Dostoevsky Notes From Underground Analysis

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Notes from Underground (1864) by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) is presented as a collection of excerpts from the memoirs, and existentialist ramblings of an un-named narrator. The novel has been translated several times. The most notable of these translations being that of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (1994) and Constance Garnett (1918). Two of the most prevalent themes in the novel, and it seems for Dostoevsky himself are isolationism and existentialism in Russia at the time that the novel was written. Both Pevear/Volokhonsky’s and Garnett’s translations of the novel address the isolationist and existentialist ideas presented by Dostoevsky in different ways. Cultural differences between the English and Russian languages as well as personal judgment and style make the two translations…show more content…
In the novel existentialism and isolationism are interpreted through different writing styles, personal taste of the the translator, historical and social context, as well as Dostoevsky’s personal views and experiences. Notes from Underground can be interpreted in many different ways. Some find it tragic, some find it funny. It can be difficult to say what tone the novel is intended to have. Escpecially when translations of the novel can differ so greatly. This difference in translation begins in the very first line of the novel, “I am a sick man…I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man.” (1) (Garnett) The way that Garnett translates this makes the narrator seem hateful and angry. Pavear and Volokhonsky’s translation of this same line creates a different image of the narrator, “I am a sick man…I am a wicked man. An unattractive man.” (1) The use of the word wicked takes away the anger and adds a sense of irony. The lack of “I am” in front of “an
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