Notes from the Underground
by Fyodor Dostoevsky
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Many consider Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground the first existentialist
novel. The narrator and main character, often called “the Underground Man,” is a bitter,
misanthropic retiree living in St. Petersburg. He lives each day in constant physical and
psychological pain. He has no job and lives entirely off of his retirement funds. A bad
tooth and an aching liver make it difficult for him to do anything but stay at home and
write “notes” about his ennui and suffering. The Underground Man shares moments from
his past, and through them, he explains how he came to despise both himself and other
people. Masterfully, Dostoevsky immerses the reader in the dark, but fascinating, mind
of his narrator. Notes from the Underground remains one of the great Russian
novelist’s most popular works and is one of the most widely-read and influential works of
classic literature of the last century.