Alex's Reviews > The Gambler

The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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's review
Jun 16, 2011

it was ok

Perhaps English speaking readers did not notice that via main hero (Alexei), Dostoevsky, on the sidelines of this piece, is comparing widely domestically (that is within Russia itself) stereotyped Russian character, which Dostoevsky shared and eagerly supported, - its spirituality, wholesomeness, lack of calculation, impulsiveness, kindness, compassion - versus a Western European character (such as, for example, Mademoiselle Blanche), showing it very negatively: as being manipulative, calculative, spiritually empty (with lack of both soul and compassion) and hypocritical.
Russian intelligentsia typically claims that their culture is spiritually and intellectually deep while the Western culture is considered by Russians to be shallow existing just on the surface without going into the soul, just on the border line of only knowing how to behave in a polite pleasant to others manner ).

Dostoevsky considered himself to be a such, above described Russian character - he indeed was a gambler (among other things such as being an antisemite).

PS I personally do not agree with above characterization of the Russian character. However this is widely accepted opinion among Russian intelligentsia.

Here is what talented Russian Poet Фёдор Тютчев wrote with re to the literary image of the "mysterious Russian soul":

Умом Россию не понять,
Аршином общим не измерить:
У ней особенная стать —
В Россию можно только верить.

Here are 3 versions of its English translation (not mine)
Don't try to get it with your mind,
Don't try to fit in your dimension:
There is no Russia of your kind -
Here your belief is only worth to mention.
Don't cover Russia with your mind,
Don't use your norms for understanding:
It has its outstanding kind -
You must believe without fading.
Russia is a thing of which
The intellect cannot conceive.
Hers is no common yardstick.
You measure her uniquely: In Russia you could only believe!

Another famous Russian Poet - Александр Блок wrote (talking on behalf of Russia to West):

Нас - тьмы, и тьмы, и тьмы.
Попробуйте, сразитесь с нами!
Да, скифы - мы! Да, азиаты - мы,
С раскосыми и жадными очами!
Для вас - века, для нас - единый час.

Here is the English translation for it (not mine either)

The Scythians by Alexander Blok (from The Twelve and Other Poems)

You have your millions. We are numberless, numberless, numberless.
Try doing battle with us!
Yes, we are Scythians!
Yes,we are Asiatics, with greedy eyes slanting!

For you, the centuries; for us, one hour.
We, like obedient lackeys, have held up
a shield dividing two embattled powers
the Mongol hordes and Europe!

For centuries your furnaces have bellowed
and drowned the avalanches thunder.
And a strange tale it seemed to you the loud
collapse of Lisbon and Messina!

The West for centuries has looked our way,
absorbed our pearls into its profits.
Derisively you waited for the day
when you could hold us in your cannon sights.

Now the day dawns. Disaster spreads its wings,
and insults gather to a head.
The day may follow whose sun rising brings
no shadow where your Paestums stood.

Old world, before your ancient splendor sinks
all-wise one, suffering sweet torment
Like Oedipus before the riddling Sphinx
pause and consider for a moment.

Russia is a Sphinx. Grieving, jubilant,
and covering herself with blood
she looks, she looks, she looks at you with her slant
eyes lit with hatred and with love.

Yes love, For centuries you have not known
such love as sets our hot blood churning.
You have forgotten that the world has shown
love can devastate with its burning!

All things we love the mystic is divine gift,
the fever of cold calculus;
all we appreciate the Frenchman's shaft
of wit, the German's genius

and we remember all things hellhole streets
of Paris, coll Venetian stone,
lemon groves far off, fragrant in the heat,
and smoky pinnacles of Cologne

We love the flesh, its color and its taste,
its suffocating mortal odor
Are we to blame if your rib-cages burst
beneath our paws impulsive ardor?

We have grown accustomed seizing mane
and halter, wrestling with a rope
to breaking in wild horses to the rein,
and taming slave-girls to our grip.

Come to us from your battlefield nightmares
into our peaceful arms! While there is
still time, hammer your swords into plowshares,
friends, comrades! We shall be brothers!

If you do not, we have nothing to lose.
Our faith, too, can be broken.
You will be cursed for centuries, centuries,
by your descendants sickly children!

We shall take to the wilds and the mountain
woods, letting beautiful Europe through,
and as we move into the wings shall turn
an asiatic mask to you.

March all together, march to the Urals!
We clear the ground for when the armored
juggernauts with murder in their sights
meet the charge of the mongol horde.

We shall ourselves no longer be your shield,
no longer launch our battle-cries;
but study the convulsive battlefield
from far off through our narrow eyes!

We shall not stir when the murderous Huns
pillage the dead, town turns to ash,
in country churches stable their squadrons,
and foul the air with roasting flesh.

Now, for the last time, see the light, old world!
To peace and brotherhood and labor our bright feast for the last time you are called

PPS It was originally posted as a comment to Steve's review but nobody paid attention to it there
so I decided to repost it in the form of my own review
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10/29/2017 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Stephen Nice review, Alex. Sorry I didn't respond to the post in my review yet, but I did see this.

Andreea I personally found the description of the two stereotypes (western and eastern people) very close to the truth. :) But again, I'm referring only to stereotypes, not to individuals.

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