Saturday, 2 July 2016

The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

First published in Russian in 1860. English translation by Constance Garnett in 1917. Audible audiobook narrated by Walter Zimmerman.

One of my WorldReads from Russia

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the audiobook download from Audible via
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Purchased the audiobook from Audible

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'In this dark and compelling short novel, Fyodor Dostoevsky tells the story of Alexey Ivanovitch, a young tutor working in the household of an imperious Russian general. Alexey tries to break through the wall of the established order in Russia, but instead becomes mired in the endless downward spiral of betting and loss. His intense and inescapable addiction is accentuated by his affair with the general's cruel yet seductive niece, Polina.'

I wasn't surprised to learn that Dostoyevski had a gambling problem himself because his insight into his narrator, Alexey's, compulsive behaviour is wonderfully realistic. Apparently this novella was written in great haste because the profits from its publication were needed to settle gambling debts! I liked the evocation of high society shenanigans in a German casino town called Roulettenberg where everyone knows everyone and strict rules of class and etiquette abound. There seems to be little entertainment other than strolling through the park or gracing the roulette tables, yet from this Dostoyevsky has created an interesting story of selfish, back-stabbing people all unashamedly out to gain as much of each other's fortunes as they can.

I am not sure I would have enjoyed The Gambler so much if I had read the book, because most of the story is presented through often overly melodramatic dialogue, but listening to Zimmerman's deft portrayal of the characters lifted it into another league. Granny is by far my favourite character and her casino scenes are superb. I felt the story meandered somewhat once Alexey left Roulettenberg for Paris, but this is still well-deservedly a classic.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Fyodor Dostoyevsky / Historical fiction / Books from Russia

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