The Double: Dostoevsky Meets Jesse Eisenberg

According to this Huffington Post article, Jesse Eisenberg is being cast as Golyadkin in a new film adaptation of Dostoevsky’s “The Double.”  I’m quite excited about this, being the Russian lit nerd that I am.

I think that Jesse Eisenberg (who played in Zombieland and The Social Network) will make an excellent Golyadkin, and can’t wait to see how he does in the role.

Dostoevsky’s novella “The Double” is one of his more intriguing pieces of work, although one of the least famous, and sets Dostoevsky apart as a brilliant psychological writer.  My first experience of the piece was seeing it performed in a theater in Russia, which was absolutely phenomenal.  After seeing it, I read the book for myself.

The novella tells the story of a young government clerk named Golyadkin as he experiences a schizophrenic break.  Golyadkin feels disconnected from reality, and as the story progresses he begins to see and interact with what he believes to be his own doppelganger.  As he descends into madness, one can see his personal relationships deteriorate as he tries to flee his double.

Mind you, Dostoevsky wrote this long before schizophrenia was a unique diagnosis.  Golyadkin is almost a textbook case of the disease.  (Yes, I’m the sort of person who wrote papers in undergrad diagnosing fictional characters with real diseases and comparing the symptoms with clinical descriptions.  I somehow did manage to still have a life, although I’m not entirely certain as to how.)  I find it fascinating that Dostoevsky was able to write such a riveting description of a schizophrenic break during a time when the medical community lumped all mental illnesses into one category.  It makes me wonder if Dostoevsky was personally acquainted with someone who had the condition.

I’m hoping that the film version is able to do the book justice.  If you are interested in reading “The Double,” an online version can be found here.

9 thoughts on “The Double: Dostoevsky Meets Jesse Eisenberg

  1. I’m interested to know how they staged this. Did Golyadkin just talk to himself or were there mirrors or something? This sounds pretty interesting. I like Jesse Eisenberg too, although I always confuse him with Michael Cera.

    1. They didn’t use mirrors, but the set itself was very complex, and it was staged in a very surreal way. I think they used two actors for the Golyadkins. The thing I remember most is a character dressed up as a sailor holding a white bird that kept reappearing. While it wasn’t in the book, it was a neat way to highlight how disjointed Golyadkin’s perception was becoming.

  2. Now I have something to look forward to. It’s been a long time since I read Dostoevsky. After reading his ” the Idiot” in school, I stayed away from him for a while and then 20 years later my son showed an interest in his writing, but unfortunately he could not read it in Russian, it was way too complicated for him.

    1. I haven’t read much Dostoevsky in the original language, unfortunately. I do have a wonderful volume of Pushkin though, which I love because it pairs the original Russian next to English translations, so I can read both and understand more. 😀

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