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Fedor Dostoevsky. Player - Great And Terrible
Fedor Dostoevsky. Player - Great And Terrible

Video: Fedor Dostoevsky. Player - Great And Terrible

Video: Fedor Dostoevsky. Player - Great And Terrible
Video: Why You Need to Read Dostoyevsky - Prof. Jordan Peterson 2023, March

Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote the novel The Gambler, using his experience as a gamer, in six weeks to pay off gambling debts. He dedicated it to this destructive passion - a rare case in world literature of this level

The hero of the work is rightfully considered Alexei Ivanovich - an impoverished nobleman who lives in a hotel with the family of a Russian general in a German city with the “telling” name of Roulettenburg. The general dreams of marrying his stepdaughter Polina and expects to make this dream come true "a rich inheritance from a sick Moscow grandmother." Alexey Ivanovich is in love with Pauline, but she does not reciprocate in anticipation of a rich dowry and seeks to marry the Marquis des Grieux.

Dangerous frontier of passion

The "sick grandmother" who unexpectedly arrived in Roulettenburg, remembering her youth, loses most of her wealth at roulette, leaving the general and Pauline without inheritance.

A passion unexpected for readers, which suddenly seizes a rich and self-confident old woman at the sight of the opportunity to win a fortune "in five minutes", is described in the novel vividly. A wealthy Russian landowner "shook in a frenzy"; "Grandma just trembled, watching the wheel"; "She, so to speak, trembled from within." As often happens, the old lady unexpectedly won a lot of money. Then, which is also natural, I lost them.

At that moment, she crossed the line that separates the novice player from the pathological gamer

“- I don’t want to be alive - I’ll win back… - she said in a kind of calmness of rage… I have fifteen thousand rubles profiled!”

Alexey Ivanovich is surprised how a sick grandmother (she was taken in a gurney) was able to sit at the game table for eight hours.

However, the players know how a person can sit for almost a day in one place behind the cards …

In the end, the grandmother left without money returns to Russia the next day.

Losing is inevitable

Of course, the Marquis does not want to marry a dowry woman who, moreover, has already managed to borrow fifty thousand from him. Proud Polina asks Alexei Ivanovich to win this amount so that she can throw in the "dastardly face" of the Marquis Des Grieux "these fifty thousand and would spit …!" Luck brings Alexei Ivanovich a happy win of a huge amount and the joy of helping his girlfriend.

He hears from all sides the quiet advice of those present: "… leave tomorrow morning by all means, as early as possible, otherwise you will lose everything …"

Passion for a girl or for a game?

Alexey Ivanovich noticed one strange thing: “… as I touched the gambling table yesterday and began to rake in wads of money, my love seemed to recede into the background … As soon as I was approaching the gambling hall, two rooms away, I would just hear the tingling of money pouring in, - with my almost convulsions … Yes, in such moments you forget all the previous failures!"

The gambling addiction of the former home teacher quickly developed to a pronounced clinical degree.

One passion - love for a girl turns into another passion - for gambling

For a year and a half he has been wandering around the “gambling cities” of Germany, sinking lower and lower on the social ladder. Now he is already serving as a lackey and even goes to jail for an unpaid debt. At the same time, Aleksey Ivanovich understands that "the calculation itself means quite little and does not at all have the importance that many players attach to it." But he "came up with one conclusion," which turned out to be fatal for him: "During random chances there is, though not a system, but as if some kind of order, which, of course, is strange."

Added to this "rational thought" is a purely psychological motive: "some strange sensation was born, some challenge to fate, some desire to give her a click, to put her tongue out."

And what did the author himself do?

Portrait of the writer Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky. 1872
Portrait of the writer Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky. 1872

Vasily Perov. Portrait of the writer Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky. 1872

In 1866, Dostoevsky was an avid gamer.

But as a writer, he is forced to draw a moralizing conclusion, which he put into the mouth of another character in this novel - the Englishman Astley:

“You have become numb, you have not only abandoned life, your own and public interests, the duty of a citizen and a person, your friends (and you still had them), you not only abandoned any goal, except winning, you even gave up your memories."

This is how personality changes (emotional and intellectual) occur due to the progression of addiction to gambling.

Note that, having written such words, that is, having demonstrated formal criticality, Dostoevsky continued to play until 1871, and very unsuccessfully.

The famous writer gave the casino nine years of his life

Once he wrote to Ivan Turgenev: “It’s five days since I’ve been in Wiesbaden and I’ve lost everything, everything is down to ashes, and the clock, and even in the hotel must. I am disgusted and ashamed to bother you with myself … Here's the thing: I appeal to you as a person to a person and ask you for 100 (one hundred) thalers."

The wheel of fortune cannot be turned

In May 1867, Dostoevsky's second wife, Anna Grigorievna, was pregnant.

The writer “began to argue that the loss in Hamburg was caused mainly by his loneliness and excitement

He was worried about her, in general, confused because of the haste and the responsibility he had taken. But if they could live together where there is a roulette wheel, play without haste, without burying, according to the system … and in June they went to Baden-Baden. They stayed in Baden for five weeks, and she called them nightmarish.

Fyodor Dostoevsky fervently believed that he had a system by which one could win and “turn the wheel of fortune”

A week after the arrival, all the cash was lost and the mortgage of things began. Every day he ran to the usurers, wore them a watch, a brooch with rubies and diamonds - his wedding gift to Anna Grigorievna - his wife's earrings. Then came the clothes, coat, suit, shawl.

Once he won four thousand thalers, a whole fortune, decided to be prudent, gave them to his wife, but every hour he came for a new "cashier" and ran away to the casino

By evening, nothing was left of all the winnings. They moved from the hotel to a pitiful room above the smithy and lived there to the accompaniment of a hammer and the whistle of a forge”(Enko K., Enko T., 2011).


  1. Dostoevsky F. M. Gambler // Dostoevsky F. M. Complete works in 30 volumes. T. 5. L.: Nauka, 1973. P. 208–318.
  2. Enko K., Enko T. Secret passion of Dostoevsky: obsessions and vices of genius. M.: Eksmo, 2011.

See also: How gambling influenced the work of Nekrasov

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