Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The GamblerThe Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In all honesty, the only reason I picked this book up was because I had to read it for my 'psychology of addictive behavior' class. So naturally, I didn't analyze it as I normally do books, but rather I looked at it from a psychological perspective. Can't say I was the biggest fan of this story, but mostly because I was rather mandated to read it and I can't stand being told what to read.

Looking back, this was a pretty interesting story, delving into the gambling habits of a Russian family living in Germany during what I gather to be the 1800's or possibly early 1900's (when was roulette invented, exactly? Or, when did Dostoyevsky write this book again?) Image was everything, and even if the General and his family didn't actually have money, it was important that they appeared to still be wealthy, to maintain their position in society as well as to attract Mlle. de Cominges into marriage with the General, and to attract a potential suitor for Polina.

Oh, Polina. What a bitch. She outwardly tells our narrator Alexis Ivanovitch (almost exclusively referred to be his full name by the other characters) that while he is madly in love with her, to the point of obsession and submission to her every whim, that she hates him. And she basically gets him fired by the General for telling him to go insult a Baron and Baroness, which he of course does. Stupid arrogant girl.

Anyway, what was interesting to me was that while the 'gambler' referenced in the title is in fact Alexis, he does not really figure to be a gambling addict till closer to the end of the story. In the beginning, I thought it referred to Polina, who gave Alexis money to gamble with (because it was relatively frowned upon for women to get so drawn into the excitement of roulette). Or possibly Mlle. Blanche de Cominges, who is drawn to men for their money, from the Prince to the Baron to the General to Alexis himself, after his big winnings on the tables. Maybe even The Grandmother Antonida, who loses all her money (literally all of it) in a matter of 2 days in the casinos. No, Alexis was to me a smart gambler in the beginning, who was of course enthralled by the thrill of the casino, but cautious and too aware of himself to get too carried away (at least at first). He loses his small amount of money kinda quickly though, but by the end of the book still seems to me to be less of a gambling addict than the other gambling characters (still looking at you, Antonida.)

It was a relatively good book to read, especially for a classroom assignment. I like Dostoyevsky's style of writing slightly more than Dumas, almost wholly because Dostoyevsky pretty blatantly states what is happening at each point in The Gambler. In Dumas's works, it's a little more flowery descriptive writing, making it a little more difficult in some parts to ascertain what is happening plot-wise, and what is just metaphors and description. And this was a quick book, I read it in maybe 3 hours or so. Even if you read it and dislike it, it's not that much time that you've lost :P Oh, and this was more of a 2.30am rant than a book review, but I'm still pleased with how this rant came out, please post comments if you agree or disagree with anything I've said. I like having book discussions, I'm a nerd like that.

- Justin

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