Crime and Punishment (Penguin Translated Texts) Paperback – 27 Feb. 2014
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I was delighted to discover Oliver Ready's new translation of Crime and Punishment ... It is brimful of a young man's rage and energy and bullshit. I adored it -- Peter Carey
This vivid, stylish and rich rendition by Oliver Ready compels the attention of the reader in a way that none of the others I've read comes close to matching. Using a clear and forceful mid-20th-century idiom, Ready gives us an entirely new kind of access to Dostoyevsky's singular, self-reflexive and at times unnervingly comic text. This is the Russian writer's story of moral revolt, guilt and possible regeneration turned into a new work of art ... [It] will give a jolt to the nervous system to anyone interested in the enigmatic Russian author -- John Gray, New Statesman, 'Books of the Year'
Oliver Ready's translation of Crime and Punishment . . . is a five-star hit, which will make you see the original with new eyes -- A. N. Wilson, Times Literary Supplement, 'Books of the Year'
At last we have a translation that brings out the wild humour and vitality of the original -- Robert Chandler
I was bowled over, by the novel itself and the utterly brilliant translation, which grabs you by the lapels and doesn't let go. In the course of my work, I go through mountains of nonfiction to try to understand the world. This summer, I was reminded of the power of a novel to uncover something much deeper about the human spirit-- Fareed Zakaria, The New York Times Book Review
A tour de force built from prose that is not only impeccable in its own right but also perfectly suited to the story, its characters, its epoch and themes. We should treasure this new translation and, indeed, this new book, New York Journal of Books
A dazzlingly agile and robust new translation . . . Ready, who has a practiced ear for Russian dialect and a natural grace with English, is exceptionally deft at navigating [the novel's] challenges ... His ability to reproduce the whole heady brew of Dostoyevsky's novel in a consistent but nimble modern English ought to be applauded, Los Angeles Review of Books
What a great book this is and nothing like the dated, heavy Russian literature I thought I might have to wade through. It's a page turner - a dark, comic thriller with an anti-hero akin to Macbeth and characters so perfectly rendered as to leap from the page. The style is really modern and constantly delves into the mad thoughts of the protagonist - if you can call him that - Raskolnikov. Try it, especially Oliver Ready's high-tempo version -- Gary Kemp
Oliver Ready's version is outstanding in finding le mot juste for all of Dostoevsky's graphic verbs and odd objects (few Russian writers have a lexical range to equal Dostoevsky's), The Times Literary Supplement
About the Author
Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky was born in Moscow in 1821. In 1849 he was arrested for involvement with the politically subversive 'Petrashevsky circle' and until 1854 he lived in a convict prison in Omsk, Siberia. After the death of his first wife, Maria, in 1864, Dostoyevsky completed Notes from Underground and began work towards Crime and Punishment (1866). The major novels of his late period are The Idiot (1868), Demons (1871-2) and The Brothers Karamazov (1879-80). He died in 1881.
Oliver Ready is Research Fellow in Russian Society and Culture at St Antony's College, Oxford. He is general editor of the anthology, The Ties of Blood: Russian Literature from the 21st Century (2008), and Consultant Editor for Russia, Central and Eastern Europe at the Times Literary Supplement.
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Apart from being an in-depth “psychological record of a crime” which must have been ground-breaking when first published in instalments in 1868 , this novel is also an indictment of appalling social conditions, more hard-hitting even than Dickens. It continually slips into farcical parodies of the social attitudes and beliefs of the day, including the dissent to which Dostoevsky himself was drawn as a youth. Raskolnikov's very name means "dissenter" - from the "normal" way of seeing the world.
A recurring theme is the arbitrary, contradictory nature of morality itself. For instance, Raskolnikov is appalled by the debauched behaviour of Arkady Svidrigailov, who has designs on his sister, but this rogue uses the money obtained from the wife he himself may have murdered, to provide substantial help for a number of needy people, something which Raskolnikov has failed to achieve. Raskolnikov’s “dead soul” is ultimately brought to life by the love of the almost saintly Sonya, who nevertheless consented to work as a prostitute to support her penniless family.
I was initially disappointed by the novel’s style which seems quite stilted and artificial. Yet lengthy monologues to provide an “information dump” or develop an argument were a feature of C19 novels. I could understand that Raskolnikov’s “stream of consciousness rants” might be justified as conveying a sense of his mental confusion and agitation. Yet other characters indulge in them as well, perhaps because the male characters are often drunk and the women hysterical and overwrought.
Finding it hard to decide how much my dissatisfaction was due to the shortcomings of the translation, I tried four, ending with the widely praised Penguin translation by Oliver Ready, and thought that Constant Garnett’s early version also looks good , yet all of them jarred or seemed unnatural at times. This made me wonder whether the challenge of translating into another language, even the vastly flexible and nuanced English, from Russian without losing too much of its essence is just too great.
It’s a matter of taste, but despite grasping the ideas Dostoevsky was seeking to develop, I find the work over-emotional, and too filled with jumbled thoughts of the type one might have in reality, but seek a writer who can unravel them. Bleaker and edgier, less sentimental than Dickens, it is on a higher plane of complexity.
I agree with a reviewer who liked the beginning and end the best. The opening part leading to the dreadful crime is focused, the writing in the epilogue has been described as “delicate” and is marked by a clarity and lucidity like the calm after a storm. In-between is a morass of digressions and ramblings punctuated by a few strong scenes of high drama or tension such as when the cunning Chief Investigator Porfiry Petrovich is playing a cat-and-mouse psychological game with the overwrought Raskolnikov, which would not be amiss in a modern detective yarn, or the confrontation near the end between Raskolnikov’s sister Avdotya, who shows a lot more sense than he does, and the manipulative villain Svidrigailov whose one true emotion is his love for her.
What interests me most about the novel is the extent to which it reflects the life of the author himself and the history of the period. I am sure that the more one knows about this, the greater one’s appreciation of the book. Dostoevsky must have been influenced through being sentenced to death by firing squad as a young man for some, to our minds, relatively minor revolt against the censorship of the day, only to be reprieved literally at the last minute, subsequently serving five years hard labour in a Siberian prison.
This should probably be read at least twice: the first time on a wave of momentum to see what happens, the second time more slowly, checking on, say, the copious notes accompanying the Oliver Ready translation.
Don't be daunted by the size of this novel, just read it! You won't regret it.
Top international reviews
The introduction and notes provided by the translator Oliver Ready are insightful for common readers;they tell you many things including geography, locations and Dostoevsky' s inspirations.
Timeless, perhaps one of the best novels ever.
Dostoevsky was a genius.
Oliver Ready's introduction and annotations are a valuable addition overall.
I'd love to find an audio version of this translation but haven't had any luck so far. In answer to reviewer marcus1's question, the version narrated by Nigel Anthony looks to be severely abridged and I think is a reading of the Constance Garnett translation. It's really disappointing that that's the version Amazon links to this translation. There are so many versions of the book available on Audible that the company might not be willing to do another. But maybe if enough of us show interest in a reading of this translation, they will consider it.