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Notes from the Underground

I
At that time I was only twenty-four. My life was even then gloomy, ill- regulated,
and as solitary as that of a savage. I made friends with no one and positively
avoided talking, and buried myself more and more in my hole. At work in the
office I never looked at anyone, and was perfectly well aware that my
companions looked upon me, not only as a queer fellow, but even looked upon
me--I always fancied this--with a sort of loathing. I sometimes wondered why it
was that nobody except me fancied that he was looked upon with aversion? One
of the clerks had a most repulsive, pock-marked face, which looked positively
villainous. I believe I should not have dared to look at anyone with such an
unsightly countenance. Another had such a very dirty old uniform that there was
an unpleasant odour in his proximity. Yet not one of these gentlemen showed the
slightest self-consciousness--either about their clothes or their countenance or
their character in any way. Neither of them ever imagined that they were looked
at with repulsion; if they had imagined it they would not have minded--so long as
their superiors did not look at them in that way. It is clear to me now that, owing
to my unbounded vanity and to the high standard I set for myself, I often looked
at myself with furious discontent, which verged on loathing, and so I inwardly
attributed the same feeling to everyone. I hated my face, for instance: I thought it
disgusting, and even suspected that there was something base in my expression,
and so every day when I turned up at the office I tried to behave as
independently as possible, and to assume a lofty expression, so that I might not
be suspected of being abject. "My face may be ugly," I thought, "but let it be lofty,
expressive, and, above all, extremely intelligent." But I was positively and
painfully certain that it was impossible for my countenance ever to express those
qualities. And what was worst of all, I thought it actually stupid looking, and I
would have been quite satisfied if I could have looked intelligent. In fact, I would
even have put up with looking base if, at the same time, my face could have
been thought strikingly intelligent.
Of course, I hated my fellow clerks one and all, and I despised them all, yet at the
same time I was, as it were, afraid of them. In fact, it happened at times that I
thought more highly of them than of myself. It somehow happened quite
suddenly that I alternated between despising them and thinking them superior to
myself. A cultivated and decent man cannot be vain without setting a fearfully
high standard for himself, and without despising and almost hating himself at
certain moments. But whether I despised them or thought them superior I
dropped my eyes almost every time I met anyone. I even made experiments
whether I could face so and so's looking at me, and I was always the first to drop
my eyes. This worried me to distraction. I had a sickly dread, too, of being
ridiculous, and so had a slavish passion for the conventional in everything
external. I loved to fall into the common rut, and had a whole-hearted terror of
any kind of eccentricity in myself. But how could I live up to it? I was morbidly
sensitive as a man of our age should be. They were all stupid, and as like one
another as so many sheep. Perhaps I was the only one in the office who fancied
 
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