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BOOK REVIEW: The Double by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Takeover of One’s Self
Jean A. Vachon
WICKENBURG, AZ - Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin is a government clerk. In this poignant novel by one of the greatest Russian writers, Fyodo Dostoevsky, Golyadkin finds out to his dismay that a fellow clerk has taken over his identity.
Before he discovers that he has a double, we are familiarized with Golyadkin, his habits, his dreams, his everyday actions.
The novel is slow and reminds the reader of daily life. But the end result is poetic in that the author reflects on ordinary life and aspirations.
The main character is approaching the end of his working life. He is getting old. What are his future prospects?
And then appears this younger copy of himself.
The comparison is severe and brings Golyadkin close to insanity.
The psychological analysis in this short novel is fantastic!
I was familiarized with the literary merit of Dostoevsky in the course of my university studies through the study of Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov, a long time ago. These fantastic novels have enriched my understanding of life.
The emotions, fears and difficulties of life that they describe are so real and haunting in their psychological analysis motivate me in strongly recommending the listening or reading of The Double, the story of the takeover of one’s self.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
A nightmare: Mr Goliadkin, a Russian bureaucrat, finds his life falling apart, and to make matters worse, someone who looks exactly like him, and has the same name, shows up and appears to be conspiring against him. Things do not end well for Mr Goliadkin.
I can't think of anything else I've read by Dostoevsky where the narrator had such a loose grip on reality. The action is presented from Goliadkin's point of view, and it's hard to tell when he's seeing something for real and when he's hallucinating. The prose itself, with its repetitions of key words, especially proper names, begins to have a hallucinatory quality. Goliadkin slides into full-blown paranoia, and at times he takes us with him.
Richard Pevar, in the introduction to his translation of the book - not the one used here - says two things about it that seem wrong to me. He says that Goliadkin isn't an example of "the abnormal and pathological," but an attempt on Dostoevsky's part to explore a "normal human soul, but by means of an extreme case and a bold device." And he says that Dostoevsky came back to this theme later, with greater artistry, in "Notes from the Underground." For this non-expert reader, it's hard to see any other interpretation Goliadkin's ruminations but a gradually worsening schizophrenia; and the narrator of "Underground," as compulsively self-conscious as he is, doesn't seem quite so unhinged.
Like many of Dostoevsky's characters, Goliadkin combines a paralyzing and suffocating self-consciousness with an appalling lack of self-awareness.
Stefan Rudnicki gives a powerful reading, conveying Goliadkin's desperation and paranoia with real anguish. And he also conveys the repetitive rhythms of the prose without overemphasizing them. Probably the best thing I could say about him is that my cat purrs when Rudnicki is on the speaker.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful