In my first post, I hinted at my fondness for Dostoevsky. As my favourite author, there was no chance I wouldn’t dedicate an article to his work. But which of his masterpieces should I write about? That’s a big question. There are so many excellent novels, it’s hard to decide! There’s Crime & Punishment, The Karamazov Brothers, The Idiot, Notes From Underground, Devils… At last, I made up my mind and chose The Gambler. Next, I will tell you why.
For being a nouvelle, about 150-200 pages, it contains a significant (not to say wise) message about life and us humans. Don’t let its title fool you. Yes, the book does talk about gambling. Little by little, the protagonist abandons himself, which gradually leads him to accept a harsh reality: he’s a compulsive gambler, capable of going to unsuspected extremes to satisfy his compulsion. That’s the literal meaning of the story, though.
Metaphorically, as I understand it, the novel shows us we are all gamblers in this roulette that is life. We can play or watch others do it. Also, we have different ways of betting on odd or even, red or black, etc. While some play carefully and methodically, others prefer to follow their impulses. Some manage to win rounds, sometimes attracting those who wish to benefit from their gains. Others lose, whether part of what they put on the table or all of it. And, of course, we cannot forget the players who lose themselves in the game, reducing themselves to miserable and vile beings. As I once heard, one cannot destroy everything without first destroying oneself.
In short, that is the reason why I devoted this piece to this literary production: Dostoevsky, being a great portrayer of the human condition, knows – in just a few pages – how to describe creatively how life works and how we humans perform in it; and that, beyond the merit, displays the genius of the writer.
So maybe, this 2023, we should pass on the wishlist and the famous ‘New Year, new life’ stuff. Let’s encourage ourselves to identify our ‘gambling patterns’, give them a thought, work on them, and raise our game.