Notes from the Underground
The long and the short of it is, gentlemen, that it is better to do nothing! Better
conscious inertia! And so hurrah for underground! Though I have said that I envy
the normal man to the last drop of my bile, yet I should not care to be in his place
such as he is now (though I shall not cease envying him). No, no; anyway the
underground life is more advantageous. There, at any rate, one can ... Oh, but
even now I am lying! I am lying because I know myself that it is not underground
that is better, but something different, quite different, for which I am thirsting, but
which I cannot find! Damn underground!
I will tell you another thing that would be better, and that is, if I myself believed in
anything of what I have just written. I swear to you, gentlemen, there is not one
thing, not one word of what I have written that I really believe. That is, I believe it,
perhaps, but at the same time I feel and suspect that I am lying like a cobbler.
"Then why have you written all this?" you will say to me. "I ought to put you
underground for forty years without anything to do and then come to you in your
cellar, to find out what stage you have reached! How can a man be left with
nothing to do for forty years?"
"Isn't that shameful, isn't that humiliating?" you will say, perhaps, wagging your
heads contemptuously. "You thirst for life and try to settle the problems of life by
a logical tangle. And how persistent, how insolent are your sallies, and at the
same time what a scare you are in! You talk nonsense and are pleased with it;
you say impudent things and are in continual alarm and apologising for them.
You declare that you are afraid of nothing and at the same time try to ingratiate
yourself in our good opinion. You declare that you are gnashing your teeth and at
the same time you try to be witty so as to amuse us. You know that your
witticisms are not witty, but you are evidently well satisfied with their literary
value. You may, perhaps, have really suffered, but you have no respect for your
own suffering. You may have sincerity, but you have no modesty; out of the
pettiest vanity you expose your sincerity to publicity and ignominy. You
doubtlessly mean to say something, but hide your last word through fear,
because you have not the resolution to utter it, and only have a cowardly
impudence. You boast of consciousness, but you are not sure of your ground, for
though your mind works, yet your heart is darkened and corrupt, and you cannot
have a full, genuine consciousness without a pure heart. And how intrusive you
are, how you insist and grimace! Lies, lies, lies!"
Of course I have myself made up all the things you say. That, too, is from
underground. I have been for forty years listening to you through a crack under
the floor. I have invented them myself, there was nothing else I could invent. It is
no wonder that I have learned it by heart and it has taken a literary form ....
But can you really be so credulous as to think that I will print all this and give it to
you to read too? And another problem: why do I call you "gentlemen," why do I
address you as though you really were my readers? Such confessions as I intend
to make are never printed nor given to other people to read. Anyway, I am not