Part II.
This book is not for the faint of heart, 120 pages of pure intellectual poison.

37 of 38 people found this review helpful

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  • Tina
  • Nibley, UT, United States
  • 12-27-15

Everyone is a critic

I suspect that to fully understand this book the reader must have some tendencies toward mental illness. The rants are more a way of dealing with reality when the real desire is to be acknowledged. I found quite a bit of humor in this volume. The 'underground man' is most often the crazy curmudgeon neighbor we all have.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jason
  • Melrose, MA
  • 11-29-15

The First Great Work of Hipsterdom

Though written in the mid 19th century, this work could be a contemporary examination of the bitter and jaded intellectuals of a hip neighborhood in an American city. I think the internet has just excalated the time line in recent history, for while the protagonist in this work is 40+, he speaks like a typical 20 or 30 something these days. The work is hillarious and brutal. I kept seeing myself, and then hating myself for it, for the hero isn't the hero he believes himself to be. This was a great work of a master looking at his former, younger self, i suppose. Love Dostoevsky, always will. Narrator is acceptable, but not noteworthy.

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Erratic stream of consciousness

This being written during a period of time when Dostoevsky had just been jailed for a long period of time and then released, then was being watched with the intention of sending him back to the gulag ( a place from which few returned) I thought this would be of a type of literature similar to Solzhenitsyn. I was wrong. This story rambles in a free-form monologue that attempts philosophy but never comes close. Dostoevsky in other writing is genius, so I do not want a new comer to the world of classic Russian writers to be put off by this review, there are great, and I mean extraordinary works done by this and other writers of this time but this work shows the tattered and fragile state of mind an oppressive totalitarian state can create from the starting point of genius. I could not recommend this work as a great piece of literature, but as a window to the debasing ability of oppressive government.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Katelyn
  • el mirage, AZ, USA
  • 05-16-09

Could be better

I would have given this book a higher rating except that the sound quality was so terrible. It had alot of static and sounded like it was recorded in someone's garage. I wish they had shelled out the extra cash for some decent recording equipment. Other than that, the book was dark, insightful, and entertaining. The very first sentences have you convinced Dostoevsky is the most brutally honest and tormented genius to grace the pages with his thoughts.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Anthony
  • doral, FL, United States
  • 06-03-07

Not his best work

I found this book a bit dull and lacking. The reader doesn´t help.

0 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Robin
  • 08-12-17

Mesmerising.

The story is beautifully written and truthfully observed. It felt very personal. Zimmerman narrates superbly.

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  • Glor
  • 06-17-14

Yuk

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Different reader needed.................I was unable to continue listening hence unable to digest the story although I know the story .

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

Its a great story

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Very much

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

The story

Any additional comments?

Awful experience . Made me irritable and turned it off (:<br/>