Book of the Week – Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

IT is one of those texts I’d heard spoken of in hushed tones – one of the Great Ones, lauded from the heights of the literary world, in columns of high-brow literary reviews and pretentious politics essays across the globe.

Also, by Boukalas and Rusty, in various pubs.

It’s also a book I’d avoided for the first 23 years of my life because of its size and heft, and the stern tone of its title.

The low down, for those who have never read the blurb or the spark notes version of the novel, is this:

Written around 1865, Crime and Punishment tells the story of an ex-student called Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov who has fallen on hard times and murders a pawnbroker in St Petersburg.

The killing is self-justified by the protagonist – whose academic theory assumes that there are individuals who have the right to make, and break, laws which ordinary mortals live by without dispute.

The action-drama sequence which sees him bludgeon his neighbour to death is just the first chapter of the novel’s 450 pages. During the rest we follow Doestevsky’s troubled character as he struggles to live within his own philosophy – and as he slowly realises he is not the ruthless Napoleon he imagined.

As a reader you follow this fraying consciousness around St Petersburg, meeting his family, his friends, and the drunks and peasants he hangs around with – as he tries to work out the meaning of what he’s done and what he should do.

The huge irony in this text, for me, was that the more you read of this tortured character and his everyday life, and the more worried, distracted and guilt-ridden his outbursts became, the more you were made aware that the author behind the charade was a writer in full control of his senses.

Dostoevsky – a similarly impoverished Russian thinker to Rodion – found it in him to set down and write a text that makes most other characters in most other texts look comfy – sort of lazy – a bit fat. His protagonist seems worryingly alive.

It intimidates me that the characters of a man writing well over a century ago can put modern devices to shame. Rodion is involved – he doesn’t stop. He is curious, worried, loyal, hot and cold.

Fyodor Dostoevsky in 1863

I will stop praising him now, lest I come across as a complete simpleton but, still, I think I am in love with Fyodor Dostoevsky.

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2 Responses to “Book of the Week – Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky”

  1. It came down to his conscience. One of the books I enjoyed reading.

  2. I’m sorry to break it to you, but Fyodor is dead… and was a bit ugly looking, too…

    But… if you like I guess I could print you out a poster of him to adorn the walls of your bedroom… ;p

    C
    x

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