Thursday, February 4, 2010

Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment / Fyodor Dostoevsky
Prestuplenie i nakazanie. English
New York : Vintage Classics, 1993
Originally published: 1866
Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
xx, 564 p.

It is a murder story, told from a murderer's point of view, that implicates even the most innocent reader in its enormities. It is a cat-and-mouse game between a tormented young killer and a cheerfully implacable detective. It is a preternaturally acute investigation of the forces that impel a man toward sin, suffering, and grace.

This book is good. I like it. So I got annoyed when I would tell people I read it, and they'd say, "The Brothers Karamazov is better." Fine! Maybe it's better! I don't know! I do know how important it is for you to have an opinion on something like Dostoevsky and also how important it is that the opinion be somewhat contrary to mine yet totally in line with the status quo, but for these ten seconds right now, as someone who has not read The Brothers Karamazov, can I like this book without anybody trying to undermine it!?!

Ok, I've been carrying that around for a long time. Now I'm over it.

Anyway, this book is big and scary to write about because a lot of smart people have smart opinions on it, and I'm afraid one of them will link to my blog so the rest of them can laugh at me. So I'm going to keep this brief, especially because I read it 3 months ago.

Basically, Raskolnikov (our ichiban) has a lot of ideas about what makes right right and that maybe certain people are better than others and get to do horrible things if they know better than other people how it will ultimately benefit the world. (I said basically. I'm trying to simplify here.) In short, the man is both intelligent and unhinged (a bad combination), and he decides that instead of asking financial help of his mother and sister's fiance, that he'll just kill and rob the mean old bitch next door because she's a bad person anyway.

The rest of the book is basically the psychological aftermath of the deed, which contrasts his guilt with his ideological verve. Raskolnikov deals with bouts of illness, his self-image, the judgments of others, and the suspicion of the authorities, all of which feed into his torment.

All of Dostoevsky's characters are as pathetic and complex as his main, and their interaction is fascinating and makes an otherwise bleak and gray story feel alive (if not vibrant.) The thing I found most impressive in this book was how all of his characters are different and often completely opposite, yet their worldviews all seem agreeable from their individual perspectives. He can make the reader not just understanding of but sympathetic to both sides of a situation. Even a character like Svidrigailov, who is an abhorrent person, starts making a hell of a lot of sense when you hear things from his point-of-view.

So that was pretty neat. Anyway, this book is good. And as far as I can tell, the translators live up to their reputation, not that I have anything to compare this to. So read it. And try not to kill people.

P.S. I just started experimenting with this Zemanta thing. Tell me if you hate it and I'll stop.

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