TITLE: The Gambler
AUTHOR: Fyodor Dostoevsky
PUBLISHER: Modern Library
Quote: "People really do like seeing their best friends humiliated; a large part of the friendship is based on humiliation; and that is an old truth, well known to all intelligent people.”
Overview: Alexei Ivanovitch is a tutor working for a Russian General and his family living in a suite in a German hotel. The General, among others, is waiting for his wealthy aunt to die in order to inherit her fortune, pay off his debts and gain the opportunistic Mademoiselle Blanche's hand in marriage. Alexei, on the other hand, has his sights set on two things: gambling and the General's step-daughter, Polina. In his attempts to leap over the boundaries of Russian society and win over Polina he must face an Englishman, a Frenchman and a gambling habit, all of which prove to be worthy opponents. Alexei's passion for Polina is only matched by the feverish excitement he experiences at the roulette tables, winning and losing fortunes.
Analysis: The Gambler was a great Dostoevsky novel and one I would recommend to anyone looking to test the waters in Russian Literature. It's not too long and provides the classic psychological ups and downs that can be found in novels by Russian authors such as Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, and other similar non-Russian authors like Knut Hamsun. Witnessing the madness that Alexei experiences through roulette is indicative of Dostoevsky's gambling addiction. The Gambler was not only inspired by his addiction, but he completed the book under a strict deadline to pay off his gambling debts. Dostoevsky turns a routine activity (gambling) into an intense novel by diving deep into the human psyche, most likely that of his own mind and experiences.
Conclusion: Grab a copy of The Gambler today and you're likely to be reading Crime and Punishment a week later.