I found the first half confusing, dense and dark. It was something I had to sit down and concentrate on, consciously keeping track of different characters and threads, and I considered giving up on the book. I am so glad I didn't. The rest of the book was thought provoking, exciting, tense, and a brilliant examination of remorse, guilt, and the philosophy of crime. It remains one of the best books I've read and has left a lasting impact on my perspective of guilt and punishment.
Viruses of the mind
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 10 years ago
Crime and Punishment is a skillfully done and engaging read that brings terrifying philosophies to life. Considering the book uses 500 pages to describe the events of a month of so, this might seem to be a dry a boring read. This is not so, for the book moves along at a fast clip and offers a compelling, deep perspective that is not found very often today. Crime and Punishment is about many philosophic ideas. The "Extraordinary Man" theory is one of them, the redemptive nature of suffering another. In particular, however, I was struck by a certain aspect that does not emerge fully until the epilogue. While sick, Raskolnikov has a dream (p.518): "...the whole world was condemned to suffer a terrible, unprecedented, and unparalleled plague, which had spread to Europe from the depths of Asia. Except for a small handful of the chosen, all were doomed to perish. A new kind of trichinae had appeared, microscopic substances that lodged in men's bodies. Yet these were spiritual substances as well, endowed with mind and will. Those infected were seized immediately and went mad. Yet people never considered themselves so clever and so unhesitatingly right as these infected ones considered themselves. Never had they considered their decrees, their scientific deductions, their moral convictions and their beliefs more firmly based. Whole settlements, whole cities and nations were infected and went mad. Everybody was in a state of alarm, and nobody understood anybody; each thought the truth was in him alone; suffered agonies when he looked on others; beat his breast; wept and wrung his hands. They did not know whom to bring to trial or how to try him; they could not agree on what to consider evil, what good. They did not know whom to condemn or whom to acquit." Of course, Dostoyevsky is talking about ideas that spread from one person to another. Russia at this time was a changing place. Notions of Hegelian "historical necessity" had invaded Russia and were influencing revolutionary movements. Revolutionaries and intellectuals thought that if things were historically necessary, and if society advanced through contradiction and negation, this idea would justify potentially immoral means of reaching their ends. Of course, this is part of the reason that Raskolnikov committed the murder. Raskolnikov thought that truly great men are able to transgress the law in order that their greatness can come forth for the benefit of society. The murder is committed as a test of the murderer's "greatness." If Raskolinov can carry through with the murder and its aftermath, then he can prove to himself that he is a great man. It is implied that Raskolnikov eventually realizes that his idea was wrong while exiled in Siberia. Dostoyevsky himself was exiled to Siberia for engaging in revolutionary activities in this Hegelian framework. While there, Dostoyevsky underwent (as far as can be determined) a genuine return to Russian Orthodoxy. Upon his return to Petersburg, he beca
Crime and Punishment = Great!
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 10 years ago
I love this book. It is hard to get through the first half, but after that it is just amazing. Everything you thought was meaningless isn't. This is a must read.
A great novel
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 11 years ago
This is, of course, one of the great novels of all time. Fyodor Dostoyevsky created a number of truly wonderful works over time, such as "The Brothers Karamazov," "The Gambler," and "The Devils" (or "The Possessed"). The "Translator's Introduction" to "Crime and Punishment" provides useful context. David Magarshack, the translator, observes that (page 11) ". . .the main theme. . .had occupied Dostoyevsky ever since he gave up his career in the army to devote himself to literature." Shortly thereafter, Magarshack quotes Dostoyevsky himself from an earlier work, "White Knights," with the author saying (page 11): "'It is said that the proximity of punishment gives rise to real repentance in the criminal and sometimes arouses remorse in the most hardened heart; it is said to be chiefly due to fear." Thus, there is a psychological element to this novel, whether is approximates reality or not (I have my doubts that a lot of criminals really repent and show remorse, but that is neither here nor there). The novel itself was important for Dostoyevsky since, as was not uncommon, he was in dire financial straits. He signed a contract to provide a serialization of the work to a literary publication. This is apparent at some points, when different parts of the novel may not fit together so well or when certain strands of discourse aren't fully developed. The protagonist, Raskolnikov, faces a series of problems. For one thing, he is a student who faces dire poverty and has a difficult time just making ends meet. At another level, he has a sense that special human beings can be above the law and so on to do great deeds. These two factors plus others are interlinked to lead him to murder a pawnbroker to help gain enough money to survive. On being "superman," Raskolnikov says at one point (page 276): "I simply hinted that the `extraordinary' man has a right--not an officially sanctioned right, of course--to permit his conscience to step over certain obstacles, but only if it is absolutely necessary for the fulfillment of his idea on which possibly the welfare of all mankind may depend." And, in a following commentary (page 277): ". . .I maintain that all men who are not only great but a little out of the common. . .must by their very nature be criminals. . . ." After committing the murder, he begins to come apart, as he suspects that people know of his deed. In another plot twist, after meeting a civil servant, Marmalodov, he comes to be attracted to his daughter, Sonya. He comes to confess to her of his deed. Later, he falls in love with her, but his imprisonment means that they would need to delay a life together. She follows him to Siberia, and the novel ends with hope for the future. This is one of the great novels, no doubt. There are problems, as noted above, with the development of the story and with its ending (almost deus ex machine). Nonetheless, an interesting psychological analysis of the human mind. Still worth reading long after he compl
Wonderful new translation
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 18 years ago
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.
Detective Novel? Not quite.
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 19 years ago
This is the first Dostoevsky book I have read, and I liked it immensely. I decided to read it because of the intriguing plot, as well as Dostoevsky's reputation. Something interesting about this novel is that Dostoevsky used a very "backwards" sort of character development. He had Raskolnikov commit a murder- with no apparent motive- and then spent the rest of the book exploring the character, rather than the other way around. So first we watch this character commit a horrible, terrible crime, one that we should denounce him for, and then we begin to get to know him, and he is revealed to have an astoundingly good character after all. I found myself liking Raskolnikov greatly, and I was able to identify with him as well. However, this book does not seem to fall under the guidelines of a "crime novel" nor a "psychological thriller". Yes, there is a crime, as well as a study of the protoganist's psyche, but it is not exactly thrilling. This is not the sort of story where you have to keep reading and reading to find out who committed the crime. You already know. Therefore, there is no mystery to keep you interested. Despite all these obstacles, Dostoevsky does what might be impossible for most writers. He makes you care about what happens to Raskolnikov. I was not thrilled, but engrossed. What kept me reading here was the desire to see if Raskolnikov would defeat his inner demons and turn himself in, or be arrested. I'd rather not reveal the ending but I would like to say that I found it extremely satisfying. The subplot, that of Luzhin trying to gain control over Dounia, might have only gotten in the way of another writer, but Dostoevsky was able to inspire such hate in me for Luzhin that I wanted to keep reading just to see him get what he deserved in the end. After reading this, I have decided to read Dostoevky's other works as well, and hopefully they will all be of the same high quality.
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