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Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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But do you know, gentlemen, what was the main thing about my spite? Why, the whole point, the vilest part of it, was that I was constantly and shamefully aware, even at mements of the most violent spleen, that I was not at all a spitefull, no, not even an embittered, man. That I was merely frightening sparrows to no purpose, diverting myself. I might be foaming at the mough, but bring me a doll, give me some tea, with a bit of sugar, and I'd most likely calm down. Indeed, I would be deeply touched, my very heart would melt, though later I'd surely gnash my teeth at myself and suffer from insomnia for months. That's how it is with me.

I'll wager that you think I"m writing all this merely out of bravado, and bravado in bad taste at that, clattering my sword like that officer, just to exercise my wit at the expense of men of action. But, my dear sirs, who would take pride in his own diseases, and grag about them too? Ah, what am I saying? Everybody does it. It's precisely their diseases that people pride themselves on, and I do--more perhaps than anybody else.

If people prove to you, for example, that you're descended from an ap, there is no point in making a sour face about it; accept it as it is. If they will prove to you that, when you come down to it, one drop of your own fat is bound to be more precious to you than the lives of a hundred thousand fellow humans, and that this will in the end determine all the so-called virtues and duties and all the rest of that rot and nonsense, you have no choice but to accept it--there's nothing to be done about it, because two times two is mathematics. Try and object to that.

'Ha-ha-ha!' You'll laugh. 'You will be finding pleasure in a toothache next!' 'And why not? There is pleasure in a toothache too,' I'll answer. I had a toothache for a whole month. I know. In such situations, of course, people don't nurse their anger silently, they moan aloud; but these are not frank, straightforward maons, there is a kind of cunning malice in them, and that's the whole point. Those very moans express the sufferer's delectation; if he did not enjoy his moans, he wouldn't be moaning.

'I am disturbing you, I lacerate your hearts, I don't let anybody in the house sleep. Well then, don't sleep. I want you also to feel every moment that my teeth ache. Now I'm no longer the hero I tried to make you think I was at first, but simply a contemptible wrtech, a scoundrel. All right, then! I'm delighted that you see through me. It sickens you to listen to my file moans? Good, let it sicken you. Just wait, I'll treat you to an even nastier flourish....'

Question: Who are you? Answer: A lazy man. Why, it would be a pleasure to hear this about myself. It would mean that I was positively identified, that there was something to be said about me. "A lazy man!" Why, that's a title and a vocation, it's a career. Don't joke, it's true.

And I would grow myself such a belly, I'd contrive for myself such a triple chin and such a scarlet nose that everyone I met would say, on seeing me: "Now, that is somebody! That's somebody truely worthy and positive!" And say what you will, sirs, but it's most pleasant to hear such comments in our negative age.

But I repeat to you for the hundredth time: there is only one occasion, one only, when man may purposely, consciously choose for himself even the harmful and the stupid, even the stupidest thing--just so that he will have the right to wish the stupidest thing, and not be bounded by the duty to have only intelligent wishes....Because, at any rate, it preserves for us the most important and most precious thing--our personality, our individuality.

Let us suppose, gentlemen, that man is not stupid. (And really, you cannot say he is stupid, if only for the reason that if he is stupid, then who is intelligent?) But even if he isn't stupid, he is nevertheless monstrously ungrateful! Phenomenally ungrateful! I even think that the best definition of man is: a biped, ungrateful.

And who knows (no one can vouch for that), perhaps the only goal toward which mankind is striving on earth consist of nothing but the continuity of the process of achieving--in other words, of life itself, and not the goal proper, which, naturally, must be nothing but two times two is four--in other words, a formula; and two times two, gentlemen, is no longer life, but the beginning of death.

[Man] is fond of striving toward achievement, but not so very fond of the achievement itself, and this is, naturally, terribly funny. In short, man is constructed comically; there is evidently some joke in all of this. But two times two makes four is still an altogether insufferable thing. Two times two makes four--why, in my view, it is sheer impertinence. Two times two makes four is a brazen fop who bars your way with arms akimbo, spitting. I agree that two times two makes four is an excellent thing; but if we are dispensing praise, then two times two makes five is something a most charming little thing as well.

And although with conscieousness you reach the same result--a state in which there's nothing to be done--at least you can then whip youself from time to time, and this, at any rate, is somewhat enlivening. Retograde, yes, but still better than nothing.

In fact, the best thing would be this: if I myself believed at least a jot of what I have just written. I swear to you, gentlemen, I don't believe a single word, not one, of what I've scribbled just now! That is, I do, perhaps, believe it, yet at the same time, heaven knows why, I have a feeling, a suspicion that I'm lying like a cobbler.

But whether I despised a man or felt he was superior, I almost always dropped my eyes before his. I even made experiments: could I endure the glance of this one or that one? And always I was the first to drop my eyes. This tormented me to the point of rage. I was also morbidly afraid of looking rediculous and therefor slavsihly worshiped established conventions in everything external; I set myself with dedication into the general groove dreaded any sign of eccentricity within me.

We Russians, generally speaking, have never had any stupid transmundane romantics of the German and, especially, the French variety, whom nothing ever affects: the earht might be cracking beneath them, all of France might be perishing on the berricades, yet they remain the same. They wouldn't change for decency's sake. They'll go on singing their starry tunes, so to speak, to their dying day, because they're fools.

My wretched little lusts were sharp and smarting due to my constant state of morbid irritability. I was given to hysterical outbursts, with tears and convulsions. Aside from reading, I had nothing to turn to, nothing I could then respect in my surroundings, nothing that could attract me. I would be overwhelmed with pent-up misery. I would hysterically long for contradictions, contrasts, and so I'd take to dissipation. It wasn't to justify myself that I"ve been telling you all this, not in the least....Yet, no! That was precicely what I tried to do--to justify myself. I am making this little note for myself, gentlemen. I do not want to lie. I've given my word.

Once, passing a cheap tavern, I saw through the lighted windwo some gentlemen fighting with billiard cues, and one of them was thrown out of the window. At another time I might have felt refulsion, but at that moment I was suddenly overcome with envy of the man who had been thrown out, an envy so acute that I even stepped into the tavern, into the billiard room: Perhaps I too could get into a fight, and also get tossed out of the window.

(To Page 63, it just isn't very exciting after page 63.)


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