This book has 1 recommendation

David Heinemeier Hansson (Co-Founder/Basecamp)

It’s such a lovely weird book. Partly, it’s Dostoyevsky giving us an account, through the fictional narrator, of his view on the human condition. Just one quote: “But man has such a predilection for systems and abstract deductions that he is ready to distort the truth intentionally, he is ready to deny the evidence of his senses only to justify his logic”. The idea of humans being suckered into living only according to “logic”, and not only the vanity of such a pursuit, but the impossibility of it, is a wonderful antidote to much of contemporary morality and wonkness.

In the same vein, I found the attack on the core underpinning concept of much of 20th century economics, that people are rational beings making rational choices to optimize their own advantage, so forward for its time. Notes from Underground is from 1864, yet manages to expertly debunk that narrow view. Freedom, not material advantage, is the “most advantageous advantage”, even when that’s the freedom to do yourself harm. (Any analysis of Brexit and Trump would do well to consult with Dostoyevsky).

Also, major bonus points for being a short book, yet packing so much punch.

Amazon description

In 1864, just prior to the years in which he wrote his greatest novels — Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Possessed and The Brothers Karamazov — Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881) penned the darkly fascinating Notes from the Underground. Its nameless hero is a profoundly alienated individual in whose brooding self-analysis there is a search for the true and the good in a world of relative values and few absolutes. Moreover, the novel introduces themes — moral, religious, political and social — that dominated Dostoyevsky's later works. Notes from the Underground, then, aside from its own compelling qualities, offers readers an ideal introduction to the creative imagination, profundity and uncanny psychological penetration of one of the most influential novelists of the nineteenth century. Constance Garnett's authoritative translation is reprinted here, with a new introduction.

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