Book Review: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

22 08 2009

I’ve always been attracted to Russian literature in translation, and have found that time spent with it is universally rewarding. A few years ago I read Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” and promised myself that one day I would give Dostoyevsky a go!

Living in Arequipa means that I have limited access to book buying. I purchased this edition of ‘Crime and Punishment’ in a local bookstore, and was enthralled from the first page. Many reviews of the novel carry comments on the worth of the translation. I don’t speak or read Russian and therefore am incapable of giving any verdict on the faithfulness of this book to original Russian – but it reads tremendously well. The pace, tone and dialogue of the book belie the fact that it is a translation, giving the text a winning feel, and compelling force.

The story itself is at once bleak, intriguing, suspenseful, meditative, and inspiring. The main character, Raskolnikov, is bewitched by new and atheistic teaching, the ultimate consequences of which lead him to murder an elderly and wretched pawnbroker lady in St. Petersburg. The remainder of the book extrapolates the consequences of this action, giving an insight into Raskolnikov’s fevered reaction to his own iniquity, and ultimately leading to a thought provoking treatment of redemption and renewal.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and read it in just seven days. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to read something which combines a well paced storyline, realistic characterisation, psychological depth, and moral weight.

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2 responses

23 08 2009
Exiled Preacher

A truly great novel. The way Dostoevsky anticipates and critiques Nietzsche through Raskolnikov's experiences is just amazing. The passage where the protagonist gets Sonia to read him John 11 blew me away. I must get back to old Fyodor sometime.

31 10 2009
Andrew

Hi Guy, thanks for your comment. The John 11 section floored me too. I was reading it in bed one night and was nearly tempted to waken Carolyn to read it to her! It's refreshing to read fiction with literary integrity but a Christian meta-narrative isn't it?




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