The Gambler is an extraordinary tale by one of the acknowledged masters of world literature and this edition benefits from an excellent introduction, low-cost and the opportunity to experience the translation of Constance Garnett.
The Gambler is at one level of picaresque tale of obsessions, erotic, financial, social and of course gambling itself, which ultimately represents the hazard of oneself and one's life. At the same time, events and remarks can be read in more than one way since they possess archetypal or mythical status. For example, 'the Gambler' of the novel offers to throw himself off the top of Snake Peak at the instruction of the young woman he is in love with. For Dostoevsky, a Christian whose attitudes have been informed by the mystical content of his epileptic fits and the cast of his extraordinary mind , this has parallels with one of the temptations of Christ, when Lucifer proposes to him that he should leap from the top of a mountain.
Ultimately, the book explores the nature of freedom, the pseudo-thrills, -freedoms and -dreams of people and asks where happiness really lies.
Much of the novel is also based around the experiences of Dostoevsky himself, who was prone to gambling, was married with compulsive ardour to a woman who treated him in a way experienced by the `hero', who is also a kind of anti-hero, travelled abroad, the story takes place in Germany and Paris, and so on.
The novel was also born in extraordinary circumstances that synchronise with the content. Dostoevsky at made a kind of gamble that he could finish the book in a short deadline while also finishing his masterpiece Crime and Punishment, with the penalty of failing to do so being the loss of his livelihood for nearly 10 years. With less than a month remaining to hand the book into his publisher he had not yet got started. The frenetic pace of the subsequent conversation is echoed in the headlong pace that characterises the events of the story. (By the way, it was while finishing this book with the help of a stenographer that he discovered the woman who would become his wife and change his life.)
The Gambler has neither the epic scale nor literary stature of his great masterpieces including Crime and Punishment and the Idiot, but it is nevertheless an extremely fine major work, a must read for anyone interested in literature and human psychology, and for some benefits from its brevity.
This is an old translation by Constance Garnett, who is the most influential of all Russian translators. Single-handedly she brought Russian literature to the English-speaking world, translating 73 masterpieces. The translations have been criticised, most particularly for the fact that she inevitably brings a certain similarity of style, and Dostoevsky is not one of the authors that she is most admired for, yet despite this her translations remain a benchmark for modern translators, so this remains excellent value.
Furthermore, it's been quite well typeset for e-reading, reads perfectly on the iPad Kindle and with few flaws in the Kindle itself.