During four tumultuous days, the clerk Golyadkin, titular councillor - positioned in the ninth rank of the Table of Ranks established by Peter the Great- is driven insane by the arrival in his life of a man who is his exact double. He then does bizarre things and gets into humiliating situations, to which he responds with an excruciatingly incoherent self-abasement.
The personification of the double torments him, still it is impossible to understand if the double is a hallucination, an apparition, or a physical person. The monstrous and oppressive hierarchical bureaucratic system seems to control and destroy his employees through monotony, routine, isolation and estrangement. As a reaction, or temperamental tendency, Golyadkin becomes a victim of carnival fiction, perhaps generated by his own imagination.
St.Petersburg's acoustic landscape is constantly present in the novel, sound-map of the city, sound-reportage of the wandering of Golyadkin. He speaks with obsessional repetitions, in a fragmented and abstract language, direct reportage of his surprise, panic, incomprehension of his own situation. He has continuous fragmented conversations with himself, trying to reassure himself and to analyze the distortion of his reality. His futuristic poem of exploded views and perceptions, is reported by Dostoyevsky with a sculptural precision, anticipating the incantatory minimalistic writing of Gertrude Stein.