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The Double / The Gambler

por Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Golyadkin is a low-level bureaucrat struggling to succeed. His doctor tells him that his behaviour being dangerously antisocial should improve in cheerful company. Golyadkin resolves to try this, and leaves the office. He arrives uninvited at a birthday party and is asked to leave later. On his way home through a snowstorm, he encounters his double, who looks exactly like him. They soon become friends and we witness this surreal evolving relationship.… (mais)
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Two very different novellas, that perhaps would go better separately. 'The Double' is, as the blurb tells us, 'surprisingly modern,' but, as the blurb neglects to tell us, 'surprisingly modern' need not mean 'really good.' Instead, it's a bit too long, a bit over-written, and most of all it's not as good as the late novels. Of course, not much is. 'The Gambler' is entirely different--not at all modern, but also just as far from the excellence of the later works. It's enjoyable enough, particularly, as another reviewer has commented, once the grandmother shows up. Well, well. I'd rather have re-read Demons. ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
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 |
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Dostoevsky, Fyodorautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Pevear, RichardTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Volokhonsky, LarissaTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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Golyadkin is a low-level bureaucrat struggling to succeed. His doctor tells him that his behaviour being dangerously antisocial should improve in cheerful company. Golyadkin resolves to try this, and leaves the office. He arrives uninvited at a birthday party and is asked to leave later. On his way home through a snowstorm, he encounters his double, who looks exactly like him. They soon become friends and we witness this surreal evolving relationship.

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