Book Review: The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
First published in 1846, The Double tells the story of Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin, a Saint Petersburg bearcat.
Golyadkin’s behaviour is rather antisocial and his doctor encourages him to put himself about more. After leaving a party in rather acrimonious circumstances, he finds himself in a snowstorm and meets a man who looks just like him. They also share the same name.
The two figures referred to by Dostoyevsky as Golyadin Sr, the original and Golyadkin Jr, the titular double, start off as close friends, but when Golyadkin Jr begins attempting to steal the life of the other, their relationship becomes increasingly bitter and puts a harsh strain on the sanity of Golyadkin Sr.
The book poses some interesting ideas with clever symbolism, but it is rather hard to read. It is quite slow until about a third of the way in and in my opinion, it drops away at points until the conclusion. The author himself wrote in his Writer’s Diary: “Most decidedly, I did not succeed with that novel; however, its idea was rather lucid, and I have never expressed in my writings anything more serious. Still, as far as form was concerned, I failed utterly.”
The story has the platform for a rather brilliant tale, but its relative shortness makes it difficult to express those ideas fully in an engaging manner. It is perhaps still worth a read if you have not much else to do, but its’ reputation is far stronger than the reality.
Rating — 3/5 stars
Next book to review: The Acid Test by Clyde Best