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5.0 out of 5 starsThe Double: Dostoevsky's minor masterpiece.
Reviewed in the United States on March 30, 2014
Although I would not necessarily argue that this is Dostoevsky's best novel, it nevertheless is my favorite. It is short and relatively uncomplicated. A man who is so insecure that he constantly places himself in situations where he knows he is going to be slighted and insulted finally projects a copy of himself into what he thinks is the real world. This copy or "double" of himself, however, is very comfortable in polite society, is well liked and promoted at work. The double is a hallucination on the part of "Mr. Golyadkin," but he fits into every facet of the protagonist's life, at first humble and friendly, later mocking and undermining, and finally part of Mr. Golyadkin's total moral destruction. The Double has many points in common with the unnamed narrator of Notes from Underground who elevates man's habit of acting against his own best interests practically to a religion. This narrator is also undone by forcing himself on people who he knows will reject him.
3.0 out of 5 starsThis book is not easy to read and i suspect that is the point
Reviewed in the United States on May 21, 2016
This book is not easy to read and i suspect that is the point. the main character is losing his mind and you get a front row seat. if you ever had a conversation with a mentally ill person think how long did that last? Now imagine being in that person's head. Not something you would do for fun. I'd rather watch an adapted movie.
Reviewed in the United States on February 22, 2017
Makes you go to another place in your mind. You can use your brain and stretch it . Learn something new from a old master. This will always be current. It's science fiction but sometimes we feel Iike crazy things are happening to us and like with fairy tails for children it helps us with our daily troubles.
1.0 out of 5 starsA Horrible Translation of "The Double"
Reviewed in the United States on February 25, 2011
I strongly advise against ordering this particular translation. It is awkward and deviates significantly from the original text. In addition, there are several typographical errors throughout the book. Since the translator isn't even listed, I'd be willing to bet the translation is so old it's out of copyright.
The Double is a very short book, as well as being one of Dostoyevsky's early successes. The description of the book makes it sound quite Kafkaesque in that a man finds his entire life is taken over by someone who looks identical to him.
Reading the opening few chapters, though, does reveal an author's voice that is quite different from Kafka and very different indeed from Bulgakov. We are introduced to our "hero," Mr. Golyadkin. Yet this man does not appear to be any way a `hero' as one traditionally would traditionally think of such. Golyadkin is a paranoid man, acting as if (though the text never states it) he is drunk. Behaving thoroughly inappropriately at his doctor's and gatecrashing a party, he quickly reaches a low point and wishes he were someone else.
Then something odd happens. He spies a stranger nearby who is dressed very much like him. Indeed, as he follows this chap home, this is indeed the eponymous Double. As the story progresses, this Double stays at Golyadkin's house, starts work at the same office and starts to insidiously infiltrate Golyadkin's circles of influence.
Throughout, we are forced by the author to be on Golyadkin's side, referring to him as "our hero" and with derogatory terms used to describe the Double. Yet one cannot escape the thought, fostered at the start, that much of this is going on inside Golyadkin's mind. There are times when we wonder if the Double really was up to no good, or whether we are simply being fed the paranoid delusions of a madman. This all makes for some uncomfortable reading at times, with some confusion being brought into the mind of this reader; but I think this was partly the intention of the author.
As the story comes towards its conclusion, I did start to think it more reminiscent of Kafka, particularly with the theme that the central character was a piggy in the middle, surrounded by conspirators who were all in on some secret knowledge that he lacked. Even heading onto the last page, I still could not determine what would happen and having finished, I was still not certain what did happen. But I'll leave it for you to find out that for yourself.
4.0 out of 5 starsIntriguing, though liked by vile mediocre Nabakov
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 25, 2014
An intriguing short novel, which I have begun over again. While lacking the multitude of very distinctive characters who tend to populate Dostoevsky's works, here we have a superb portrait of one: Golyadkin, who exists in two different versions. At the same time there is a clear ambiguity throughout the novel, making it difficult to say anything with utter clarity. This made me interested in how other readers had tackled or interpreted the piece. I thought the synopsis on Wikipedia was appalling, suggestive as it was of a very insensitive reader who will not allow the ambiguity that is part of the fabric of this delightful read. Kafka's The Trial, which also intrigues, delights and horrifies me, and is a greater novel than this one, seems less original after discovering the blueprint offered here: in The Double it could be we are plunged into an especially elaborate dream of the protagonist, one creating a narrative out of his state of mind. We are certainly not in a naturalistic novel, even supposing Golyadkin is having a nervous breakdown: breakdowns surely never take the form of what we find here. No, we are in more Kafkaesque territory - before Kafka came along, yet what particularly appeals in this case is Dostoevsky's very light touch. Nabakov, a vile mediocre author, is all of a piece with the insanity that troubles this work with his insulting lies about one who is, thankfully, now increasingly being recognised as the world's greatest novelist, and this is a rewarding early grappling with a psychological face he would mine later more extensively.
4.0 out of 5 starsThe Gambler: a gift for my grandson
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 16, 2014
My grandson plays poker online. He's not an addict and good at maths. It's sometimes difficult to know what to give to an 18yr old young man but his mother always encouraged him to read from a very early age, so I knew that a book would not be automatically a poor choice. I had read The Gambler many years ago and found it hilarious and slightly crazy. I thought that Dostoeveskiys fondness for marginalised and eccentric characters might appeal to someone young. Also as a slavophile, Dostoevsky is very rude about people from west European countries ( the French, the Germans and the Polish being favourite targets) and I thought that a century or so later this too would be funny. I had to re-read the novella to see if it had stood the test of time. It did but the beginning is quite slow -- deliberately -- and it is followed by an explosion of energy in chapter 9. I'll have to see what an 18yr old thinks. The edition is a scholarly one with intro., footnotes, recommended reading and even a note on the various currencies involved. Happy reading to you all!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 5, 2014
Although I had trouble at times deciphering the internal monologue of Mr. Golyadkin, I ultimately enjoyed this book very much purely because of the brilliance with which Dostoevsky portrays paranoia and anxiety - from the perspective of the individual! The effect of this can occasionally be to make the writing truly maddening to follow, but that's all part of the fun. I found it got easier to understand as the plot developed further (say ~50 pages in). Probably not my favourite Dostoevsky novel - less social commentary and more of a psychological 'jaunt' than some of his writings - but a fun read nonetheless; would definitely recommend it.
I was so drawn the concept of this story, but hated the experience of reading it. The sentences are long, fussy and convoluted; never seeming to lead to anything rewarding. I'm left exhausted, grumpy, bereft, one might say, and all because of a certain person known to both of us....a certain rogue...Mr Dostoyevsky