The Gambler and Other Stories is Fyodor Dostoyevsky's collection of one novella and six short stories reflecting his own life - indeed, 'The Gambler', a story of a young tutor in the employment of a formerly wealthy Russian General, was written under a strict deadline so he could pay off his roulette debts. This volume includes 'Bobok', the tale of a frustrated writer visiting a cemetery and enjoying the gossip of the dead; 'The Dream of a Ridiculous Man', the story of one man's plan to commit suicide and the troubling dream that follows, as well as 'A Christmas Party and a Wedding', 'A Nasty Story' and 'The Meek One'.
Pyotr and Stavrogin are the leaders of a Russian revolutionary cell. Their aim is to overthrow the Tsar, destroy society and seize power for themselves. Together they train terrorists who are willing to go to any lengths to achieve their goals - even if the mission means suicide. But when it seems the group is about to be discovered, will their recruits be willing to kill one of their own circle in order to cover their tracks? Partly based on the real-life case of a student murdered by his fellow revolutionaries, Dostoyevsky's sprawling novel is a powerful and prophetic, yet lively and often comic depiction of nineteenth-century Russia, and a savage indictment of the madness and self-destruction of those who use violence to serve their beliefs
Netochka Nezvanova - a 'Nameless Nobody' - tells the story of a childhood dominated by her stepfather, Efimov, a failed musician who believes he is a neglected genius. The young girl is strangely drawn to this drunken ruin of a man, who exploits her and drives the family to poverty. But when she is rescued by an aristocratic family, the abuse against Netochka's delicate psyche continues in a more subtle way, condemning her to remain an outsider - a solitary spectator of a glittering society. Conceived as part of a novel on a grand scale, Netochka Nezvanova remained incomplete after Dostoyevsky was exiled to Siberia for 'revolutionary activities' in 1849. With its depiction of the suffering, loneliness, madness and sin that affect both rich and poor in St Petersburg, it contains the great themes that were to dominate his later novels.
With their penetrating psychological insight and their emphasis on human dignity, respect and forgiveness, Dostoyevsky's early short stories contain the seeds of the themes that came to his major novels. Poor Folk, the author's first great literary triumph, is the story of a tragic relationship between an impoverished copy clerk and a young seamstress, told through their passionate letters to each other. In The Landlady Dostoyevsky portrays a dreamer hero who is captivated by a curious couple and becomes their lodger. Mr Prokharchin, inspired by a true story, is a sly comedy centring on an eccentric miser, and Polzunkov is a powerful character sketch which, in common with the other tales in this volume, questions the very nature of existence.
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Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, wanders through the slums of St Petersburg and commits a random murder without remorse or regret. He imagines himself to be a great man, a Napoleon: acting for a higher purpose beyond conventional moral law. But as he embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator, Raskolnikov is pursued by the growing voice of his conscience and finds the noose of his own guilt tightening around his neck. Only Sonya, a downtrodden prostitute, can offer the chance of redemption.
Notes from Underground' (1864) is a study of a single character, 'the real man of the Russian majority', and a revelation of Dostoyevsky's own deepest beliefs. One of his best critics has said of the first part that it forms his 'most utterly naked pages. Never afterwards was he so fully and openly to reveal the inmost recesses, unmeant for display, of his heart.' 'The Double' (1846) is the nightmarish story of Mr Golyadkin, a man who is haunted or possessed by his own double. Is 'Mr Golyadkinjunior' really a double or simply a fearful side of his own nature? This uncertainty is what gives urgency and horror to a tale which may be read as a classic study of human breakdown.
Inspired by an image of Christ's suffering, Dostoyevsky set out to create a protagonist with "a truly beautiful soul" and to trace the fate of such an individual as he comes into contact with the brutal reality of contemporary society. The novel begins when the innocent epileptic Prince Myshkin - the 'idiot' - arrives in St Petersburg and finds himself drawn into a web of violent and passionate relationships that leads to blackmail, betrayal and eventually murder.
I am a sick person. I am a spiteful person. An unattractive person, too . . .
In the depths of a cellar in St. Petersburg, a civil servant spews forth a passionate and furious note on the ills of society. The underground man's manifesto reveals his erratic, self-contradictory and even sadistic nature. Yet in Dostoyevsky's most radical and disturbing character, there is the uncomfortable flicker of recognition of the human condition.
When the narrator ventures above ground, he attends a dinner with a group of old school friends. It is here, paralysed by his own social awkwardness, that he carries out extraordinary acts and cements his status as a true and original outsider.
An official tie-in edition to accompany Richard Ayoade's brilliant new film based on Dostoyevsky's deliciously dark and slyly funny novel. The Double stars Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) and Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre) with support from Chris O'Dowd, Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine, Tim Key and Chris Morris.
A lonely government clerk - shy, awkward, blundering - finds himself pursued by a mysterious stranger. Somehow he looks familiar. In fact, he realizes, he looks exactly like him. He even has the same name. But, unlike him, he is charming and confident.
Soon the stranger starts insinuating himself into his life. He works at his office, stays at his apartment, ingratiates himself with his colleagues. No one seems surprised.
Who is he? What does he want? Is he a double, or something darker altogether?
Moscow-born Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) served time in a convict prison in Siberia for his political alliances, and in his later years his passion for gambling led him deeply into debt. His many brilliant novels include Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov.
Ronald Wilks has translated numerous Russian volumes for Penguin Classics, including works by Chekhov, Sologub, Tolstoy and Gogol.
If you enjoy this novel, you may want to read more by Dostoyevsky - his major novels and stories are all available in Penguin Classics, including Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, The Gambler and Other Stories, The Idiot, Demons, Netochka Nezvanova, The Brothers Karamazov, Poor Folk and Other Stories, The House of the Dead and The Village of Stepanchikovo.
Dostoevsky's last and greatest novel, The Karamazov Brothers (1880) is both a brilliantly told crime story and a passionate philosophical debate. The dissolute landowner Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov is murdered; his sons - the atheist intellectual Ivan, the hot-blooded Dmitry, and the saintly novice Alyosha - are all at some level involved.
Bound up with this intense family drama is Dostoevsky's exploration of many deeply felt ideas about the existence of God, the question of human freedom, the collective nature of guilt, the disatrous consequences of rationalism. The novel is also richly comic: the Russian Orthodox Church, the legal system, and even the authors most cherished causes and beliefs are presented with a note of irreverence, so that orthodoxy, and radicalism, sanity and madness, love and hatred, right and wrong are no longer mutually exclusive. Rebecca West considered it "the allegory for the world's maturity", but with children to the fore. This new translation does full justice to Doestoevsky's genius, particularly in the use of the spoken word, which ranges over every mode of human expression.
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