Turn The Page: The Gambler By Dostoevsky

the gambler The Gambler is the story of Alexei Ivanovich, a tutor in the household of The General and his family. This was paired with Notes From The Underground: both of them being fairly short novels and stylistically similar — both of them using the first person form of narrative. I found the narrator, even given some of his less than pleasant attitudes, to be a much easier character to like — of course this is not an essential requirement for any book, yet it is worth mentioning in connection with the other novel that is paired with it in this instance. As is mentioned in the notes that proceed the book, the whole novel is structured in such a way that it mimics the motions and vacillations of the world of the roulette table and the gambler. All of the characters in this book are, in one way or another, gambling on something — whether it is literally frittering away their money in the casino or waiting on some other character to do something. People are, regularly raised high and brought low on the turn of an event or the spin of the wheel. What Alexei has in common with his counterpart in Notes From The Underground is that he is not a particularly good judge of character and misreads people in a way that he does not misread the odds in the casino. By now, the modern reader is used to the unreliable narrator, but I think Dostoevsky sidesteps the sense of artificiality that often accompanies the overly self-conscious use of this device; Alexei does not appear to be a cipher for the workings of this technique. He is a calmer narrator than the one in Notes; he has a gambler’s patience or detachment, if you prefer, from the events to which he is party and witness. This is not to suggest that you do not pick up on the increase in energy whenever gambling at the casino or gambling in life are in evidence — but there is the sense that if something goes bad it can always be saved on the spin of a roulette wheel. And this is the primary difference from Notes: that regardless of how bad things get there is always a sense of hope. For a fair portion of the novel one is given to wonder when the main character is actually going to get involved in the real gambling — but it is a build of anticipation, that wait for the perfect time to play. Dostoevsky himself was a gambler, and the recreation of the giddy highs and appalling lows, and the gambler riding over both as if they were the same thing, which to a degree they are, is perfectly captured here. One of the things which I find most attractive about Dostoevsky’s work and which marks him out from many of his contemporaries is the fact that he feels no need to resolve a story in the way that, for instance, Dickens might choose to do — where all loose ends are tied up; where all villains and all heroes get their due. To me this lack of, what? narrative neatness? makes the stories more believable and more human. This book is a masterclass in how to write. —————- Now playing: R.E.M. – Departure via FoxyTunes

2 Replies to “Turn The Page: The Gambler By Dostoevsky”

  1. Pingback: Gambling
  2. Thanks for this review. This is very interesting. I love Dostoevsky but not many of his works are available in the bookshops in my place. “The Gambler” will definitely be one of my next few book acquisitions when I get to travel to more decent bookshops in the capital of our good republic.

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