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.
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.
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!
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.
on 13 December 2006
Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment is the first classic detective story. But that is not even where it excels. With the Brothers Karamazov, it elevated Dostoyevsky to a mega writer when it comes to dissecting the mind and soul of characters for the readers. It is a great book of psychology. While it competes with Anna Karenina as the most widely read 19th century Russian novel in the English-speaking world, it is judged by many to be superior in its depth and lessons. The book's hero exemplifies all young ideologues who are wrestling with a new idea which they think can elevate them to the levels of great historic figures in their initial steps towards greatness. Often, a barrier has to be crossed which takes the potential legendary figure into an irreversible course. In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov who is the hero is a poor, intelligent and thoughtful student who is convinced that he has a mission for the advancement of mankind. He convinces himself that the mission has to start with him crossing over to greatness by robbing and killing an old woman, a pawnbroker, whose death, he had convinced himself would do the world more good than harm. This conviction is based on his judgment that she cheats her clients and holds money that could be used for humanity. He then commits the murder, but is forced to kill the pitiful Elizabetha, the landlady's sister. The novel begins its twists and turns after these murders, with the introduction of the cunning detective who gets to investigate the murder and makes Raskolnikov his principal suspect. Raskolnikov gets to meet the destitute Marmeladovs through the alcoholic father, and is distraught by the plight of his consumptive mother, her three young children, and Sonya-Marmeladov's eighteen-year old daughter who is forced into prostitution in order to support the family.
By doing a rich psychology development of his characters, Dostoyevsky made his characters more complexly human, yet reachable. Sonya emerges as a saintly figure who sins for the sakes of those she loves , and who is the mirror through which the so-called devilish characters are redeemed. The plot is rich, deep, enjoyable and action-packed; and the pace is fast and engaging. The overriding strength of the story is the conflict in Raskolnikov's soul, a conflict which began in his quest to be the "Extraordinary Man" like Napoleon, by stepping over the basic bounds of morality by committing murder. That conflict in his soul brought out the rich ideas, discussions and emotions from the characters that interacted with him. I also enjoyed THE BROTHER KARAMAZOV,UNION MOUJIK
on 21 February 2014
Crime and Punishment is set in Russia in the 1800's. It is written from the perspective of the protagonist Raskolnikov; a young student. Despite its reputation as being hard going, I found it easy to read and impossible to put down.
Due to financial hardship and circumstance Raskolnikov commits murder. Russia was economically and politically unstable at the time of writing and one of the greatest arguments in favor of socialism is that, if people were equal would crime be eliminated? Would the reason for acting criminally no longer exist? The novel spreads this message, without focusing politics as a major theme. Drawing upon the writings of Marx and Engels, Russia became Communist in 1917 under Lenin, succeeded by Stalin after Lenin's death in 1925.
As the title suggests the crime - one man murdering another and; punishment - the guilt, paranoia, mental deterioration and then incarceration are the major themes, the content of the entire novel. Other plot-lines such as romance take a significant back seat. Love does indeed suffer as a consequence of the crime, part of the punishment I guess.
A tale of love, justice, psychology and suffering; this is a wonderful read, and despite what Willy Mason says, you should read Dostoevsky at your age.
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.
on 9 March 2013
Reading the classics is often quite hard work. Commonly there will be a turn of phrase of wording, or dialects which are non-too familiar to the modern reader. This is surprisingly easy to read, the main challenge by modern standards is therefore simply one of length.
Whereas I can often finish a Kindle novel in a couple of sessions this was much longer, but never boring. I found it demanded longer sessions of attention though, so at times I had this for when I had half an hour or more, and other shorter/lighter books for those snatched moments on the bus, train or before meetings!
I didn't really know what to expect. What I got was a great story, with romance, mystery, and of course both crime and punishment! Genuinely glad to have finally read this, and this Penguin edition is excellent. The annotated text is easy to follow, and the notes are regular enough to be useful, but not so often as to be annoying.
on 26 July 2007
Firstly I should say that I haven't read this translation. My own is by Constance Garnett (as recommended by Italo Calvino). To give a vague idea of what the difference in their style might be, here's the opening line from each; 'At the beginning of July, during a spell of exceptionally hot weather, towards evening...' McDuff. 'On an exceptionally hot evening in July...' Garnett. So, I suppose it might be that Garnett tends to be more concise. I've read McDuff's translation of The Idiot, though, and he's obviously a wonderful translator. So I'd recommend either. Just read it. Anyway,
Dostoyevsky's writing style is often insanely manic. He launches from the vigorously bleak to the maniacally funny in the space of a page, he creates grotesque scenes of exaggerated madness and then relates an almost saccharine moment of tenderness. The introduction to Brothers Karamazov notes, 'Dostoyevsky will frequently use the same word four or five times in one paragraph and then never use it again.' His style and all of his great books are mad dashes and, if you're prepared to go along with it, they grab you by the throat and put you truly through the wringer. Crime and Punishment does all of these things. It is also the most remarkable psychological portrait I've ever encountered.
How many times have you heard the comment, 'I was surprised by how contemporary it reads. Like it could have been written yesterday.'? It's rarely true. Crime and Punishment really does have that rare power, that cold, almost frightening ability to touch a nerve and it does so through Dostoyevsky's unique and unlikely ability to slide absolute clarity through what is often crazy, messy prose. It feels contemporary and modern because it asks a question that is always pertinent.
Raskolnikov decides to kill an old lady pawnbroker. He does. He smashes her over the head with the blunt edge of an axe. When the pawnbroker's half sister, Lizaveta, walks in on him he kills her to. He soon falls into a fever. He falls for Sonia, the beleaguered daughter of the Marmelodov home. He is tended in his illness by a friend, Razhumihim, and suspected of murder by Inspector Porfiry. His mother and sister turn up with a steaming pile of bad news all of their own and the sinister paedophile and murderer Svidrigailov soon follows them to Petersberg.
Though all the complications of the narrative are compelling and important, the dominant question which runs through the novel is simply, why did he do it? I may be demonstrating a warped interpretation of the text, but finding my own answer to this was one of the most revelatory realisations of my life. Raskolnikov presents a few of his own `motives' to Sonia and Porfiry. He says it was in demonstration of a Napoleon complex- basically, some people are so insignificant they deserve to die, while those men of greatness have every right to kill if it is necessary for their survival. Raskolnikov doesn't actually believe this. To Sonia he says it was to prove whether he was capable of performing such a bold act of finality, to prove that he is more than a `louse', like everyone else. He dismisses this as absurd. The reason he did it, I think, was simply to do it. Tolstoy said, `Nothing is without consequence and nothing is important.' Raskolnikov killed those women in an impotent attempt to stop consequence, to free himself from the ceaseless and boring repetition of motion then its consequence, ad infinitum, and because this is impossible he becomes sick and confused immediately after the murders, immediately it becomes obvious that he has stopped nothing, that he has not come out of this act unshackled and unburdened from the obviousness of life. He could not admit this motive to himself beforehand because its futility would have halted him. He realises that there is nothing to be done. We act and that act has consequences and those consequences fill the details of our life. And that is all. His acceptance of this is responsible for the eerily placid, calm passages that end the novel and, to my mind, this pacification of Raskolnikov has absolutely nothing to do with any Christian fervour, as many suggest.
This is an amazing novel. Come to your own conclusions.
on 23 August 2006
You probably know all about the general storylines and themes of this book, and how it delves into just about every area of human life from the existence of God to alcoholism... So I'll just speak of the translation. This is the ONLY English translation worth buying, it is poetic, fluid, and at times even lyrical but is always faithful to Dostoevsky's original.  You can only really appreciate this novel in English through this translation.