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... read more
The Gambler is a novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky about a young tutor in the employment of a formerly wealthy Russian General. The novella reflects Dostoevsky's own addiction to roulette, which was in more ways than one the inspiration for the book:...
The first-person narrative is told from the point of view of Alexei Ivanovich, a tutor working for a Russian family living in a suite at a German hotel. The patriarch of the family, The General, is indebted to the Frenchman De Grieux and has mortgaged his... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
The first-person narrative is told from the point of view of Alexei Ivanovich, a tutor working for a Russian family living in a suite at a German hotel. The patriarch of the family, The General, is indebted to the Frenchman De Grieux and has mortgaged his property in Russia to pay only a small amount of his debt. Upon learning of the illness of his wealthy aunt, "Grandmother", he sends streams of telegrams to Moscow and awaits the news of her demise. His expected inheritance will pay his debts and gain Madamoiselle De Cominges's hand in marriage.
Alexei is hopelessly in love with Polina and swears an oath of servitude to her. He told her while on a walk on the Schlangenberg (a mountain in the German town) that all she had to do was give the word and he would gladly walk off the edge and plummet to his death. This leads to her asking him to go to the town's casino and place a bet for her. He refuses at first but, when goaded and reminded of his oath of undying love and servility, he succumbs and ends up winning at the roulette table (this was his first experience with the narcotic bliss of gambling). He returns to her the winnings but she will not tell him the reason she needs money. She only laughs in his face (as she does when he professes his love) and treats him with cold indifference, if not downright malice. He only learns the details of The General's and Polina's financial state later in the story through his long-time acquaintance, Mr. Astley. Astley is a shy Englishman who seems to share Alexei's fondness of Polina. He comes from English nobility and has a good deal of money.
One day while Polina and Alexei are on a walk they see a Baron and Baroness. Polina dares him to insult the Aristocratic couple and he does so with little hesitation. This sets off a chain of events that details Madame de Cominges's interest in the General and gets Alexei fired as tutor of the General's children. Shortly after this Grandmother shows up and surprises the whole party of debtors and indebted. She tells them all that she knows all about the General's debt and why the French man and woman are waiting around the suite day after day. She leaves the party of death-profiteers by saying that none of them are getting any of her money. She then asks Alexei to be her guide around the town famous for its healing waters and infamous for its casino where the tables are stacked with piles of gold; she wants to gamble.
After being ushered to the roulette table, she plays and wins a significant amount of money. After a short return to the Hotel she comes back to roulette tables and she starts to get the bug; before she leaves the town she's lost almost a hundred thousand roubles. When Alexei gets back to his room after sending Grandmother off at the railway station he's greeted by Polina. She tells him that De Grieux had left town but not before he absolved the General from a certain moiety of the mortgages on his property. She then explains that because she was indebted to him she couldn't return Alexei's love. Upon hearing this Alexei runs out of the room and to the casino where he wins over two hundred thousand roubles and becomes a rich man. When he gets back to his room and the waiting Polina he empties his pocket fulls of gold and bank notes onto the bed. They fall asleep on the couch and the next day she tells Alexei that she hates him and wants to be with Mr. Astley (they had been secretly meeting and exchanging notes and she was supposed to meet him but had fallen asleep in his room). She runs out of the hotel and he doesn't see her again.
After learning that the general wouldn't be getting his inheritance Madame de Cominges leaves the hotel with her mother for Paris. Alexei goes with them having won a significant amount and they stay together for a month, he allowing them to spend his entire fortune on horses and frivolous balls.
Alexei starts to gamble to survive. One day he passes Mr. Astley on a park bench in Bad Homburg and has a talk with him. He finds out from Astley that Polina is in Switzerland and actually does love him. Astley gives him some money but shows little hope that he will not use it for gambling. Alexei goes home dreaming of going to Switzerland the next day and recollects what made him win at the roulette tables in the past.
“"`I have enemies ... I have bitter enemies who have sworn to ruin me."”Narrator
“"the laughter in Mr Goyadkin's face changed into a strangely anxious expression"”Narrator
“"...people not only at roulette, but everywhere, do nothing but try to gain or squeeze something out of one another."”Alexei Ivanovich
“"If ever I do kill you I shall have to kill myself, too. Oh, well, I shall put off killing myself as long as possible, so as to go on feeling this insufferable pain of being without you."”Alexei Ivanovich
The Double : A Petersburg Poem
The Gambler : A Novel (From a Young Man's Notes)
About The Translators
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