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Book Review: The Double

The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (5 star review)

The Double

written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

144 pages // published in 1846 // Classic Russian thriller


The Double is a remarkable work of doppelgänger literature. As Dostoevsky examines the neurosis and paranoia that cripple a seemingly ordinary man, he produces a thoroughly modern nightmare, brilliantly foreshadowing the works of Kafka and Sartre. Mr. Golyadkin, a minor government official, is a rather middling man. Then one day he meets his “double”—a man with the same name, face, and background. Initially charmed by the coincidence, Golyadkin soon notices a discernable cooling in the reaction of his friends and colleagues, while his double seems to grow in popularity. Unable to escape the relentless presence of “Golyadkin junior,” even the most ordinary activities begin to take on a terrifying significance, until Golyadkin finds himself on the verge of a breakdown. Fyodor Dostoevsky is regarded as one of the greatest prose writers of all time.

My Review

5 Star Rating

One of the big elements found in The Double is sanity. Or rather insanity. And it is told from the point of view of the person who is insane. So as the reader, we can only see the craziness that Mr. Golyadkin sees, fear the terror he feels, etc. Although some clues seep in from his acquaintances that allow us to realize what he sees and fears is not entirely true.

I think the story it qualifies as a psychological thriller. It's a nightmare you never want to have yourself, that's for sure. Occasionally I found the story (in some ways) to be similar to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the sense of finding out about another hidden side of yourself is not a nice experience at all. The other side might have darker qualities.

There's some heavy emotions that Golyadkin feels, in regard to his doppelgänger, such as shame, jealousy, and hatred. How can he feel these things towards someone who looks just like himself, and shares the same name as his own self, if he doesn't already just dislike how he himself is? The author brings out many deep thoughts and feelings through the ever-twisting plot.

The basic summary of the story is interesting enough, but it's fairly dry reading to get through the book. I trudged through slowly – and I usually latch on to classic lit quite happily. Although I haven't read too much Russian lit yet (just some Pushkin, which I enjoyed much better). At least it's short, and I can cross The Double off my list.

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This is book #9 for me in the Back to the Classics 2017 challenge.
[CATEGORY: Russian Classic]

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  1. This was a high school read for me (back in the day). Didn't care much for it.

  2. interesting premise