on January 17, 2010
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky is a novel that takes a lot of dedication to read because of its length, but I found it to be a satisfying experience. The story isn't like any other I have ever read. The beginning lures you into reading it, and after a while you want to know how the protagonist will change. What I found at first to be confusing were the some of the many different characters that were introduced not only had one name, but had a nickname too, which were used quite often. Constance Garnett did an excellent job in translating; I read the Wordsworth Classics edition of Crime and Punishment.
The most interesting part of this novel, I found, was when Raskolnikov, the protagonist, spoke to another about the article he had written some months prior. This argument seemed to be the heart of the novel. "[A]ll men are divided into "ordinary" and "extraordinary". Ordinary men have to live in submission, have no right to transgress the law, because ... they are ordinary. But extraordinary men have a right to commit any crime and to transgress the law in any way, just because they are extraordinary." (221) By reading that, you can imagine what category Raskolnikov wanted to be a part of.
The story commences with Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, also called Rodya, sneaking out of the room that he rents, because he is "hopelessly in debt to his landlady..." He used to be a student and he used to give lessons to earn some money, but he found himself out of work, and the only pair of clothes he had became too worn out to get any respectable employment. His mother had not sent him money recently because he had her own expenses to take care of.
Without money, Raskolnikov has been starving himself, and as a result is suffering from delusions and strange thoughts, and becomes easily irritable.
While sitting at a restaurant one day, he overhears a conversation between two men, speaking of a pawnbroker who is so stingy that she buys their items at too low of a price. One man says that he would be doing everyone a favour by killing that old lady, the pawnbroker. But he wouldn't actually do it, he concluded. Raskolnikov, however, was very touched by the conversation of the pawnbroker who he has been going to for money. He starts imagining how he would like to kill her in his mind, and goes about trying to initiate his plans.
How will Raskolnikov's life take a sudden turn as a result of his plans? What punishment must he bear because of his crime?
"[A]n extraordinary man has the right - that is not an official right, but an inner right - to decide in his own conscience to overstep . . . certain obstacles, and only in case it is essential for the practical fulfilment of his idea (sometimes, perhaps, of benefit to the whole of humanity). ... if the discoveries of Kepler and Newton could not have been made known except by sacrificing the lives of one, a dozen, a hundred, or more men, Newton would have had the right, would indeed have been in duty bound . . . to eliminate the dozen or the hundred men for the sake of making discoveries his known to the whole of humanity. But it does not follow that Newton had a right to murder people right and left and to stead every day in the market. ... [L]egislators and leaders of men, such as Lycurgus, Solon, Mahomet, Napoleon, and so on, were all without exception criminals, from the very fact that, making new law, they transgressed the ancient one, handed down from their ancestors and held sacred by the people, and they did not stop short at bloodshed either, if that bloodshed - often of innocent persons fighting bravely in defence of ancient law - were of use of their cause. It's remarkable, in fact, that the majority, indeed, of these benefactors and leaders of humanity were guilty of terrible carnage." (222)
on December 14, 1999
I am a high school junior, and was slightly intimidated to receive such a novel to read over this past summer. And, although I got caught up in the fascinating action involving the murder, I did not understand the significance of this kind of existential novel--well I didn't even know what existentialism is, never mind understand the theories of people like Kierkegaard or Nietzsche.
But now, after fully analyzing this novel over a period of several months, I have come to realize that this book is one of the landmarks in world literature. Not only did it change my life and expand my thinking, but it also gave me insight on the historical perspective of 19th Century Russia. This particular translation (Richard Pevear) was absolutely FANTASTIC, and compares to no other. It is definitely my top recommendation for translations.
This is truly a novel of epic proportions--not exactly bedside table reading. I would say to read at your own risk, but if you do, be sure to relish it as best you can, for once you finish, you will realize that you have read something truly great.
on April 17, 2004
When a book has a visceral effect on the reader, the author must be doing something right. My father complained of actually feeling sick while reading this, and I had a similiar reaction. There is a pervasive darkness here which is little to do with Raskalnikov's crime and punishment and everything to do with the grime and general despair of St. Petersburg. You can almost breath the coal dust in the air; physical and moral squalor taint everything. Even the supposedly good characters live in a state of degredation, and poverty is everwhere. Given this, the pure moral which Dostoevsky seems to try to draw out of it seems a bit ridiculous, and is the main flaw of the book in my eyes. He tries in the last stretch to uplift, but he's shown us too much squalor to make it believable. This book is a bit of a chore to read, I found, given its length and unremitting tone, and while it's clearly the work of a master author, I don't reccomend it unconditonally.
on September 30, 2001
I first started reading this novel when I was 12 years old. I only got through the first 50 or so pages before putting the book down. Now, another 12 years down the line, I picked it up again, and this time I didn't let go.
Fyodor Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment" is simply one of - if not *the* best novel I have ever read. Dostoevsky is the master of portraying characters in a believable way; when you're reading the book you feel as though you are in the room with Rodja, Dunja, Razumichin and Luzjin. It's like stepping into a time-machine set for pre-revolution Russia.
The plot revolves around Rodion "Rodja" Romanovitj Raskolnikov, a poor ex-student who murders an old woman in the belief that he's doing it for the good of man. This happens in the first part of the book; in the rest of the book we follow Rodja in his feverish nightmare, walking the streets of Petersburg.
The book is interesting not only because of it's great entertainment value, but even more so because of the philosophical questions it asks. The late great Ayn Rand was also a master of this type of novel. With the exception of "Crime and Punsihment," the only novel I have read where you really feel that the characters are so real is Rand's "Atlas Shrugged."
on September 23, 2003
One doesn't read "Crime and Punishment", one festers in the brain of Raskolnikov. One feels his disgust when someone enters the room and interrupts his sleep or his thinking, feels the thrill and the disorientation as he commits the murder, feels his fear when he ponders clues left behind, feels his heart race when he's brilliantly interrogated by the detective Porfiry. Most of all one joins in his inner turmoil as he tries work through this new moral code that will back up his crime. His mind is constantly racing in a million different directions, and the effect for the reader is very dizzying. It is really one of the more visceral novels. Go for the Pevear/Volokhonsky translations--they're much smoother to read, and have completely replaced the Garnett translations as the industry standard for Dostoevsky and other Russian books.
on March 5, 2004
I have read this book and I think its very good and a must read for everybody. It has everything, philosophy, character development, a rich language, and a very interesting story.
The writer explores the psychology of a criminal mind, his feeling, the way he thinks and how later he repents about the crime.
Raskolnikov a very poor law student away from school for financial reasons decides to commit a crime. Dostoyevsky does a very good job in developing his caracter. In the beggining Raskolnikov thinks that in the world are two kind of people. The ordinary people and the extraordinary. The latest are the kind of people that have the "right" to commit crimes in order to walk forward, grow in ther career or do something that is very good for the society, like Napoleon etc. The ordinary people dont have the right to commit crimes they are under the law. He thinks that commiting this crime will serve to the society, but later on as the story goes we see Raskolnikov change. This by several factors, his love for Sonia, his mother and Sister.
We see some other characters in the novels that aren't criminals like Luzhin but we dont have any sympathy for them.
In the end Raskolnikov change his mind, He starts to understand that he was not "Napoleon" or extraordinary and in order to be releaved and start a new life he needs to be "Punished".
Very good book I would suggest everybody to read it.
on February 7, 2003
Having just read the autobiographical A Moveable Feast in which Hemingway discusses Dostoevsky(I wish they would decide upon a definite spelling) and notes how Dostoevsky is undeniably great, however one can only read his works once due to the utterly grave and morose manner in which they inevitably are written. I am in concurrence with this having just finished Crime and Punishment. While I highly recommend this seminal and profound work to all, as Raskolnikov would say, extraordinary individuals outside of the lowly laboring class of the abysmally inept proletariat, I must say that I do not plan on rereading it anytime in the near future.
The dark and morbid cover of the book omniously more than sets the foreboding tone of this deep look into the morose psyche of a tainted and morally depraved intellectual. The ubiquitous gloom and pervading despair permeate throughout Crime and Punishment as we witness the pestilence endured in St. Petersburg in the 19th Century. The continuous coughing of blood by the perpetually sick, the heavy vodka drinking, the gloom of poverty, the virtual starvation of many, the using of "the yellow passport" by Sonia solely in order to maintain sustenance for her family, as well as the remorseless murder of the pawnbroker and Lizveta all contribute to the dissolute debauchery and moral depravity exuded by Dostoevsky.
Is it jusifiable to commit heinous acts on morally corrpt individuals for the betterment of society? Does the despicable means of murder of the dirty, old pawnbroker justify the taking of rubles and jewelry to distribute to those less fortunate who are of good moral standing? Raskolnikov adheres to this belief using reason over conscience thinking great men such as Napoleon are allowed to overstep the laws of man for the betterment of society. After the murders, Raskolnikov finds himself "trapped in dreary solitude from which there was no escape." It is refreshingly profound, and altogether surprising, when Raskolnikov undergoes an epiphany of sorts and finally feels genuine and unadulterated remorse while banished in Siberia. While very dark and macabre, Crime and Punishment comes as a highly recommended, albeit a highly provocative and involving work. Be prepared to put on your proverbial thinking cap, so to speak. Enjoy.
on January 9, 2003
This was the 2nd book by Dostoevsky that I've read, well, kind of. About a year ago I started reading The Idiot, but I found that pretty boring and didn't even finish it, but it was a very different case with Crime and Punishment. This book tells the story of a man named Raskolinov who decides to kill an old pawnbroker, justifying his actions by reasoning that the death of this miserable old woman will be better for society. Anyway, it's pretty interesting seeing how the main character behaves throughout the book. Besides the main character, there is an interesting supporting cast such as his friend, his mother and sister, and a family he helps which includes a prostitute he befriends. There are subplots concerning these characters which are interesting and in other novels these subplots would maybe be distracting and bog the novel down, but I think they're pretty interesting in Crime and Punishment and if it weren't for them, the book would be a lot shorter. Also, Dostoevsky does a good job bringing life to every character. I found it pretty easy to distinguish each character and I had a vivid image of what they're like. In reading this book, it wouldn't hurt to know something about Russian ideas and such in the 19th century, but I certainly wouldn't say it's necessary. Reading the novel, despite Raskolinov's plot of murder, I found that I couldn't help liking the character and wanting things to work out for him. For the most part, he seemed like an educated and caring man. I think this novel provides an interesting look into the way in which one's conscience can practically drive a person mad, as it often does with the main character. Although the character is about Russian people in Russia, I don't think that made the story any less interesting as the theme of the novel had much more to do with human nature and little to do with the fact that the characters are Russian. I think most people will find characters and feelings in this book that they can relate to. Overall, I think this book is worth the read. I'm glad I read it and I think it's a pretty good book.
on April 24, 2001
Crime and Punishment centers upon the story of a young Russian student, Raskolnikov, who plots and carries out a brutal murder. However, this is less than a quarter of the story. The rest centers upon his attempts to come to terms with the philosophical and psycological consequences of his act. Aiding, or hindering, him in this endevor are a series of characters from the kind-hearted prostitute Sonia and her drunken father, the unrepentant scoundrel Svidrigailov, Raskolnikov's best friend Razumihin, and the police detective come amateur psychologist Porfiry Petrovich. Though the story develops slowly, with many detours, Raskolnikov's journey through crime and punishment remains gripping until the very last page.
I first encountered Crime and Punishment in the classic translation by Constance Garnett and loved it for Dostoyevsky's careful balance of character and philosophy. Dostoyevsky's genius lies in his ability to create simultaneously a psychological novel and a novel of ideas. Though each character represents a certain philosophy of life, they never become lifeless or stereotyped. Instead, each is a memorably developed and psychologically deep person, who could easily carry a story in their own right. Dostoyevsky's genius is in the perfect counterpoint between conflict of personality and conflict of philosophy between each of these fascinating people. Dostoyevsky also specializes in garnering the reader's interest and sympathy for the most unlikely characters. This is a novel, after all, with an ax murderer as the protagonist.
However, until I read this new translation of Dostoyevsky, I never realized that besides psychologist and philosopher, Dostoyevsky was also a masterful stylist. Pevear and Volokhonsky succeed in faithfully translating the literal meaning of the original Russian, while still capturing the vivid liveliness of Dostoyevsky's prose. The heat of a St. Petersburg summer night fairly radiates off the page in the first part, while his descriptions of Raskolnikov's cramped bedroom gave me claustrophobia.
Admittedly, this is no beach-read thriller. The Russian names can be confusing, and Dostoyevsky's manages to be both dense and long-winded. Nontheless, this is one of the greatest works of fiction ever written that should be read both as a "classic book" and as a gripping psychological exploration of crime.
on September 24, 2003
You cannot blame Dostoyevsky for NOT being a "beach read." If you read this book in two weeks (and people praise themselves for it! how ironic) and got nothing out of it... that's your problem! This is not TOm CLancy and all that garbage. This is a book you must meditate on for a while. Of course it can take you 4 months! What appears to be superfluous is not. It is packed with interesting philosophical insights. Reading should not be a "race," it's a delicate intellectual pursuit. So, please, do not blame it on Dosto for not writing a page-turner! Readers of the world, unite for the Classics against the evils of American pseudo-literature and reader-digestry!