Tracing Slavophilia in Dostoevsky’s “The Gambler” (1864)

Excerpt from The Gambler (1866) by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Gambler

“I think that roulette was devised specially for Russians,” I retorted; and when the Frenchman smiled contemptuously at my reply I further remarked that I was sure I was right; also that, speaking of Russians in the capacity of gamblers, I had far more blame for them than praise—of that he could be quite sure.

“Upon what do you base your opinion?” he inquired.

“Upon the fact that to the virtues and merits of the civilised Westerner there has become historically added—though this is not his chief point—a capacity for acquiring capital; whereas, not only is the Russian incapable of acquiring capital, but also he exhausts it wantonly and of sheer folly. None the less we Russians often need money; wherefore, we are glad of, and greatly devoted to, a method of acquisition like roulette—whereby, in a couple of hours, one may grow rich without doing any work. This method, I repeat, has a great attraction for us, but since we play in wanton fashion, and without taking any trouble, we almost invariably lose.”

“To a certain extent that is true,” assented the Frenchman with a self-satisfied air.

“Oh no, it is not true,” put in the General sternly. “And you,” he added to me, “you ought to be ashamed of yourself for traducing your own country!”

“I beg pardon,” I said. “Yet it would be difficult to say which is the worst of the two—Russian ineptitude or the German method of growing rich through honest toil.”

“What an extraordinary idea,” cried the General.

“And what a RUSSIAN idea!” added the Frenchman.

I smiled, for I was rather glad to have a quarrel with them.

“I would rather live a wandering life in tents,” I cried, “than bow the knee to a German idol!”

“To WHAT idol?” exclaimed the General, now seriously angry.

“To the German method of heaping up riches. I have not been here very long, but I can Continue reading

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