Tuesday, October 17, 1995

Crime And Punishment

by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

This edition is hailed as the best translation ever, and the two have done many other Dostoevsky works.  There was also a very perspicuous introduction by Pevear which analyzed some of the more vague passages, and the whole was annotated, all of which helped my understanding immensely.  Just one minor example: knowing that Raskolnikov is named after "raskolnik," meaning schismatic, sheds quite a bit of light of Dostoevsky's intention in laying out his character.  I would have to say that the novel is one of the best I've ever read.  I began it many months ago, with long breaks between beginning and finishing it, which is probably not the best way to read such a complex book, but there it is.  The novel has at least three plots and many levels of meaning.  It doesn't just deal with a murder and a detective's psychological intimidation of Raskolnikov: Dostoevsky's characters offer opinions on the issues of the day, they embrace ideologies that were in vogue at the time, parodying them simply by the nature of their own personas; there are romances; other deaths; two methodical, selfish villains; symbolism through dream and vision; and so on.  The author laughs at reason, nature and law.  Reason fails Raskolnikov and doesn't help Porfiry, the detective.  Everyone makes his own plan, carves out his own existence and scoffs at precedent.  This existentialism is not certain; it helps Porfiry, but fails Raskolnikov, and drives Svidrigailov, the lecher who attempts to conquer Roskolnikov's sister, to suicide.  A great, towering, multi-layered book, one that I will have to read again in the future.

five stars

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