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Notes from the Underground, and The Gambler: WITH The Gambler (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

Fyodor Dostoevsky , Malcolm Jones , Jane Kentish
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

12 Jun 2008 Oxford World's Classics
(1866), set in the fictional town of Roulettenberg, explores the compulsive nature of gambling, one of the author's own vices and a subject he describes with extraordinary acumen and drama. Specially commissioned for the World's Classics, this new translation includes a full editorial apparatus.

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Notes from the Underground, and The Gambler: WITH The Gambler (Oxford World's Classics) + The Karamazov Brothers (Oxford World's Classics) + Crime and Punishment (Wordsworth Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks (12 Jun 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199536384
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199536382
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 12.9 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 344,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Notes from the Underground (1864) is one of the most profound works of nineteenth-century literature. A probing, speculative book, often regarded as a forerunner of the Existentialist movement, it examines the important political and philosophical questions that were current in Russia and Europe at the time. The Gambler (1866), set in the fictional town of Roulettenberg, explores the compulsive nature of gambling, one of the author's own vices and a subject he describes with extraordinary acumen and drama.

Specially commissioned for the World's Classics, this new translation includes a full editorial apparatus.

ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dealing with angst 9 Mar 2003
I first read The Notes at the ripe age of 17 and was reassured that Dostoevsky seemed to understand the existential angst and feelings of occasional worthlessness that I was going through.
(Since then, lent this copy to a student I met on a train in Nottingham... never to see it again! Unsurprisingly.)
Ironically, I drew comfort in the solidarity that I- and many students of Russian literature- perceive with this troubled writer. This is surely no mistake. Dostoevsky- although often challenging to read- engages the reader as an actor in his phiosophical tale and stirs up feelings that are at once highly disturbing and liberating.
Both stories in classic Dostoevsky style, draw heavily upon the tensions in the individual and the world around him and are highly autobiographical.
It is well-known that Dostoevsky himself had a gambling problem and both tales document his attraction to the Western materialism which at the same time, he evidently finds unrooted, unspiritual and repugnant.
Both our gambler and underground protagonist display addictions to a world view in which the notions of 'freedom' and 'choice' become meaningless and the parameters of their own thinking nullify belief in the spiritual and godly. They crave some deeper meaning to anchor their existence.
This is a predictably excellent edition from Oxford Worlds Classics. Anyone with even the slightest parchant for armchair philosophy should give this book a go. A life-changing read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Coming back to Dostoevksy... 17 Nov 2013
Hadn't read any Dostoevsky for a long, long time when I picked this one up. Now I realise I have been very foolish! Dostoevsky has a knack of putting you inside the mind of the character so completely that you almost experience the highs and lows along with them as the tale progresses. This book is no exception.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great 18 July 2011
The first tale, Notes from the Underground is by far my favourite dark compelling throught-provoking classic F.D, The gambler no less but the theme of such an addiction may have been overplayed by now.
The book itself is also great heavy, good quality paper exceptionally smooth.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the Version to Buy 17 Dec 2005
By J. Robinson - Published on
I bought the book at a bookstore and realized that Oxford has a slightly different version: "Notes from the Underground and the Gambler" (Oxford World's Classics).

The Oxford book is almost 300 pages long, or twice as big as other "Notes" books, and is divided into four parts.

1. There is a 13 page review or mini-biography of Dostoevsky and his life, along with an analysis of "Notes" and "The Gambler," plus a bibliography of references.

2. There is the "Notes" section part I.

3. Then there is the "Notes" section part II which is a story "Concerning The Wet Snow."

4. Finally, there is a short novel "The Gambler" written around the time of "Crime and Punishment."

I read the first few pages of Notes and the biography, but was immediately captured by "The Gambler" and read it almost non-stop start to finish. It is very well written and a compelling story about a young gambler - written in the narrative - that must reflect Dostoevsky's own passion for gambling. The novel was typed by Anna Grigorevna, a young shorthand typist, who became his second wife. Together they produced "The Gambler" in just 25 days, in October 1965. It is a wonderful story and one immediately understands the fame of Dostoevsky. I like it as a first read from the author.

"Notes" is a source of inspiration for many modern writers. It fictional and is not a biographical or similar description of Dostoyevsky. It is broken into a series of 11 chapters or really two to four page essays followed by a short story. It is in the narrative form and describes the introverted life and thoughts of a young Russian. The first part is a bit choppy but obviously and excellent and interesting read. I have taken these points from another detailed analysis found elsewhere (from Paul Brians but not unique):
-1) it contains an all-out assault on Enlightenment rationalism,
-2) it is an outstanding example of Dostoyevsky's psychological skills,
-3) depicts his profound self-contempt combined with an exquisitely sensitive ego,
-4) the story contains one of the first characters whose childhood experiences have led him to fear love and intimacy even though he longs for them, and
-5) it portrays one of the first anti-heroes in fiction.
The latter figures were to dominate much serious fiction in the mid-twentieth century, notably Albert Camus' Meursault in The Stranger.

Highly recommend this version from Oxford.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tour to Despair and Rebellion to Common Sense 6 Dec 2002
By Luka Lisjak Gabrijelcic - Published on
A typical taste from the book:A shaken woman, deeply wounded in her soul, a poor woman forced to be a prostitute in order to feed her children, comes to the Man from the Underground for moral support.Now listen what he says to her:"In fact,you know what I really need:that you go to hell,that's what.I need peace.And I am willing to sell the whole World for a kopeyka just not to be disturbed.The World may go to hell or I won't drink my tea!Well, you know what I tell you,the World may very well go to hell,just that I can drink my tea in peace."
If you want to have a few hours of fun with what they told you is "good literature", then DON'T even open the Notes from the Underground. It's undoubtedly one of Dostoevsky's best works, but also one of the darkest and most confusing books ever written (it was Nietzche's favurite). The "hero" of the Notes is an enbittered man, an awful character, who has renounced to all hopes. He has withdrawn from public and social life and lives in his own private "underground", where he hopes the cruel laws of nature and morality will not touch him.He leads a rebellion to logic and common sense,to that "terrible two plus two is four",as he puts it.If you are willing to take a tour of his "underground", it won't be a pleasant experience at all! It's a dark place: no hope, no bright sights, no love, and even no sense. It's a place where the common world ends and where something else, very similar to hell, begins. If you want to visit the underground, be prepared to face the biggest philosophical questions about meaning of life, logic, the truth of common sense. It isn't a tour for anyone. You have to be strong, smart, you must have a sound religious and philosophical background. But if you are prepared to take the tour, you will have one of the most thrilling intelectual experiences ever.
I agree with Lev Shestov, who said that all Dostoevsky's major novels,Crime and Punishment,The Possesed,The Brothers Karamazov, are just a large annotation to the Notes from the Underground, an explanation for a larger audience. Go into the Underground and you will meet Raskolnikov, Stavroghin,the Great Inquisitor, Ivan Karamazov, Mitya Karamazov, Kirillov-they are all there, hidden behind the confusing flux of words that comes from the mouth of the Man from the Underground.
A short book that will take you a long time to read and even longer to understand. A book for corious and intellectually brave readers. A timeless piece of art, that will never stop to shake the ones who dare to take it in their hands without dismissing it as a "stupid little thing".
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece and an Excellent Work in One Convenient Volume 2 Mar 2010
By Bill R. Moore - Published on
Though largely famous for long novels, Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote a number of notable novellas, of which Notes from Underground is the first major example and The Gambler last. This collection includes both, which is not only convenient but a positive bargain. It is an ideal place to start for those curious about Dostoevsky but intimidated by his thick masterpieces and also has a wealth of supplemental material to attract the more dedicated.

A vivid depiction of the dark side of human nature, Notes is a great classic that perfectly evokes the feelings of isolation, despair, narcissism, and paranoia that continue to afflict the masses. Though very short, one feels on completing it that one has read a very profound book. It is one of the best and most essential short novels ever. Dostoevsky is known for stunning penetration into human nature, and his mastery showed here for the first time. Notes touches on many profoundly important issues: philosophical, religious, social, political, etc. Indeed, it was right at the heart of the era's prevalent intellectual modes and remains relevant today. It also works as a springboard for Dostoevsky's later, more ambitious novels. Part of the reason it works so well is that the narrator is so recognizably, touchingly, and pathetically human. Anyone who considers him or herself an outcast, who feels as if he or she has never been able to fit in, who is uncomfortable in social situations, feels morally or intellectually superior for unknown reasons, is overly emotional and susceptible to constant depression - or any such thing - will undoubtedly identify and sympathize. Another reason it works so well is the writing style. Far from traditional novel or documentary style, it gives the impression that one is reading a record of a person's private thoughts. We see the thoughts as they come to the character, not in any linear form. He may well be neurotic, psychotic, manic depressive, bi-polar, or egocentric - but is human nonetheless. This is a singular, profound, and important literary work of unique value that sticks a penetrating and insightful knife straight through human nature's heart.

The Gambler is quite different and significantly less great but still very worthwhile. Dostoevsky is world renowned for psychological insight, and this is a consummate example. The first-person narrative gives a fascinating peek into a gambling addict's mind; we learn much about what causes such behavior and, more importantly, what perpetuates it, often against better judgment. A large part of Dostoevsky's greatness is that his character studies have great verisimilitude no matter what the subject, but something extra here makes it even more piercing. This is doubtless to a great extent because it has the kind of realism that only experience can bring; Dostoevsky certainly knew a lot about gambling addicts, being one himself. In fact, the story was written at near-superhuman speed to pay off gambling debts - a process so legendary that it was even made into a film. Many gambling addicts have said this is the most realistic and compelling portrayal that exists, and it certainly brings their world vividly to life. However, there is also more to it. Gambling may be the focus, but the insight holds for all addiction forms and, by extension, all types of self-destructive behavior. This last is a particular Dostoevsky specialty, especially in regard to the Russian character, which all of his work in a sense tried to define and analyze. Here he zeroes in on its self-abnegating impulse as symbolized by Alexei's passionate love. Many lovers in literature and reality have claimed they would do anything for their beloved, but few have gone to such literal extremes. This and the gambling show him on the verge not only of self-destruction but of madness, which may make him seem too extreme to be identifiable even as his actions lead to much of Dostoevsky's characteristic black humor. However, the fact that he loses love, wealth, and thus happiness because of an inability to overcome his dark forces makes him a truly tragic figure - widely sympathetic and unfortunately widely relatable. It also unflinchingly shows the futility Dostoevsky saw as central to the Russian character; as an English character unforgettably says to Alexei at the end, "your life is now over. I am not blaming you for this--in my view all Russians resemble you, or are inclined to do so. If it is not roulette, then it is something else. The exceptions are very rare." This shows a very dark view of humanity, particularly Russians - all the more so in that, unlike some of Dostoevsky's more famous works, there is no hint of spiritual redemption at the end. Some may cringe, but the realism and perspicuity ensure we cannot ignore the very important point.

The Gambler is also notable for bringing late nineteenth century European resort towns to life. Most Dostoevsky works are of course set in Russia, but he spent much time in Europe - including Germany, where this is set -, and uses his wide knowledge and experience to make the casinos, healing waters, and other aspects seem real. This makes the book of some historical interest to those interested in the time or place, but the sociological value is even more important. The Gambler is in many ways a comedy of manners showing how Russians behaved - and were supposed to behave, often a very different thing - abroad among themselves and with other groups. This unsurprisingly leads to much conflict, which Dostoevsky plays up for all its psychological, dramatic, and comedic worth. As all this suggests, the story is not quite as serious as his major works, lacking their epic sweep, unparalleled dramatization of dense philosophical themes, and heavy dialogue. This may disappoint those looking for a masterpiece but may even be a relief to some. It must also be noted that while even the best Dostoevsky is rough around the edges of finer artistic points - he was never a prose stylist or perfectionist, his greatness being unmatched psychological and philosophical dramatization -, this is unsurprisingly even more so because of its composition's circumstances.

In the end, those not fond of more characteristic Dostoevsky may well be pleasantly surprised, and anyone who likes him should of course read this, whether early or late. Anyone looking to do so might as well do it here, as it comes with an even greater companion.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Translation 5 July 2011
By P-Zed - Published on
I picked up a different translation of this book years ago and quickly lost interest, but this translation (J. Kentish) makes a real difference. Notes From The Underground is a hideous figurative car wreck you can't turn away from, and The Gambler is laugh-out-loud funny in a deliciously dark and cynical way. Don't miss it!
5.0 out of 5 stars I really like it! 1 July 2014
By Qing Yi Wang - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I really like it! the rate of sending is out of my expected. It's a wonderful book and I will have more!
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