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Notes from the Underground

II
I want now to tell you, gentlemen, whether you care to hear it or not, why I could
not even become an insect. I tell you solemnly, that I have many times tried to
become an insect. But I was not equal even to that. I swear, gentlemen, that to
be too conscious is an illness--a real thorough-going illness. For man's everyday
needs, it would have been quite enough to have the ordinary human
consciousness, that is, half or a quarter of the amount which falls to the lot of a
cultivated man of our unhappy nineteenth century, especially one who has the
fatal ill-luck to inhabit Petersburg, the most theoretical and intentional town on the
whole terrestrial globe. (There are intentional and unintentional towns.) It would
have been quite enough, for instance, to have the consciousness by which all so-
called direct persons and men of action live. I bet you think I am writing all this
from affectation, to be witty at the expense of men of action; and what is more,
that from ill-bred affectation, I am clanking a sword like my officer. But,
gentlemen, whoever can pride himself on his diseases and even swagger over
them?
Though, after all, everyone does do that; people do pride themselves on their
diseases, and I do, may be, more than anyone. We will not dispute it; my
contention was absurd. But yet I am firmly persuaded that a great deal of
consciousness, every sort of consciousness, in fact, is a disease. I stick to that.
Let us leave that, too, for a minute. Tell me this: why does it happen that at the
very, yes, at the very moments when I am most capable of feeling every
refinement of all that is "sublime and beautiful," as they used to say at one time, it
would, as though of design, happen to me not only to feel but to do such ugly
things, such that ... Well, in short, actions that all, perhaps, commit; but which, as
though purposely, occurred to me at the very time when I was most conscious
that they ought not to be committed. The more conscious I was of goodness and
of all that was "sublime and beautiful," the more deeply I sank into my mire and
the more ready I was to sink in it altogether. But the chief point was that all this
was, as it were, not accidental in me, but as though it were bound to be so. It was
as though it were my most normal condition, and not in the least disease or
depravity, so that at last all desire in me to struggle against this depravity passed.
It ended by my almost believing (perhaps actually believing) that this was
perhaps my normal condition. But at first, in the beginning, what agonies I
endured in that struggle! I did not believe it was the same with other people, and
all my life I hid this fact about myself as a secret. I was ashamed (even now,
perhaps, I am ashamed): I got to the point of feeling a sort of secret abnormal,
despicable enjoyment in returning home to my corner on some disgusting
Petersburg night, acutely conscious that that day I had committed a loathsome
action again, that what was done could never be undone, and secretly, inwardly
gnawing, gnawing at myself for it, tearing and consuming myself till at last the
bitterness turned into a sort of shameful accursed sweetness, and at last--into
positive real enjoyment! Yes, into enjoyment, into enjoyment! I insist upon that. I
have spoken of this because I keep wanting to know for a fact whether other
 
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