Determined to overreach his humanity and assert his untrammelled individual will, Raskolnikov, an impoverished student living in the St. Petersburg of the Tsars, commits an act of murder and theft and sets into motion a story which, for its excrutiating suspense, its atmospheric vividness, and its profundity of characterization and vision, is almost unequaled in the literatures of the world. The best known of Dostoevsky's masterpieces, Crime and Punishment can bear any amount of rereading without losing a drop of its power over our imagination.
"Brother, brother, what are you saying? Why, you have shed blood?" cried Dunya in despair.
"Which all men shed," he put in almost frantically, "which flows and has always flowed in streams, which is spilt like champagne, and for which men are crowned in the Capitol and are called afterwards benefactors of mankind... If I had succeeded I should have been crowned with glory, but now I'm trapped."
A surprising book. A book whose reputation overshadows it with those dreaded words "a worthy classic". A book of social commentary, a discussion of philosophy, of morality and justice, a plea for the Christian faith. But it’s also a playful crime novel, a crime of The Why, a wry look at art of catching criminals and with the number one genre attribute: a gripping plot. It is also beautifully written; discussion and descriptions slip of the page and their gems lurk in your brain. It is far too easy a read for such a chewy book.
“It would be interesting to know what it is men are most afraid of. Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what they fear most.”
Of course it's not without its faults, Personally (and though open to interpretation) the epilogue with its religion as a panacea felt a like a let down to the topics explored, a simplistic choice God or Nihilism. Sexism is endemic, although female characters abound they all lean towards self sacrificing end of the spectrum (yes Sonia is the embodiment of self sacrifice but every female character?) Racism is littered throughout too with throw away anti Semitic comments and for some reason a dislike of Germans. I can ignore these things, there is too much good stuff to take away but it depends on your sensitivity.
Where is it?" thought Raskolnikov. "Where is it I've read that someone condemned to death says or thinks, an hour before his death, that if he had to live on some high rock, on such a narrow ledge that he'd only room to stand, and the ocean, everlasting darkness, everlasting solitude, everlasting tempest around him, if he had to remain standing on a square yard of space all his life, a thousand years, eternity, it were better to live so than to die at once! Only to live, to live and live! Life, whatever it may be!... How true it is! Good God, how true! Man is a vile creature!... And vile is he who calls him vile for that," he added a moment later.
Overall highly recommended. Ignore the overly academic introductions and essays and dive right it, take away what you will and most of all wallow and enjoy (unless you’re a Nihilist)
The book's central character is Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, an impoverished student. The first part deals with the "crime" of the title, his axe murder of an elderly pawnbroker and her sister. He tells himself he could do a lot for people with her money--a "greatest good for the greatest number" sort of argument--and that he needs to test his mettle as an "extraordinary" man, such as Napoleon, who can "dare" step "over the barriers" and thus be beyond the law (the aspect that reminded me of Nietzsche). The next five parts deal with Raskolnikov's "punishment." His internal punishment as he's lashed by his conscience and his fear of discovery. The first part I found suspenseful and a fascinating psychological study of the mind of a murderer, even though, in many respects, Raskolnikov came off as sympathetic. He can be kind and generous--leaving charity anonymously; he's insightful and sensitive when he intuits the nature of the man who wants to marry his sister from his mother's letter. Although right from the first, I was struck, and a bit repelled, by how vividly Dostoevsky represents the terrible squalor surrounding Raskolnikov. All about him is greasy and ragged, stained and frayed and hopeless. There is humor, but it tends to a black hue. That dark atmosphere only increased through the book; the terrible cruelty of what Dostoevsky puts his characters through is hard to take. Raskolnikov becomes harder and harder to take too. An essay in the Norton Critical edition I read states that a Russian word, dostoevshchina, is derived from the author's name that means someone difficult, perverse, or who has "an excessive and morbid preoccupation with" their "own psychological processes." And boy, that sure describes the increasingly unbearable Raskolnikov.
Although I found much of Dostoevksy's anti-Enlightenment message deplorable, I couldn't help but be struck by the novel's philosophical and psychological richness. Another of the essays in this edition says that the pawnbroker could be seen as representing the bourgeoisie, and her murder thus a condemnation by Dostoevsky of using violent means in their elimination in the name of the people and thus a condemnation of what the Bolsheviks would do decades after the novel was published. Reading this novel published in 1865, one can see the intellectual broth out of which Soviet Russia emerged decades later. The novel has also been seen as a critique of nihilism and a forerunner of existentialism. The use of dream imagery made me think of Freud. I was more put off by what Dostoevsky seemed to hold up as an ideal than what he condemns, as embodied by the meek Sonya. She may be a "fallen" woman and sinner, and in her way Raskonikov's female counterpart in transgressing moral and social boundaries, but she's also a devout Christian and a redemptive figure. She's a prostitute who sold her body to feed a stepmother who was abusive to her and the alcoholic father who uses the money she has made that way to go on drunken binges. Though I wouldn't say Dostoevsky approves of Sonya's choice to prostitute herself, he seems to suggest both her suffering and her willingness to thus debase herself for others is ennobling. I had a similar negative reaction to actions of Dunya, Raskonikov's sister, who also prostitutes herself in a self-sacrificing way in accepting a marriage proposal to help her family. To be fair to Dostoevsky, he does seem to suggest that despite their good intentions, both women would have endangered their soul had they continued on their course. Nevertheless, I did find miserable and malignant the sense that self-abnegation, renunciation, a cringing and self-effacing humility and the embrace of irrationality and suffering constitute the "good."
I'll say this though, I never found the novel dull. Annoying in places given Raskonikov's increasing histrionics, often depressing, and with a rather lame and unconvincing redemptive ending, but never dull. And so many scenes and characters are so vivid I feel they'll be etched in my mind forever. I wouldn't call this novel a favorite, too dark for my tastes and too antithetical to all I value, but it's masterfully written and thought-provoking.
The author has also illuminated and underscored the premise that to suffer, is good. He is right. Would Spring be so welcome if we had no Winter? The guile the author gives the characters is amazing considering this is a novel of the 19th century. That said, this book is such an easy read compared to the fright I had upon beginning it.
There is not much that is pleasant in the world of Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov. Following his planned murder of the pawnbroker Alena Ivanovna and the subsequent murder of Lizaveta , the sister who stumbles into the scene of the crime we are propelled through his swirling half mad mind.
In a series of set pieces he attempts to rationalise and understand his behaviour whilst simultaneously dealing with the usual criminal issues of guilt, paranoia and abjection.
Murder, alcoholism, mental illness, child cruelty, domestic abuse, etc, etc Dostoevsky minutely examines each and more through the characters that swirl around Raskolnikov in his 19th Century Petersburg.
Go on, immerse yourself in the depravity and inertia that is the mind of Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov.
The murder occurred at the very beginning of the book and proceeded which was Raskolnikov's meticulous planning and "rehearsal" of the perfect crime. He would paid a visit to the pawnbroker, made careful notice of the setup of her apartment, listened for the pitch of the notched key she used to unlock the chest, and sewed a piece of cloth inside his waistcoat to hold the axe. Whether the crime was destitute-driven, the origin of his action could be diffuse and was somehow associated with certain morbid sensations. Indeed Raskolnikov subsequently conferred on his theory about the psychological state of a criminal's mind throughout the entire process of committing the crime. In his audacious "ordinary vs. extraordinary" statement, the latter could commit the most atrocious crime to whom law did not apply. To Raskolnikov, the morbid theory justified the act of committing atrocious acts upon morally corrupt individuals (the loutish, loathsome, filthy old moneylender woman per se) for the benefit of society.
The rest (five-sixths) of the book dealt with Raskolnikov's psychological aftermath of his crime-the intermittent moments of remorse, the excruciating physical suffering (seized with fear that he might give away his murder in his delirium), the howling of his own conscience, and the to-confess-or-not-to-confess struggle. Indeed Raskolnikov's own qualms of conscience had given him away-that investigator Porfiry infallibly identified Raskolnikov as the murderer by employing psychological tactics to play with Raskolnikov's mind. Porfiry contemplated that no less cruel was the punishment from one's own conscience. It was the formidable suffering that led Porfiry to purposely send an artisan to the street and randomly accused Raskolnikov of murder, to make him panic. That's why he wouldn't worry about arresting him imminently.
An interesting notion that kept repeating throughout the novel was redemption. Raskolnikov might have found his redemption through Sonya, a downtrodden prostitute who prayed and read the bible. But Sonya herself was asking for mercy and redemption for her own sin to which Raskolnikov deemed as moral suicide. Sonya's father Marmeladov in his deathbed asked for forgiveness and died in Sonya's arms. Svidrigailov, the landowner in whose home Raskolnikov's sister Dunya was ill-treated, offered to cover the cost of Katerina's (Sonya's stepmother) funeral and endowed each of the children with 1500 roubles to be paid on their maturity. In a sense, Svidrigailov hoped to find redemption of his sin (the killing of his wife and servant) through a good deed.
Not until in Siberia did Raskolnikov truly begin his repentance. One would be mistaken to think Raskolnikov had felt remorse for his crime when he confessed to Sonya. At that point all he did was nothing but recounting the whole murdering event, from the rehearsal, the timing, and the actual murder from which he was emotionally detached. He simply wanted to make the dare and thus never availed himself of the pawnbroker's treasures. It was the Devil who killed her, he claimed. It was the kind of theory; the sort of argument that said a single villainous act was allowable if the central aim was good. Whether he truly found redemption from his depravity and perversity would be left to readers' judgment.
A gloomy, melancholy, and taut air hovered above the entire novel and the language of which could become overwhelming and awkward at times. The plot itself was not so much suspenseful as the most jolting event took place in the beginning. What really gripped my mind were the conflicting emotions of fear, guilt, remorse, and courage. Whenever he was haunted, Raskolnikov would search his memory for some hints he might inadvertently gave away evidence of his crime. You might question how Dostoyevsky could penetrate the mind of a murderer so thoroughly and verbalize those freaky delirious thoughts. Every single character in the novel exerted some sense of agitation which, again, permeated throughout the book. The persistent destitute chased after Sonya's stepmother who already suffered from tuberculosis and hacked up blood. The children starved for days and were forced to perform street dance and begged for money. The inebriated men consumed huge amount of alcohol and paid numerous visits to brothels and indulged in debauchery. The most repugnant of all was Pyotr (Luzhin) who took advantage of women's glooming poverty and wielded the constant reproach over them that he had done a favor, making them forever indebted to him. He would manipulate in hope that Dunya and her mother would fall out with Raskolnikov out of his slanderous remarks. His would slyly slip a 100-rouble note into Sonya's pocket, falsely accused her stealing the money among a ghastly audience, and hopefully made her feel indebted to him.
Crime and Punishment is not an easy book to read. You will be rewarded with a sense of fulfillment that is so promising when you manage to finish. No sooner when you open the book than it provokes your mind. The whole novel is about morbidity that gives rise of a serious crime. That means you have to persevere with the psychotic nature of a murderer. It is impossible to do justice of all the implications and historical meaning underlying in this book with just a few paragraphs. Do read it for yourself.
I think that this book is best explained by drawing parallels between hypnosis. Specifically, I'm referred to the fractionation technique of taking subjects in and out of deeper and deeper trances (comparable to his gradual increase in paragraph length), the dissociative technique of attributing key statements to others (comparable to the epistolary nature of the early books of the novel) and the response anticipation of making someone wait for key information (comparable to prolonged, repetitive discussions between Raskolnikov and the inspector and the general theme of waiting to be discovered). In summary, I believe from my reading of this, The Brother's and Notes that Dostoyevsky's prose style is that of a verbal hypnotist.
One thing that stands out in my mind now that I'm reflecting back after several years is the dream with the beating of the horse and the man that kept saying, "I own it, it's my property!" And maybe this is a small complaint that I have: This dreams seems to be an allusion to an argument against capitalism and in favor of an impending political revolution but how can the theme of crime and punishment intermesh with a general political theme of that time such as anti-capitalism?
It's also interesting how he made me care so much for Raskolnikov. This novel does an excellent job of describing the ideas behind ambition, even misguided, petty ambition.
This novel was almost too long to preserve all of the personality traits assigned to R. and the people around him. I remember once focussing on how he felt about Sonia, the prostitute daughter of a drunk he meets once in a bar and gets told the drunk’s entire life story. Then it shifted to the relationship between himself and his mother and sister. His feelings towards his sister are almost identical to those he has towards Sonia. Both women are pure at heart and only he can save them from the world.
What I can’t understand is how caught up in and utterly slaves to emotions these people are. R. cannot do anything because he’s paralyzed by a series of emotions he cannot get under control. Rage. Self-loathing. Guilt. Outrage. Anger. All of these plague R. and he cannot act with any will of his own. Maybe that’s why he was deranged.
One example I remember of how screwed up and detached from reality R. is when he accidentally on purpose gets run down by a street coach or carriage. The people who hit him want to give him money and he eventually accepts it only to literally throw it in the river shortly thereafter. Unbelievable! He is destitute and wearing rags and hadn’t eaten in God knows how long, and he throws the money away.
Another example is that he fails to use the money and trinkets he steals from the old woman. Part of his reason for killing her is that he will free this fortune from the old woman and use it for good. The end justifies the means. After all his rationalization, he doesn’t have the resolve to do what he said he would do. The money he would get from killing her would go to good works and be much better used in the grand scheme of things than it would be if it stayed with the old woman who was mean and would never do good with her money. All she propagated was more despair and misery.
Derangement is maybe a family trait. Dunya his sister is pursued by a slightly twisted man name Svidrygaylov. When he lures her into his chambers alone and tries to rape her, she pulls a gun on him and tries to shoot him. She misses. Instead of trying again, she lowers the gun and completely surrenders to S. Is she nuts?
Anyway, the end is of course in Siberia (he takes forever to confess but in actual time it’s only a few months). He has confessed and is sent to a workhouse. Sonia follows. Dunya and his friend R. also follow and marry and live in a nearby town. His mother dies of a brain fever or something.
I don’t understand the wrestling with emotions and the lack of will power to act. I guess it was a different time and place than here but, it seemed like R. wasn’t the criminal he was supposed to be. He only killed the old woman to see if he could commit a murder. He admits that to Sonia or Dunya. I wish D. would have made the old woman act like the evil harridan that R. makes her out to be. What I get is just R’s opinion of the pawnbroker from only his interaction with her. I would have liked to see the pawnbroker cheating or humiliating other people who came to her with pledges. The way it was written, we only have R’s opinion of how unjust and cruel she is and I don’t trust R’s opinion since he seems to have no reason, just emotion.
Another thing that I wish would have been different was how much time was devoted to the most intricate details of everyone’s life. I think that if that level of fine focus was only centered on R and his immediate circle, the book would have been more understandable and the threads in the story easier to keep track of. It’s the minutiae that obscures the main plot and theme of the story for me.
I don't think I've ever come across a book quite like Crime and Punishment. Usually, I can at the very least quickly classify a book in the broad terms of "I liked it" or "I didn't like it." Crime and Punishment doesn't really fit in this paradigm. I can't tell you if I liked it or not, because I don't know. In fact, it almost defies description at all. Nevertheless, I will say what I can about Dostoyevsky's novel.
The basic plot centers on a young man named Raskolnikov who commits a double murder early on in the story. The rest of the book details the slow, agonizing punishment of that crime, which for him is an internal battle between his intellect, which says that he has done no wrong, and his conscience, which informs him that what he did was in fact very wrong. His internal strife slowly eats away at Raskolnikov to the point where he confesses his crime and is sent to Siberia for hard labor. While in Siberia, his suffering for his misdeeds reaches a climax, and as a result he finds redemption and is reanimated as a person. His soul is restored.
The positive elements of the book are several: First, there are multiple scenes which evoked strong emotional reactions as I read. Dostoyevsky had an amazing ability to write viscerally. Second, the novel displays (accurately, in my view) the destructiveness of adhering to a false worldview. Raskolnikov came close to breaking down throughout the story, precisely because he could not reconcile his worldview with reality. Conversely, the author represents well the transformation or regeneration that occurs with true repentance--a lesson that will forever ring true.
There are several negative elements of the book, though. As is typical with Russian literature, it is a heavy, long read. I personally could not say that I enjoyed reading it, but while hard, it was worthwhile. (Perhaps it is the literary equivalent to eating one's vegetables?) In addition, Dostoyevsky had several side stories that dealt with the current events of the day--events with which I was completely in the dark. I admit, this is probably more of a commentary on myself than the book, but since I am not in academia and have precious little time to read as it is, it makes little sense for me to study up on such details just to read a book.
Overall, I am just not sure what to do with this book. It speaks to the reader on multiple levels and contains much that is good, but it was not particularly a "good read" in the sense that it was not a book I would recommend to curl up with next to a fire. Reading it was more like running a marathon without knowing where the finish line was. On balance, I am rating this book 3 stars, which I freely admit may reflect more on me than Dostoyevsky's classic work.
I hated Rodya, yet I sympathized with and pitied him; I held my breath for him right to the bitter end, even as I was hating him for being selfish and gloomy.
This was the easiest, most engrossing Russian novel I have yet read; the most intense, and the most aching.
Who couldn't admire Sonya, and Dounia for being so noble? Who could not admire Dmitri Prokofitch for being so loyal and so simple? Or Profiry for being so observant and devious? Truly a wonderful array of characters; an immensely enjoyable read for anyone with a love of the human mind.
Characters: These are the true glory of the book. Down to the smallest side character they're superbly sketched and individualized, and their thought processes are laid out with enough detail for the reader to easily follow them. None of the characters are truly likable, but they are understandable, which is more important.
Style: It's a difficult read. Epic and wordy, the story meanders about and sometimes goes off in unexpected directions with page-long discussions of an idea. It doesn't excuse any inattention from the reader. The Garnett translation used to be the established standard.
Plus: It's an amazing character study.
Minus: At times it's an ordeal to go through it, with the last page being the goal in mind.
Summary: It's a great book, but one that demands attention, stamina and patience from the reader. I found it a harder read than The Brothers Karamasov, but equally rewarding.
His acute observations bring the story to life with amazing vividness. No one else could capture that fascinating, dark personality. Completely engrossing.
This is the Penguin Designer Classic edition of Crime and Punishment (the McDuff translation). Specifically, the design firm Fuel designed this book's layout from materials, to binding, to typesetting, etc. This book is made ENTIRELY of brown kraft paper. The covers are just as fragile as the interior pages--amazing as this book has a perfect binding on it. The silk-screening on this book is extremely sharp and the pattern on the front cover continues onto the spine and leaf-edges with perfect continuity. The back of the book displays an optical illusion that has an artistic correlation to the main character in the book (the diagonal lines are parallel, even though they don't appear so). Lastly, only 1000 copies of this edition have been made.
This book is a piece of art in of itself; I don't believe its meant to be read given its fragile nature. That being said, I love Fuel's interpretation of how this book should be seen given what the words say within its pages. That is the reason why I like this rendition so much.
My wife and I bought our copy from a UK site for much cheaper than what is normally asked, as the cardboard shipping box had a slight tear in it. If you look around, you can probably find one of these awesome books for about one hundred pound.
To me this rendition is well-worth the price as I have loved the story of crime and punishment since I first read it as an undergraduate.
A fantastic story, with many different levels. The writing is so easy to get into and so gripping, I guarantee pretty much anybody will be able to read it and enjoy it.
'To be a Raskolnikov without a reason' - story of his life: E.M. Cioran.
Depressing masterpiece, a very tasteful lecture though. I've always been fascinated by the influence of this character in the world's literature of the XXth century. Years ago, worked hard on a personal project: revealing Dostoievski's influence on the Romanian literature (Rebreanu - The Forest of the Hanged). Should have finished it... kept on thinking no one else would care to ever go through it.
Winter/Northern literature; no way to read such a thing during the summer.
The real strength in this story is the character development and the internal dialogue. It's one of the first stories to get such an in-depth look inside a character's head. Each painstaking thought, insecurity, fear, and worry is etched in detail. I also loved the cat and mouse game with the detective. It's that type of dialogue that could fit into a police procedural today, the detective trying to crush the suspect without making a direct accusation, trying to wear him down so he will just give up. The psychological warfare is intense and very enjoyable.
Russian literature is always a great study of people. Each character is fleshed out. It has those same qualities that make Huckleberry Finn such a classic; the characters are just as good as the story. The problems and travails of the common person of the day are told in so much detail. In one case, a dream sequence demonstrates the struggle of the common peasant of the day; an old horse is pulled out attempting to pull a full cart of drunkards as the master whips him again and again thinking he should be able to pull such a heavy load. When he cannot do it, he stands to shoot it and at that point Raskolnikov wakes from his dream (it may have been the dream that pushes him over).
A very dense read, not as dense as Anna Karenina (where you definitely need a list of the cast of characters to keep up), but not as heavy as Fathers and Sons, which is more of a straightforward story. I may want to re-read this in the future to get more out of it.
In short, I maintain that all great men or even men a little out of the common, that is to say capable of giving some new word, must from their very nature be criminals—more or less, of course. Otherwise it's hard for them to get out of the common rut; and to remain in the common rut is what they can't submit to, from their very nature again, and to my mind they ought not, indeed, to submit to it."
"He will lie—that is, the man who is a special case, the incognito, and he will lie well, in the cleverest fashion; you might think he would triumph and enjoy the fruits of his wit, but at the most interesting, the most flagrant moment he will faint. Of course there may be illness and a stuffy room as well, but anyway! Anyway he's given us the idea! He lied incomparably, but he didn't reckon on his temperament. That's what betrays him! Another time he will be carried away by his playful wit into making fun of the man who suspects him, he will turn pale as it were on purpose to mislead, but his paleness will be too natural , too much like the real thing, again he has given us an idea! Though his questioner may be deceived at first, he will think differently next day if he is not a fool, and, of course, it is like that at every step! He puts himself forward where he is not wanted, speaks continually when he ought to keep silent, brings in all sorts of allegorical allusions, he-he! Comes and asks why didn't …
"You knew I was ill and tried to work me into a frenzy to make me betray myself, that was your object! Produce your facts! I understand it all. You've no evidence, you have only wretched rubbishly suspicions like Zametov's! You knew my character, you wanted to drive me to fury and then to knock me down with priests and deputies.... Are you waiting for them? eh! What are you waiting for? Where are they? Produce them?""
"She was only fourteen, but her heart was broken. And she had destroyed herself, crushed by an insult that had appalled and amazed that childish soul, had smirched that angel purity with unmerited disgrace and torn from her a last scream of despair, unheeded and brutally disregarded, on a dark night in the cold and wet while the wind howled...."
Raskolnikov took the magazine and glanced at his article. Incongruous as it was with his mood and his circumstances, he felt that strange and bitter sweet sensation that every author experiences the first time he sees himself in print; besides, he was only twenty-three. It lasted only a moment. After reading a few lines he frowned and his heart throbbed with anguish. He recalled all the inward conflict of the preceding months. He flung the article on the table with disgust and anger."
"Perhaps it was only from the force of his desires that he had regarded himself as a man to whom more was permitted than to others." p. 544