Saturday 16 January 2021

Book Review: The Double by Dostoevsky (Classics)

Title: The Double
Author: Dostoevsky
Publisher: Dover Thrift Editions
Publication Date: 1997 (1846)
Pages: 144
Genre: Classics
Source: Gift

While his literary reputation rests mainly on such celebrated novels as Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, and The Idiot, Dostoyevsky also wrote much superb short fiction. The Double is one of the finest of his shorter works. It appeared in 1846 (his second published work) and is by far the most significant of his early stories, not least for its successful, straight-faced treatment of a hallucinatory theme.

The Double, the protagonist, Golyadkin senior, is persecuted by his double, Golyadkin junior, who resembles him closely in almost every detail. The latter abuses the former with mounting scorn and brutality as the tale proceeds toward its frightening denouement. Characteristic Dostoyevskyan themes of helplessness, victimization, and scandal are beautifully handled here with an artistry that qualifies the story as a small masterpiece.


The Double was an enjoyable and interesting work that incorporates many of Dostoevsky's familiar themes of victimization and mental torment. It's a quick read, but does not lack in detail and expression despite its low page count. However, it is not one of my favourite Dostoevsky works, as I never really came to care about Golyadkin in the way I did, say, Raskolnikov. I wasn't fully emotionally engaged as he went through his many sufferings. Still, it is likely to please existing Dostoevsky fans and is not a bad place to start if you wish to try his writings but are not keen to commit to one of the longer novels. For me it was 4.5 stars.

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