You might not have heard the stories of Fyodor Dostoevsky as a gambler. Most focus on his written works. Yet, by his own admission in his book “The Gambler” he was a pathological gambler. This novel was written in 1866 as a way to get his finances back in order. The story recounts his life as a gambler who suffered from the compulsion one calls addiction though he does disguise himself as a character.
Dostoevsky by all accounts knew himself quite well if you read his book. The Russian novelist provides descriptive narratives of his time as a gambler that read more like an emotional roller coaster. At many points there is exhilaration only to be followed by depression. He completes the tale with an ageing aunt who is rich, but who throws her fortune at the gaming tables.
The Gambler tells of the aunt who takes a train from Russia to Roulettenburg in which she ruins her heirs, along with their own issues of romantic relationships. The characters of the novel are in some ways based on Dostoevsky, while others were based on those he met in the gambling world. Much of the first part of his tale is filled with dark humour. The characters are vane and insecure too.
Dostoevsky may have written the book as fiction and may have been a gambler, but most remember him for his book Crime and Punishment.
His education was in military engineering from St. Petersburg. He was married twice. His first marriage was from 1857 to 1864 when his first wife died. His second wife was married to him from 1867 until his death in 1881. He had three children by his second wife.
His career as a novelist began in the 1850s, yet his best books were not written until the last years of his life like Crime and Punishment. He had eleven novels, three novellas, and 17 short stories by the time of his death. His written works also included three essays.
His gambling was detrimental to his life. He always struggled for money especially on his travels through Europe when he went to several casinos. Most of his gambling resulted in losing money, which meant he begged for money. Luckily he was more successful with his written works than his gambling at the tables.
Throughout his entire adult life he suffered from epilepsy, which didn’t help his mental state. It may be his own personal issues that led to him being known as one of the best psychologists in the written work.
His life was certainly one of hardship given his exile to Siberia and imprisonment. He was sentenced to four years of exile for a mock execution which was staged but then cancelled by the Tsar. After the exile ended he had to do a term of military service. His work The House of the Dead was based on his prison term. Dostoevsky is certainly a man that has been and will be remembered throughout history for his thoughts.