The Gambler by F.M. Dostoevsky in English translations: Problem statement

Olga V. Sedelnikova, Anastasia O. Shatokhina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Gambler, a short novel by Dostoevsky, takes special place among his works for two reasons. Firstly, it was created in special circumstances; secondly, the problems the author revealed in this novel are not fairly typical of his creative works. In order to follow the terms of the contract with editor F.T. Stellovsky, the writer had to create a new novel in 26 days. The events of the novel were borrowed from the author's life during his trip to Europe in 1963. Besides, it is the only work by Dostoevsky set abroad. The main character tears between the two passions: passion to the game of roulette and passion to a woman. From 1886 to 2010 eleven English translations of The Gambler were published. These translations can be chronologically tabulated. The first surge of interest in this work occurred between 1886 and 1917. The translations by F. Whishaw (1886), C.J. Hogarth (1917) and C. Garnett refer to this period. After a long pause the translations by A.R. MacAndrew (1964) and J. Coulson (1964) appeared, the versions by V. Terras (1973) and I. Litvinov (1970s) were released about a decade later. These works form the second group. The translation introduced by J. Kentish in 1991 can not be included in either of the groups as it is separated from both earlier and later translations by long periods of time. The third group includes translations published after 2000. They were made by R. Pevear & L. Volokhonsky (2005), H. Aplin (2008), R. Meyer (2010). Since 1964 the novel has been translated by professional translators and literary scholars only, which is apparently explained by the deep interest of foreign readers in the work. The Gambler, a short novel preceding most of Dostoevsky's mature works which brought him the title of a sophisticated psychologist, philosopher and prophet artist, has drawn translators' attention more frequently than his other works. (Crime and Punishment, Idiot and The Karamazov Brothers were translated nine times each, The Demons six times and The Adolescent five times.) Probably the novel looks so attractive to the translators due to the choice of problems and life events the plot is based on, as the themes of passion to gambling and love for a woman represented by the author so brightly are comprehensible to representatives of any culture and do not demand deep knowledge of the Russian realia. On the other hand, such interest can be explained by the fact that due to its inner peculiarities every period of culture requires new translations of brilliant pieces of foreign literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-165
Number of pages12
JournalVestnik Tomskogo Gosudarstvennogo Universiteta, Filologiya
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Dostoevsky
  • Literary translation
  • The Gambler

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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