Notes from the Underground
... Somewhere behind a screen a clock began wheezing, as though oppressed
by something, as though someone were strangling it. After an unnaturally
prolonged wheezing there followed a shrill, nasty, and as it were unexpectedly
rapid, chime--as though someone were suddenly jumping forward. It struck two. I
woke up, though I had indeed not been asleep but lying half-conscious.
It was almost completely dark in the narrow, cramped, low-pitched room,
cumbered up with an enormous wardrobe and piles of cardboard boxes and all
sorts of frippery and litter. The candle end that had been burning on the table
was going out and gave a faint flicker from time to time. In a few minutes there
would be complete darkness.
I was not long in coming to myself; everything came back to my mind at once,
without an effort, as though it had been in ambush to pounce upon me again.
And, indeed, even while I was unconscious a point seemed continually to remain
in my memory unforgotten, and round it my dreams moved drearily. But strange
to say, everything that had happened to me in that day seemed to me now, on
waking, to be in the far, far away past, as though I had long, long ago lived all
My head was full of fumes. Something seemed to be hovering over me, rousing
me, exciting me, and making me restless. Misery and spite seemed surging up in
me again and seeking an outlet. Suddenly I saw beside me two wide open eyes
scrutinising me curiously and persistently. The look in those eyes was coldly
detached, sullen, as it were utterly remote; it weighed upon me.
A grim idea came into my brain and passed all over my body, as a horrible
sensation, such as one feels when one goes into a damp and mouldy cellar.
There was something unnatural in those two eyes, beginning to look at me only
now. I recalled, too, that during those two hours I had not said a single word to
this creature, and had, in fact, considered it utterly superfluous; in fact, the
silence had for some reason gratified me. Now I suddenly realised vividly the
hideous idea-- revolting as a spider--of vice, which, without love, grossly and
shamelessly begins with that in which true love finds its consummation. For a
long time we gazed at each other like that, but she did not drop her eyes before
mine and her expression did not change, so that at last I felt uncomfortable.
"What is your name?" I asked abruptly, to put an end to it.
"Liza," she answered almost in a whisper, but somehow far from graciously, and
she turned her eyes away.
I was silent.
"What weather! The snow ... it's disgusting!" I said, almost to myself, putting my
arm under my head despondently, and gazing at the ceiling.
She made no answer. This was horrible.
"Have you always lived in Petersburg?" I asked a minute later, almost angrily,
turning my head slightly towards her.
"Where do you come from?"