Notes from Underground
Set in the twilight years of the Czechoslovak communist regime, this novel describes a doomed love affair between two young people trapped by the system. Roger Scruton evokes a world in which every word and gesture bears a double meaning, as people seek to find truth amid the lies and love in the midst of betrayal. Notes from Underground tells the story of Jan Reichl, condemned to a menial life by his father’s alleged crime, and of Betka, the girl who offers him education, opportunity, and love, but who mysteriously refuses to commit herself.
Through his encounter with the underground culture and the underground church, Jan comes to understand that truth will always elude those who pursue it, and will come only when they least expect it, often, as in this case, with devastating results. As the story moves to its tragic conclusion the communist system enters its death throes. Jan enjoys freedom at last, only to understand that he has lost the love that would have made freedom meaningful.
Roger Scruton gives a portrait of Prague and its underground life, as it was during the 1980s, and before the communist collapse.
NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS
Like its British author, a philosopher and public intellectual who has published forty books and two operas, Notes from Underground is deeply humane, sensitive and unflinching. In its elegantly-written pages we find a quietly brutal depiction of people trying to make real lives for themselves – for their minds and souls – amid the interlocking snares of totalitarianism and its special set of lies. Through this book, we feel what it was to breathe that stale, choking air whilst trying not to show any feeling at all, lest it draw attention.