Doppelgänger. The Other. Jekyll and Hyde. Whatever you want to call it, the concept of another self has been material for teenage coursework papers since the 1800s. Which is my issue with The Double- it feels like teenage Dostoevsky.
Golyadkin is a low-ranking government clerk with lots of social anxiety. After a particularly cringe-worthy party, he meets his double. Golyadkin Junior is a more assertive and successful version of himself. We watch him struggle to reclaim his identity from his evil twin, frantically running around St Petersburg.
The book is a psychological exploration- is this all hallucination, a sign of Golyadkin’s madness? Most of the narrative is from his perspective. The concept is interesting, but it’s stressful to read pages without paragraphs of someone else’s hallucinations and rambling thoughts.
Interestingly, Turn of the Screw uses the same technique but manages to make it much cleaner and more compelling. Still, interesting to read earlier work and see the glimpses of ideas and themes that reappear later. Though if you only have one slot for a Russian Read, save your energy for Crime and Punishment.
Read: to whip yourself up into a confusing frenzy