Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


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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(Great Characters in Literature)

Frank, Joseph. Dostoevsky: The Miraculous Years, 1865-1871. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1995. The fourth book of a five-book series on Dostoevski. Contains extensive biographical information and readings of the novels and most of the work.

Hlybinny, Uladzimer. Dostoevski’s Image in Russia Today. Belmont, Mass.: Nordland, 1975. Traces Dostoevski’s life from childhood onward. Covers what is mostly unknown in Dostoevski’s writing as well as what is popular. A large and complete book.

Jackson, Robert Louis. The Art of Dostoevsky: Deliriums and Nocturnes. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981. An authority on Dostoevski examines the novels written in Dostoevski’s last twenty years. Links the themes of these most important novels and gives an extended character description of Polina from The Gambler.

Jackson, Robert Louis. Dostoevsky’s Quest for Form: A Study of His Philosophy of Art. 2d ed. Bloomington, Indiana: Physsardt, 1978. Considers the contradiction between Dostoevski’s working aesthetic and his higher aesthetic of true beauty. A mature and helpful study for the serious Dostoevski reader.

Mackiewicz, Stanislaw. Dostoyevsky. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1947. Discusses the characters and circumstances of The Gambler and several other novels. Examines the women characters and their relevance to the loves of Dostoevski’s life. Biographical information and critiques of the novels.