Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1866)


Raskolnikov, an impoverished student living in the St. Petersburg of the tsars, is determined to overreach his humanity and assert his untrammeled individual will. When he commits an act of murder and theft, he sets into motion a story that, for its excruciating suspense, its atmospheric vividness, and its depth 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 imaginations.

Dostoevsky’s drama of sin, guilt, and redemption transforms the sordid story of an old woman’s murder into the nineteenth century’s profoundest and most compelling philosophical novel.

Award-winning translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky render this elusive and wildly innovative novel with an energy, suppleness, and range of voice that do full justice to the genius of its creator.

This is one of my favorite classics ever; I watched the 2002 BBC version recently and was suddenly inspired to re-read the book again. Although I've always liked the book since the first time I read it, the story and the characters never cease to strike me as brilliant and I always notice something new each time.

  • This book is amazing. It's a psychological drama that goes fairly deeply into the philosophy of nihilism, expounds upon the nature of man and his morality, and gives us a glimpse of Russian culture and history. Reading the characters and the different viewpoints they present towards the relationship between crime and punishment was a lot of fun for me, and I felt that Dostoyevsky must have been very proud of this masterpiece.
  • The dynamic differences between the characters are extremely relevant to the story - each acts as a foil, in some way, to the main character, Raskolnikov. I absolutely loved how each contributed his or her part in the story, whether it's with Dunya's integrity, Sonya's selflessness, Razumikhin's openness, Luzhin's pretentiousness, or even Svidrigailov's sinister ambiguity.
  • Raskolnikov himself is an intriguing main character, and his descent into a guilt (and eventual redemption) brings to the audience a whirlwind of emotions and understanding in the cluttered city of St. Petersburg. He is portrayed as brilliant but extremely prideful and wrong on many accounts, particularly on his "extraordinary vs. ordinary" theory, which is an important part of the book, and the way the author brings this out with symbolism, juxtaposition, and religious allusions is brilliant.
  • The pacing and structure of the story also struck me as particularly interesting. The crime itself only takes up a few chapters, and the punishment resonates deeply throughout the rest of the book. It's also strange to think that all these turmoils and coincidences occur within the matter of a few days, and my sense of time gets very muddled and skewed when I'm reading the book because some of the developments seem to happen so quickly... The fact that Raskolnikov is ill and delirious throughout parts of the book doesn't make things easier (for example, he sleeps for four days after killing the old lady).
  • The character interactions are great. The "cat and mouse" chase, for instance, between the investigator Porfiry and Raskolnikov, is very suspenseful and clever. Marmeladov and his wife are both heavily flawed and unaware of the ironies in their own observations. Luzhin's pompous language, the contrast between Sonya's meek nature and base occupation, and Svidrigailov's contradictory impressions give the audience more to mull about.
  • My guess is that some people would criticize the epilogue because it doesn't quite match up with the style and pacing of the story. It features a flash-forward in time, and updates on how the major characters are doing. But I thought it was a suitable ending; the book would be good with or without it, I think. The epilogue is essential in reaching the final catharsis and enabling the audience to understand Raskolnikov's real redemption, whereas the chapter before that concludes on a very dramatic note, for the action that we all knew was coming. The epilogue is definitely much more sentimental, but not mawkishly so, and I felt like it was good to keep it in there.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

No comments:

Post a Comment