Notes From The Underground is Dostoevsky's grand look at the human condition from the perspective of a man living on the fringes of society. The short novel provides the key to much of the author's later and more fleshed out novels.
Presented in two parts the novel tells the story of the unnamed Undergound Man who is forced into a life of inaction by the reason driven society that he finds himself in.
Part I of the novel is a long monologue to an invisible audience which explains how the Underground Man came into existence. It is a masterpiece of Existentialist fiction and has been the cornerstone for many later writers including Freud and Camus. The ideas expressed in this part of the novel deal with the character's interactions with himself. This is also the mother of all anti-hero literature. Through the Underground Man's speech we identify him as an over sensitive man of great intellegence. We begin to identify with the character and understand him. While this part of the novel is idea laden it presents one of the great characters of modern fiction.
Part II of the novel is much more accessible to today's reader. This part of the novel deals with the Underground Man's interactions with the society around him. It is in this section that we see that he incapable of reacting in a normal way with the persons that he comes into contact with. He is not the rational man of Part I but a person driven to inaction by his own personal circumstances. He is spiteful, mean spirited and incapable of giving or receiving love to or from others.
On the whole this is a very important piece of world literature which deserves a very careful reading. The novel reads like an onion with each new chapter giving us deeper and deeper insight into the character. The modern reader may well grow tired of the writing style of the novel but if one has patience and reads carefully he will be rewarded.