Dostoyevsky turns up his inner claustrophobia to 11 in this highly enjoyable yet ultimately depressing novella called 'The Double'.
Golyadkin, a low-ranking city clerk firmly believes that there is his double that is slowly trying to destroy him. This double is smart, confident and well-liked - everything that Golyadkin is not. His confidence and easy manner is driving Golyadkin insane. Or maybe he is simply just going insane.
The story doesn't sound new today that's probably because inspired works have flooded Hollywood and popular culture over the years (Fight Club, Secret Window, Machinist and finally last year - The Double.)
Considering that Dostoyevsky wrote this so early in his career (1846 vs. 1866 and later for his more famous works like Crime and Punishment, The Idiot), I found the narrative both entertaining and poignant and always powerful. Who the double is is anybody's guess but that's not the point. Dostoyevsky clearly suffered from inner daemons and his inability to make sense of a society often fueled the inner conflicts that his characters almost always go through. In Golyadkin, he builds the initial framework of a character that shows up in various forms in several of his works later from 'Notes from the Underground', 'Crime and Punishment' and finally in the 'Dreams of a Ridiculous Man'. This character is fundamentally an outsider and finds himself consistently at odds with the society, its norms, its religion and its structure.
The Double is a quick, easy read and gives a quick glance into Dostoyevsky's philosophy which otherwise often requires much heavier lifting. I highly recommend it.