Notes from Underground (1864) Dostoevsky (in translation)
Dr. Rimma Volynska
Notes from Underground is polemical, Dostoevsky’s answer in debate between himself
and Nikolay Chernyshevsky (What’s To Be Done?) and Ivan Turgenev (Fathers and
• Chernyshevsky’s book considered the “bible” of radicals.
o Believed man to be innately good, amenable to reason.
Vasily Rozanov: Russian writer in tune with spirtual philosophy of Dostoevsky.
Existentialist perspective of novella:
• Man’s choice is eternal, every choice must be his, free of imposition from above.
1. The title of this work was once “A Confession.” To whom is the narrator
confessing? With what effect? To what extent could this work be considered a
parody of a confession?
2. Is the underground man really voicing Dostoevsky’s own ideas, as has frequently
been assumed? How does one decide such questions?
3. On what different levels is this work written (e.g. psychological, philosophical,
etc.)? how are the various levels made to cohere?
4. What different attitudes to himself, to others, or to the world can you find in the