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 The Greatest Minds: Fyodor Dostoevsky

Ends: 05/24/2021 @ Midday (02pm) GMT 
  

Spoiler

Born in Moscow in 1821, Dostoevsky was introduced to literature at an early age through fairy tales and legends, and through books by Russian and foreign authors. His mother died in 1837 when he was 15, and around the same time, he left school to enter the Nikolayev Military Engineering Institute.

The Gambler is a short novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky about a young tutor in the employment of a formerly wealthy Russian general. The novella reflects Dostoevsky's own addiction to roulette, which was in more ways than one the inspiration for the book: Dostoevsky completed the novella in 1866 under a strict deadline to pay off gambling debts.

Fyodor Dostoevsky gambled for the first time at the tables at Wiesbaden in 1863. From that time till 1871, when his passion for gambling subsided, he played at Baden-Baden, Homburg, and Saxon-les-Bains frequently, often beginning by winning a small amount of money and losing far more in the end. He first mentions his interest in gambling in a letter he sent to his first wife's sister on 1 September 1863 describing his initial success:

"Please do not think that, in my joy over not having lost, I am showing off by saying that I possess the secret of how to win instead of losing. I really do know the secret ‚ÄĒ it is terribly silly and simple, merely a matter of keeping oneself under constant control and never getting excited, no matter how the game shifts. That's all there is to it ‚ÄĒ you just can't lose that way and are sure to win."

Within a week he loses his winnings and is forced to beg his family for money. He wrote to his brother Mikhail on 8 September 1863:

"And I believed in my system ... within a quarter of an hour, I won 600 francs. This whetted my appetite. Suddenly I started to lose, couldn't control myself and lost everything. After that I ... took my last money, and went to play ... I was carried away by this unusual good fortune and I risked all 35 napoleons and lost them all. I had 6 napoleons d'or left to pay the landlady and for the journey. In Geneva I pawned my watch."

 

 

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