Roulettenburg. Dostoevski modeled his invented town of Roulettenburg on the German spa town of Baden-Baden, where he himself used to gamble in the famous casino. By calling the town Roulettenburg, Dostoevski underscores the central importance of gambling (and specifically, the game of roulette) to those who visit the town. Dostoevski does not show many different aspects of the location but focuses on those places where visitors and tourists congregate: the elegant hotels, the casino, the park. One of the distinctive features of the Roulettenburg setting is its international or cosmopolitan character. People of various nationalities—Russian, French, German, Italian, and Polish—congregate there, and this international flavor evokes an atmosphere of rootlessness. Winnings and losses are calculated in a variety of different currencies, from French to Russian. Even the hotel names point to the international aura; one hotel is called “Hôtel d’Angleterre” (“Hotel England”). What is more, townspeople place tremendous emphasis on appearance and external form. It is of paramount importance to appear to have great wealth and rank in society. Yet it often turns out that people are not what they seem. Identities are deceptive and fluid, and personal fortunes may fluctuate dramatically depending on a simple turn of the roulette wheel. Dostoevski’s treatment of the town and its visitors exposes the danger and the folly of placing...
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