The Gambler brilliantly captures the strangely powerful compulsion to bet that Dostoevsky, himself a compulsive gambler, knew so well. The hero rides an emotional roller coaster between exhilaration and despair, and secondary characters such as the grandmother, who throws much of her fortune away at the gaming tables, are unforgettable. The book's publishing history is equally so: under the pressure of a deadline from an unscrupulous publisher, and with rights to his entire body of works at stake, Dostoevsky dictated the book in less than a month to the star pupil of Russia's first shorthand school. Then he married her.
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. In The Gambler, Dostoevsky reaches the height of drama with this stunning psychological portrait.
In Fyodor Dostoevsky's novella, Alexei Ivanovich is the tutor of a Russian family living in Germany. The General, the head of the family, is in debt, and knowing this, his niece Polina puts Alexei onto a life of gambling. Walter Zimmerman has a wonderfully terse style that fits Dostoevsky's marvelous prose, while also using a variety of accents when giving voice to the multitude of characters, making each one as distinct and memorable as Dostoevsky's narrative. The Gambler is a powerful portrait of Ivanovich's addictions to gambling and love, and the thrilling highs and crippling despair that come with both.
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- Stephen "Fictional characters in narrative"