Notes from the Underground
A quarter of an hour later I was rushing up and down the room in frenzied
impatience, from minute to minute I went up to the screen and peeped through
the crack at Liza. She was sitting on the ground with her head leaning against the
bed, and must have been crying. But she did not go away, and that irritated me.
This time she understood it all. I had insulted her finally, but ... there's no need to
describe it. She realised that my outburst of passion had been simply revenge, a
fresh humiliation, and that to my earlier, almost causeless hatred was added now
a personal hatred, born of envy .... Though I do not maintain positively that she
understood all this distinctly; but she certainly did fully understand that I was a
despicable man, and what was worse, incapable of loving her. I know I shall be
told that this is incredible--but it is incredible to be as spiteful and stupid as I was;
it may be added that it was strange I should not love her, or at any rate,
appreciate her love. Why is it strange? In the first place, by then I was incapable
of love, for I repeat, with me loving meant tyrannising and showing my moral
superiority. I have never in my life been able to imagine any other sort of love,
and have nowadays come to the point of sometimes thinking that love really
consists in the right-- freely given by the beloved object--to tyrannise over her.
Even in my underground dreams I did not imagine love except as a struggle. I
began it always with hatred and ended it with moral subjugation, and afterwards I
never knew what to do with the subjugated object. And what is there to wonder at
in that, since I had succeeded in so corrupting myself, since I was so out of touch
with "real life," as to have actually thought of reproaching her, and putting her to
shame for having come to me to hear "fine sentiments"; and did not even guess
that she had come not to hear fine sentiments, but to love me, because to a
woman all reformation, all salvation from any sort of ruin, and all moral renewal is
included in love and can only show itself in that form.
I did not hate her so much, however, when I was running about the room and
peeping through the crack in the screen. I was only insufferably oppressed by her
being here. I wanted her to disappear. I wanted "peace," to be left alone in my
underground world. Real life oppressed me with its novelty so much that I could
But several minutes passed and she still remained, without stirring, as though
she were unconscious. I had the shamelessness to tap softly at the screen as
though to remind her .... She started, sprang up, and flew to seek her kerchief,
her hat, her coat, as though making her escape from me .... Two minutes later
she came from behind the screen and looked with heavy eyes at me. I gave a
spiteful grin, which was forced, however, to keep up appearances, and I turned
away from her eyes.
"Good-bye," she said, going towards the door.
I ran up to her, seized her hand, opened it, thrust something in it and closed it
again. Then I turned at once and dashed away in haste to the other corner of the
room to avoid seeing, anyway ....