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The Gambler brilliantly captures the strangely powerful compulsion to bet that Dostoevsky, himself a compulsive gambler, knew so well. The hero rides an emotional roller coaster between exhilaration and despair, and secondary characters such as the Grandmother, who throws much of her fortune away at the gaming tables, are unforgettable. The book's publishing history is equally so: Under the pressure of a deadline from an unscrupulous publisher, and with rights to his entire oeuvre at stake, Dostoevsky dictated the book in less than a month to the star pupil of Russia's first shorthand school. Then he married her.
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