86 of 88 people found the following review helpful
Undoubtedly this is a remarkable book and not at all what I was expecting as I first picked it up. I would recommend that the reader cast aside any preconceived ideas about this author and about the mid-Victorian era in which his story takes place, because this book really does have a very modern feel and a very accessible and easy prose and dialogue.
The reader first joins the tale as the morose, dejected down-and-out and former student Raskolnikov contemplates, and is inexorably drawn towards and fixated by the idea of, murdering an old lady pawnbroker with whom he has had business. It only becomes clear later exactly why he did so, and even then his justifications are misguided and muddled in his own mind and essentially some flight of fancy about the permissibility of any behaviour for the greater good - a means to an end, as it were.
But what is most fascinating is not the crime itself or the murderer's fate, but how his crime then comes to obsess him until he can stand it no longer and has been defeated by his own inner struggle with his conscience, which has been forever tormenting him. The dual between Porfiry Petrovich, the police investigator, and Raskolnikov and the mind games and double bluffs that are played on both sides as our antihero tries to evade detection is particularly intriguing. The suspense is palpable.
All in all this is a pretty bleak tale of suffering and a heart-rending one at that. But there is not just introspection, self-examination and 'philosophising' here, but also action, suspense, pathos and genuine sorrow in the ending, which managed to be profound without being sentimental or melodramatic.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 1999
One should probably read this great novel TWICE to catch all the nuances. Like his other major works, this masterpiece by Dostoevsky drives home two central, inter-related themes: (a) that ideas (and ideology) have consequences; and (b) that these can be deadlier than any other force on earth.
For sheer depth and profundity, probably nothing can match the parable of The Grand Inquisitor, in THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, but there's one line in C&P that immediately struck me as one of the greatest single sentences in all the world's literature, quintessentially pregnant with meaning. The detective, Porfiry Petrovich, who knows that Raskolnikov is the murderer, doesn't arrest him, playing a sort of cat-and-mouse game. Porfiry rightly suspects that this was a political (ideological) crime, not a typical one, and knows that his triumph would be much greater if he forces Raskolnikov to ADMIT not just the error of his act, but the error of his thinking. This sentence varies considerably from translation to translation, but basically it is (Porfiry to Raskolnikov): "You know, it's just as well you only killed the old woman. Because if you'd invented another THEORY, that would have been a thousand times MORE hideous." The events of our century have well borne out this prophecy.
The other superb part of this novel is when Raskolnikov's friend Razmuihin is shocked to hear that Raskolnikov's journal article had suggested that "superior" men, like Napoleon, create their own moral codes and are not bound by traditional ones. (Woody Allen's film BULLETS OVER BROADWAY also provided a good satire of this ominous idea: an artist "creates his own moral universe." And, as in C&P, this led to a killing.) What shocks Razmuihin the most is that wanton killing and terror could be justified PRECISELY IN THE NAME OF MORALITY.
Have we not seen enough of this already, in its most terrible aspects? The point is: such theories are still boiling in the pot, and we may not have heard the last of them.
97 of 102 people found the following review helpful
If you are reading this it is becuase you really can't make up your mind whether to download it or not. Its free, so why not give it a go...you know you want to. This has been going up and down in the download charts of this catergory so lots of people must already have downloaded it, also back when the Big Read was running this was one of the titles that got in the top 100.
This is the Constance Garnett translation, which is probably the most read tanslation of this book; although not my ultimate favourite translation there is not anything wrong with this. If you are studying this for a course then you will have to check with your teacher which they consider the most accurate. Constance Garnett has come in for criticism over the years because she did miss things out and gloss over others, however she did reproduce something that is easily understood, readable and enjoyable into the English language, and in keeping with the actual story. Dostoevsky pushed the bounds of the Russian language to some extent so translating him is never an easy task and even some more modern translators have used her work to help with their own.
Of all Dostoevsky's major works this is probably the easiest one to read and that is why it has become so popular. The story is relatively simple in outline. Our anti-hero decides to commit a crime and this follows him through the planning, the execution, and the aftermath. 'Simples' I hear you say, any Tom, Dick or Harry could write that. It is the whole execution of the novel though that holds you entranced. Delving deep into the psyche Dostoevsky produced here something that can never be replicated as you go through what our anti-hero, Raskolnikov feels and thinks.
Truly what Shakespeare was to the play, Dostoevsky was to the novel, so even if you only ever read one of his novels then try this one. As I've said, it is the easiest major work of his to read, plus it is free.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 30 July 2006
So many books that you are 'supposed' to read, and 'supposed' to like are in reality frighteningly dull. There's probably a good moral behind them, but you are yawning too much to really see it.
Crime and Punishment, however, is a rarity - it is a page-turner. Raskolnikov's crime, and his subsequent punishment, keep you gripped right from the start. Dostoevsky's morals of the book are always close to the surface, but do not get in the way of a fantastic read.
The usual collection of bizarre and fascinating characters are all here, and so are the easily recognisable emotions. The feeling of somebody having done something so bad that he can't talk to anybody, including his mother, is probably universal and perfectly captured here.
Raskolnikov's megalomania, and obsession with wanting to be a 'Napoleon' figure will also chime with many of those who read it today, especially those of a similar age (mid 20s).
This particular translation is considered the classic version, though there is not much to call between it and many others. However, there is a good introduction to some of the themes of the book that make it a good buy.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 12 December 2009
Eighty per cent of reviewers of this book gave it the full five stars which says it all. Even the greatest pieces of classic literature can be divisive but it appears that Crime and Punishment is truly one of the crème de la crème of classic novels. I never thought that I would find a psychological thriller of any interest but Raskolnikov's demise is fascinating. He views himself as some kind of Napoleonesque hero who believes that he is committing murder for the good of humanity. We then witness his extraordinary mental deterioration as he becomes sick with paranoia and can not contain his secret any longer.
The impact his behaviour appears to have on the other main characters is deeply compelling as they each struggle to contend with their own issues. The book is written and translated in such a way that everything is equally enjoyable to read. The vast majority of the novel is spent following conversations between the central characters as opposed to being a highly eventful book. However, each character is so unique and symbolic that I found myself hanging on every word that was written. The book is awash with various themes with a particular focus on attacking nihilism and utilitarianism. In addition, one gains an enthralling insight into the widespread poverty of Nineteenth Century St Petersburg and the effect this has had on the central characters. It may be worth purchasing accompanying notes to the book to fully appreciate what Dostoyevsky is trying to say.
This book truly does belong on a list of "books to read before you die" as it is unlike anything I've ever read. As near to perfection as any author can get.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 1 October 1997
You can tell a lot about a person by asking them what their favorite book is. I think most of us choose a book in which the protaganist reminds us of ourselves. Raskolnikov's experience of life was so similar to mine that I was swept away completely the first time I read Crime and Punishment. Intellectual vanity, alienation and isolation, do lead to a kind of madness. Although I cannot ascribe to Dostoevsky's political conservatism, his ideas regarding the necessity of suffering for salvation are totally convincing. The sweetness of Raskolnikov's eventual salvation through Sonya is in my opinion the pinnacle of literary romance.
48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on 26 August 2003
I thought I'd set myself a challenge and attempt Dostoyevsky. I was quite young, and I'd only just discovered that maybe Dickens and Shakespeare weren't as bad as I thought, and so I tentatively read the first page. From then on I was hooked. I couldn't put this down. It is an exciting novel, full of tension and anger, desperation. The protagonist, Raskolnikov, is one of the most absorbing characters I have ever encountered. His interaction with those around him in a semi-fevered state is fantastic, and the confrontation between Svidrigailov and Raskolnikov's sister is exilerating. But don't be put off by the long names, this book is as good as any modern thriller. It is gripping and exciting, and makes you understand why it's a classic. Bear in mind, Dostoyevsky was writing this book to save his life. He was going to be imprisoned for debt unless he got the money for its publication, which is maybe why it's so exciting. Read it!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 27 December 2012
Crime and Punishment has to be one of the greatest novels ever written, and which is an outstanding, supreme example of fine literature at its very best. This English version still manages to capture the forcefulness and frightening intimacy as the Russian Dostoevsky's version, bringing it to a wider readership for the modern day. Fresh, contemporary and current this wonderful book is a delight to behold and which should be cherished for all-time, as a powerful piece of prose and stirring narrative that is profoundly affecting. Fyodor Dostoevsky s tale is brought realistically to life with such exactness that one cannot help but connect to it, by means of memorable characters and meaningful storytelling.
For those who have vision and the courage to follow it, there is no law and no crime and no punishment, only a revaluation of all values." So declares Rodya Raskolnikov the young Russian intellectual living in ugly poverty. In order to eat, he is forced to pawn precious possessions for a few roubles to the greedy "cockroach", Alyona. If he kills her, Rodya argues, he commits no crime: rather he will rid the world of a "filthy insect", just like one of the cockroaches you are able to envisage being crushed beneath his boots. As Alyona examines Rodya's silver cigarette case, he brings his axe down upon her with the horrifying sound of steel hitting human flesh. Despite this not being a crime, Rodya suffers fearful guilt and inevitable punishment. It is Sonya, the abused young woman forced into prostitution by her drunken father, who holds the power of Rodya's redemption.
Dramatization is a superb vehicle for this tense psychological masterpiece and the performances are powerful (such as the baiting of Rodya by Jim Norton as Petrovich), the police officer who suspects Rodya's guilt, is chilling. Whilst Barnaby Kay skillfully conveys Rodya's duality as his human conscience, breathless with panic, argues with his controlled and truculent intellect transpire.
Dramatic, intense and emotionally moving this noteworthy, inspiring tale in which you can feel such darkness and such passion is truly remarkable. I cannot stress enough the importance of having a good translator, and Constance Garnett has done a most credible job in making this as readable as a modern-day novel in the twentieth century that one is able to understand with decipherable language. Complete with an introduction by Joseph Frank, this has to be the stand-out edition of this masterful work of writing and which I highly recommend above all others (including those published by Penguin). This really is an epic story and one that should be revered and celebrated, for the value and worth of such great classics is beyond measure.
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on 5 December 2002
Personally, I hate it when you read or see something that's supposed to be a wonderful classic and you just. Don't. Get it. It's a very frustrating feeling to wonder whether you're being dim or is it the rest of the world who can't see the obvious fact that the emperor has no clothes?
Thankfully, I didn't have that experience reading Crime & Punishment. In fact, I'm sorry I put it off for so long but like many people, I assumed that as a 'classic' it might be a bit boring and hard to read. This wasn't - it's extremely easy to read and in parts (to my surprise) very funny.
The story plunges you in right away, as Raskolnikov, clearly in the middle of a (self-imposed?) crisis, ponders whether to commit murder. He has been sitting for months in a horrible, dark, small room, thinking too much, talking to himself, going over and over the same convoluted theories. Then he acts. And suddenly what was just a theory is brutal reality - and, contrary to what is suggested by some reviewers here, the thing that really tips him over the edge is not the magnitude of what he has done, nor the fact that his plans went wrong, but his own weakness. He is surprised and ashamed to find how sordid and small it all is and that he is not the great man, the 'Napoleon' he dreamed of being.
Things go on as he restlessly wanders from one shabby St. Petersburg room to another, seeing and avoiding his mother and sister, a helpful friend and a poor family he ends up entangled with. They try so hard to understand what's going on with Raskolnikov - the kindness and love that they feel for him is almost heartbreaking. I think that some people might give up on the book because they find it hard to like Raskolnikov. But you are not meant to like him, or empathise with him, just because the book is seen through his eyes. You have to go behind that and understand how the actions of this one man have an impact on the people who love him. Meanwhile, there is a crafty policeman - surely a forerunner of Columbo with his 'and one last thing ...' - who is suspicious but, with no proof, 'plays' Raskolnikov expertly.
Some people don't like the ending. I was glad of it, myself, because it gave such hope and was so realistic - few of us are murderers, but we make other mistakes. There is a way out. A grim suicide is not the only option, people can change themselves and change their lives. Anyway, it's left ambiguous: Raskolnikov has a sort of revelation, but it's still up to him how he lives the rest of his life. It's not all neatly tied up.
Finally, I want to say how modern this book seemed. Certainly there are, of course, references to the society of the day, but it's surprising just how modern the attitudes and feelings of its characters are. I hope I have convinced you to read it if you were doubtful.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 21 December 2012
Among Dostoyevsky`s great novels, I consider this to be the greatest. Perhaps because, with boldness and honesty, the author ventures into the darkest corners of the protagonist's soul and eschews any moralising. Raskolnikov is an Übermensch personified, if there ever was one; he is "the Roman Caesar with Christ's soul" - as Nietzsche would have put it. Just consider that this murderer rescued a small girl from a burning house, and also donated all the money he had to the widow of drunkard Marmeladov - and this he did from superabundance of spirit, not for want of any recognition or fame. For me the most touching scenes in the novel are: the tragic, Ophelia-like death of Madame Mameladov, and a dream Raskolnikov had just before the murder of the old woman money-lender. In this dream, he (as a young boy) embraces a dying horse beaten to death by mindless Mikolka (p. 94). Any sensitive reader, rather like Sonia, is bound to forgive Raskolnikov, and cannot but be in awe of his tortured soul.
I read the novel when I was a teenager, twice in rapid succession, and re-read it more recently after about forty years. Re-reading is my personal test for the enduring greatness of literature, and `Crime and Punishment' has passed this test with flying colours!