Books That Inspire 2010

Notes from Underground
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“I am a spiteful man,” says the Underground Man to introduce himself. Intelligent and rational yet bitterly unhappy, he cannot shield himself from feelings of isolation, inferiority, and confusion about his place in the universe—all this locked Underground, in the dun-geon of his own mind. For some readers, Dostoevsky’s narrative is simply the confession of an unpleasant person. But when I first encountered it at the age of eighteen, I was feeling rather unpleasant myself. Notes from Underground gave shape to emotions I had often felt, but had never before seen acknowledged by anyone else. It brought me to the understanding that great literature illuminates even our darkest spaces—it sheds light on the human condition in general and on each of us in particular.

From Books That Inspire 2004.

Janis Paul
Associate Dean of the Graduate College
Director, English Assessment Program