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The Double and the Gambler (Everyman's…
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The Double and the Gambler (Everyman's Library) (edition 2007)

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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4791121,531 (3.96)24
Member:JWhitsitt
Title:The Double and the Gambler (Everyman's Library)
Authors:Fyodor Dostoevsky
Info:Vintage (2007), Kindle Edition, 361 pages
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The Double / The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Dostoevsky is one of the greatest writers of all time. A contemporary of Dickens and Tolstoy - his literature has stood the test of time and serves as a prime example of the human capability to express one-self. Some of his novels are deep thought provoking works of philosophical content. Both "The Double" and "The Gambler" are light on philosophy, but present richly crafted, intensely dramatic character studies; one short novella involves the actions of a man deeply troubled and confused, and the other novella explores the personality and actions of a compulsive gambler. A genius in the art of descriptive narratives, Dostoevsky lays the groundwork, sets the stage, and then leads the reader into an emotionally charged labyrinth filled with colorful characters.

"The Double" was published in 1846 - one of Dostoevsky’s first attempts at fiction - at the age of 25. He may have lacked polish, but the genius of his style was already visible. The Double is a darkly complex capsule of several days in the life of a government clerk - Vakov Petrovich Goliadkin. Vakov is shy, introverted, a poor conversationalist and clearly at odds with his co-workers and society in general. He visits a Dr. for advice on how to deal with his social anxiety and is told to change his habits, “visit friends and acquaintances, and along with that be no enemy to the bottle; likewise keep merry company.” Anyone who has ever suffered social anxiety knows that is easier said than done, and for someone on a downward spiral who has already alienated most everyone, it could be an impossible task.

It quickly becomes apparent that Vakov is suffering hallucinations. He is suddenly confronted by a twin - with his own name - who invades Vakov’s life - gets a job in the same office - goes to the same parties, the same eating establishments, even comes to visit Vakov at his home. It is sometimes uncertain if the double does exist and Vakov is merely imagining some other man looks just like him, or if the entire being of this other person is all a mirage. And if you delve into Vakov’s psyche you can only wonder if his double is Vakov’s way of sub-consciously trying to re-establish a connection with the outer world, or a desperate attempt to ignore a split personality.

"The Gambler" was written in 1866 and takes place in some unnamed cosmopolitan city - an international gambling mecca. The story centers around a Russian tutor who is traveling abroad with his employer’s family. His employer is a General who surrounds himself with an entourage of exotic people; an English gentleman, a French Count, and a young Russian Countess traveling with her mother. They are all waiting for the General’s wealthy eccentric mother to die - hoping to cash in on the wealth, and in the meantime biding their time, living large on borrowed money.

If you’ve ever pondered the mystery of the gambling addiction, this novella will give you a first hand view of how irrational a compulsive gambler behaves... feel the exhilaration of winning, and experience the nauseating desperation that manically possesses an addict on a losing streak. Dostoevsky gives excellent descriptions... based on his own personal agonizing addictive experiences.

I highly recommend the Everyman’s Library modern translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. ( )
  LadyLo | Jan 10, 2017 |
I could not really relate with a delirious guy who starts to see his double. The style of the writing is very confusing probably in attempt to showcase the delirious state of mind where Goliadkin was in.

The Gambler is a much better effort, although dictated in a hurry in order to settle Dostoyevsky's own gambling debts.The character of the babushka was a similarly lovely fool as the lizaveta Prokofievna in the "idiot".
A story with cunning female characters and desperate love that drives the main protagonist into fatalism. The notions that Dostoyevsky makes about Russia and Russian spirit appear timeless. ( )
  Kindnist85 | May 25, 2016 |
The Double was a challenge and read a little like Tsarist Russian Fight Club. Very trippy. The Gambler was much more straight forward and quite sad, especially considering Dostoevsky himself was a gambler who lost all he had at the Roulette table. He used his experience to expert effect in his short novel. ( )
  dgmillo | Jun 2, 2013 |
Well, I liked this a ton better than the other Dostoevsky I've read (Brothers Karamazov). Maybe just because it's tighter, maybe because I'm in a different place, maybe it's actually better. It has real force to it, anyway. Dostoevsky's loopy but airtight craftsmanship is on full display here.

Trivia: a) you already heard this one, but Dostoevsky once gambled away his wife's wedding ring; b) this book was in itself a gamble. He took a loan from a guy in exchange for the following gamble: if he didn't present the guy with a novel on a certain date, the guy would own all rights to his other books up to that point. He procrastinated in order to write The Idiot, ended up hiring a stenographer with weeks to spare and dictating this whole thing to her, got it to the guy on the very last day and promptly married the stenographer. That is a good story. ( )
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
From "The Gambler"
A noir novella about gambling addiction, risk-taking, and magical thinking.

Alexei Ivanovich suffers from unrequited love for Polina, a woman with secrets, one of which involves a desperate need for money. She asks Alexei to play roulette with her money, but he loses it all.

Polina says:
"'....Why I had that notion [that I would win at roulette] I don't understand, but I believed in it. Who knows, maybe I believed because I had no other choice.'
"'Or because there was all too much NEED to win. It's exactly like a drowning man grasping at a straw. You must agree that if he weren't drowning, he wouldn't take a straw for the branch of a tree.'
"Polina was surprised.
"'Why,' she asked, 'aren't you hoping for the same thing yourself? Two weeks ago you yourself once spoke to me, a lot and at length, about your being fully convinced of winning here at roulette, and tried to persuade me not to look at you as a madman - or were you joking then? But I remember you spoke so seriously that it couldn't possibly have been taken for a joke.'
"'That's true,' I answered pensively. 'To this day I'm fully convinced of winning. I'll even confess to you that you've just now led me to a question: precisely why has my senseless and outrageous loss today not left me with any doubts? I'm still fully convinced that as soon as I start playing for myself, I'm sure to win.'
"'Why are you so completely certain?'
"'If you like - I don't know. I know only that I NEED to win, that it's also my one way out. Well, so maybe that's why it seems to me that I'm sure to win.'
"'Which means you also have all too much NEED to win, if you're so fanatically convinced.'
"'I'll bet you doubt I'm capable of feeling a serious need.'
"'It's all the same to me,' Polina replied quietly and indifferently. 'If you like - YES, I doubt that you could seriously suffer from anything. You may suffer, but not seriously. You're a disorderly and unsettled man....'"
Kindle location 3156-3173

From "The Double"
Mr. Goliadkin, meek bureaucrat, can not yet acknowledge that he is following his own double, a man identical to himself:

"Suddenly, through the howling of the wind and the noise of the storm, there again came to [Mr. Goliadkin's] ears the noise of someone's footsteps quite close by. He gave a start and opened his eyes. Before him, again, some twenty paces away, was the black shape of a little man quickly approaching him. This man was hurrying, flurrying, scurrying; the distance was quickly diminishing. Mr. Goliadkin could even thoroughly examine his new late-night comrade - examined him and cried out in astonishment and terror; his legs gave way under him. This was that same walker he knew, the one whom he had let pass by some ten minutes earlier and who now had suddenly, quite unexpectedly, appeared before him again. But this was not the only wonder that struck Mr. Goliadkin - and Mr. Goliadkin was so struck that he stopped, cried out, was about to say something - and started after the stranger, even shouted something to him, probably wishing to stop him the sooner. The stranger actually stopped some ten paces from Mr. Goliadkin, and so that the light of a nearby streetlamp fell full on his whole figure - stopped, turned to Mr. Goliadkin, and, with an impatiently preoccupied air, waited for what he would say. 'Excuse me, perhaps I'm mistaken,' our hero said in a trembling voice. The stranger said nothing, turned in vexation, and quickly went on his way, as if hurrying to make up the two seconds lost on Mr. Goliadkin. As for Mr. Goliadkin, he trembled in every muscle, his knees gave way, grew weak, and he sank with a moan onto a hitching post. However, there actually was a cause of such bewilderment. The thing was that this stranger now seemed somehow familiar to him. That would still be nothing. But he recognized, he now almost fully recognized this man. He had seen him often, this man, even used to see him quite recently; but where was it? was it not just yesterday? However, once again this was not the main thing, that Mr. Goliadkin had seen him often; and there was almost nothing special about this man - no one's special attention would have been drawn to this man at first sight. He was just a man like everybody else, a decent one, to be sure, like all decent people, and maybe had some merits, even rather significant ones - in short, he was his own man."
Kindle location 883-904
  Mary_Overton | Aug 26, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Fyodor Dostoevskyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Pevear, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Volokhonsky, LarissaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375719016, Paperback)

The award-winning translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky have given us the definitive version of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s strikingly original short novels, The Double and The Gambler.The Double is a surprisingly modern hallucinatory nightmare–foreshadowing Kafka and Sartre–in which a minor official named Goliadkin becomes aware of a mysterious doppelganger, a man who has his name and his face and who gradually and relentlessly begins to displace him with his friends and colleagues. The Gambler is a stunning psychological portrait of a young man's exhilarating and destructive addiction to gambling, a compulsion that Dostoevsky–who once gambled away his young wife's wedding ring–knew intimately from his own experience. In chronicling the disastrous love affairs and gambling adventures of Alexei Ivanovich, Dostoevsky explores the irresistible temptation to look into the abyss of ultimate risk that he believed was an essential part of the Russian national character.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:28 -0400)

Featuring themes such as the inner plurality of consciousness and the temptation to look into the abyss of ultimate risk, these two tales by Dostoevsky explore both classical and contemporary psychological notions.

(summary from another edition)

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