Can I possibly not understand myself that I’m a lost man? But—why can’t I resurrect? (188)
It is not just the extraordinary psychological depth of the characters nor the engaging story that masterfully manages the element of surprise. This novella had a great impact on me for the simple reason that whenever I read certain passages, I saw him. His obsessions, his fears, his passion for a distant woman, his despair. Dostoyevsky was there, trying to survive.
Alexei Ivanovich is a 25 year-old tutor that works for a Russian family. The General's family that includes Polina, the woman Alexei loves. They are all living in a suite at some German hotel. Besides them, there is a bunch of other manipulative, self-destructing, unstable characters. Flawed yet colorful, at times. As with life. People that were the inspiration for Dostoyevsky's most amusing remarks, filled with fine irony and a tinge of sarcasm. Just a tad...
Alexei is a complete character; lovable, obnoxious. Everything but indifference. Pride (that vanishes when facing his obsession), overly analytical thinking, madness, cynicism, wit, honesty, frankness.
It’s really nice when people don’t stand on ceremony, but act in an open and unbuttoned way with each other. And why should one deceive oneself? It’s the most futile and ill-calculated occupation! (17)
A frankness that gave me hope. He is not the timid character that keeps everything inside. I mean, I am in love with those characters since they are a mirror to me and let me focus on the many things I need to change. But it is nice to see an energetic, outspoken character developing the quality that one longs for.
...when I talk with you, I want to say everything, everything, everything. I lose all form... Since I have no hope and am a zero in your eyes, I say outright: I see only you everywhere, and the rest makes no difference to me. (34)
A frankness that combined with the particular situation of being madly in love with a woman, inspires one of the most unsettling passages of the novella. One that brought to mind all the disgusting justifications that one encounters in life.
This book screams reality. The description of the casino, the kinds of gamblers, the desire to win, the abstraction from the world, the eyes fixed on a number, an excuse for every act, the brief sense of reason after a lost bet and the subsequent hunch that the next one will be the one that saves the day.
I was as if in a fever and pushed this whole pile of money onto red—and suddenly came to my senses! And for the only time that whole evening, in all that playing, fear sent a chill over me and came back as a trembling in my hands and legs. With terror I sensed and instantly realized what it meant for me now to lose! My whole life was at stake! (111)
No, a day is not saved only by the profits so easily made. It is the impulse, the craving for risks. Despair that drives. Chance that sings. The feeling that one is in control of the roulette, of the next move; the elusive luck. Praises for the fearless gambler.
However, I don’t remember what I thought about on the way; there were no thoughts. My only sensation was of some terrible pleasure—luck, victory, power—I don’t know how to express it. (114)
Every chapter, every paragraph, everything is written with such detail. Vivid descriptions about the parallel universe that inevitably brings disgrace to its inhabitants. Citizens that worship daring ventures.
They can deny it. They can lie to themselves as they embrace victory, but deep down they are aware of their deteriorating state.
Nothing could be more absurd than moral lessons at such a moment! Oh, self-satisfied people: with what proud self-satisfaction such babblers are ready to utter their pronouncements! If they only knew to what degree I myself understand all the loathsomeness of my present condition, they wouldn’t have the heart to teach me. Well, what, what new thing can they say to me that I don’t know myself? And is that the point? ... What am I now? Zéro. What may I be tomorrow? Tomorrow I may rise from the dead and begin to live anew! I may find the man in me before he’s lost! (133)
An ill-fated relationship. Our doomed Russian friend.
By trying to defeat destiny through gambling, he ensured his servitude. A slave of everything he loved too much. Of everything he hated but still needed. The roulette. The urge. The impulse. A woman.
A brief existence perpetually waiting for fate to change. Waiting for another tomorrow.