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 which a minor official named Goliadkin becomes aware of a mysterious doppelganger, a man who has his name and his face and who gradually and relentlessly begins to displace him with his friends and colleagues.
The Gambler is a stunning psychological portrait of a young man’s exhilarating and destructive addiction to gambling, a compulsion that Dostoevsky–who once gambled away his young wife’s wedding ring–knew intimately from his own experience. In chronicling the disastrous love affairs and gambling adventures of Alexei Ivanovich, Dostoevsky explores the irresistible temptation to look into the abyss of ultimate risk that he believed was an essential part of the Russian national character.
Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky (Russian: Фёдор Михайлович Достоевский), sometimes transliterated Dostoevsky, was a Russian novelist, journalist, and short-story writer whose psychological penetration into the human psyche had a profound influence on the 20th century novel.
Dostoyevsky was the second son of a former army doctor. He was educated at home and at a private school. Shortly after the death of his mother in 1837 he was sent to St. Petersburg, where he entered the Army Engineering College. Dostoyevsky’s father died in 1839, most likely of apoplexy, but it was rumored that he was murdered by his own serfs. Dostoyevsky graduated as a military engineer, but resigned in 1844 to devote himself to writing. His first novel, Poor Folk appeared in 1846.
That year he joined a group of utopian socialists. He was arrested in 1849 and sentenced to death, commuted to imprisonment in Siberia. Dostoyevsky spent four years in hard labor and four years as a soldier in Semipalatinsk, a city in what it is today Kazakhstan.
Dostoyevsky returned to St. Petersburg in 1854 as a writer with a religious mission and published three works that derive in different ways from his Siberia experiences: The House of the Dead , (1860) a fictional account of prison life, The Insulted and Injured, which reflects the author’s refutation of naive Utopianism in the face of evil, and Winter Notes on Summer Impressions, his account of a trip to Western Europe.
In 1857 Dostoyevsky married Maria Isaev, a 29-year old widow. He resigned from the army two years later. Between the years 1861 and 1863 he served as editor of the monthly periodical Time, which was later suppressed because of an article on the Polish uprising.
In 1864-65 his wife and brother died and he was burdened with debts. His situation was made even worse by his gambling addiction. From the turmoil of the 1860s emerged Notes from the Underground, a psychological study of an outsider, which marked a major advancement in Dostoyevsky’s artistic and creative development.
In 1867 Dostoyevsky married Anna Snitkin, his 22-year old stenographer. They traveled abroad and returned in 1871. By the time of The Brothers Karamazov (1879-80), Dostoyevsky was recognized in his own country as one of its great writers.