Throughout The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, there had been hints that maybe Mr. Golyadkin Jr., the double, was a product of Mr. Golyadkin Sr.'s imagination — and that it was either a way to signify him struggling to reconcile two facets of himself, or that he was simply suffering from some sort of mental disorder. Right at the end, it's made clear that it's most likely the latter, given that the last chapter pretty much describes Mr. Golyadkin having a psychotic/mental breakdown. Furthermore, a few chapters before that Mr. Golyadkin pulls a vial of medicine out of his pocket (even though he seems confused by it, and maybe thinks it's poison...?), which means he'd been presumably diagnosed with something beforehand too.

Right at the end of The Double, Mr. Golyadkin is taken by his friend, Dr. Krestyan Ivanovitch Rutenspitz, in a carriage, presumably to an asylum. As I mentioned before, the last chapter describes what seems like a psychotic or mental breakdown. However, the very last words spoken by Krestyan Ivanovitch seem to confirm something for Mr. Golyadkin (my highlight):

“You get free quarters, wood, with light, and service, the which you deserve not,” Krestyan Ivanovitch’s answer rang out, stern and terrible as a judge’s sentence.

Our hero shrieked and clutched his head in his hands. Alas! For a long while he had been haunted by a presentiment of this.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1846). The Double, chapter 13. Translated by Constance Garnett (1917). 1

Is there any special significance to this sentence?

Does it make Mr. Golyadkin aware of his mental condition?

Or does it just confirm his paranoia that people are out to get him, given that he sees the doctor as "a terrible Krestyan Ivanovitch" once inside the carriage?

1 I read The Double in another language, so I quoted it in Garnett's English translation. If there's a better/more accurate translation, please edit the question to replace this one.

1 Answer 1


There is one very important thing in these words, which is completely lost in translation. Throughout the story, Rutenspitz speaks normal Russian, but these last words he pronounces with a heavy German accent (more even in Germanized Russian):

Ви получаит казённый квартир, с дровами, с лихт и с прислугой, чего ви недостоин...

Why has his speech changed? Or maybe it isn't his friend and doctor Krestyan Ivanovitch, but Rutenspitz's evil double?

That’s not Krestyan Ivanovitch! Who is it? Or is it he? It is. It is Krestyan Ivanovitch, but not the old Krestyan Ivanovitch, it’s another Krestyan Ivanovitch! It’s a terrible Krestyan Ivanovitch!

[Same translation]

There is a special significance in these words, but more in the way, they were said, rather in the words themselves.

  • Can you provide a bit more clarification on what exactly gets lost in translation? I can't read any Cyrillic, so the quote isn't particularly helpful. Though in the version I read I did notice a clearly broken translation (which I assumed was because Krestyan Ivanovitch was indeed German and not Russian), the English translation I used also appears somewhat awkward.
    – JNat
    Sep 2, 2019 at 17:10
  • @JNat In Russian it isn't just broken, it is clearly words of a German person who speaks very bad Russian with a heavy accent (he even says Licht (light), instead of the Russian word). And in the beginning, Krestyan Ivanovitch speaks perfect Russian, no sign of him to be foreigner except the last name (and his first name and patronymic are both Russian).
    – DrTyrsa
    Sep 2, 2019 at 17:20
  • Hmm... don't particularly remember that disparity between the start and the end of the book — will go look again. But the translation I read was really good, as they did note the Licht bit in it too, with a footnote that that's how the original read :)
    – JNat
    Sep 2, 2019 at 17:22
  • Went back on my version to see past interactions with Krestyan Ivanovitch, and though this passage is noteworthy — due to the use of Licht you mentioned, and some other clearly deliberate misspellings of words — previous passages from the Dr. are still clearly grammatically and syntactically "broken."
    – JNat
    Sep 3, 2019 at 9:55
  • 2
    @JNat I can speak only of the original Russian text. All the phrases by Krestyan Ivanovitch are in perfect idiomatic Russian except for the last one. Nothing I can add to it.
    – DrTyrsa
    Sep 3, 2019 at 13:08

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