‘It is best to do nothing! The best thing is conscious inertia! So long live the underground!’ Alienated from society and paralysed by a sense of his own insignificance, the anonymous narrator of Dostoyevsky’s groundbreaking Notes from Underground tells the story of his tortured life. With bitter sarcasm, he describes his refusal to become a worker in the ‘ant-hill’ of society and his gradual withdrawal to an existence ‘underground’. The seemingly ordinary world of St Petersburg takes on a nightmarish quality in The Double when a government clerk encounters a man who exactly resembles him – his double perhaps, or possibly the darker side of his own personality. Like Notes from Underground, this is a masterly study of human consciousness. Jessie Coulson’s introduction discusses the stories’ critical reception and the themes they share with Dostoyevksy’s great novels.