Monday, 30 January 2017

Book Review 2000: Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

1866, Russian
Purchased: Cottage Bookshop, Penn 1992, 40p
Read: 31st December 2016 to 29th January 2017

I have had this book for a LONG time, and it has sat accusingly on my Penguin Classics shelf, six hundred pages ready to jump out every time I selected a book, but sorely neglected.  I started reading it when I was working nights in 1993, but got bogged down and gave up, a rare occurrence.  I deliberately chose it for this read.

In the story, Raskolnikov, an impoverished student, decides to murder an old woman, a pawnbroker, a "louse" in society.  He believes he will do the world a favour.  The murder is committed, and he ends up murdering her sister too, who happens upon the crime.  Ill, he falls into a fearful fever, much to the alarm of his mother and sister who journey up from Moscow, and he suffers a moral delirium.  The characters weave around him, some blissfully ignorant, others suspicious, and eventually cognisant of his crime.  His crime was the murder, and his punishment his anguish of soul, as he exchanges views and philosophies with friends and foes, and Sofia Semyonovna, daughter of a late acquaintance.

This novel has the typical Russian inter-connectedness where everyone is related, or connected by household, and it is complicate to remember who is who.  The whole novel takes place over just a few weeks, and mainly consists of extended conversations and ramblings by and with the unfortunate Raskolnikov.  The conversations are written in such detail, and with such skill, that I heard and imagined the characters, especially the women.  Rather than being driven by plot, it is ideas that drive this novel, and I was anxious to see the working out of the ideas.  The epilogue is very satisfying, on a plot basis, but, equally satisfying is the resolution of the struggles to comprehend what has been done.  Dostoyevsky, with some daring ideas, yet still understands what it is to be human, and what it means when humanity and humaneness are tested.  I still did occasionally feel bogged down in one or two longer conversations, but my perseverance was greatly rewarded.  This is rightly a classic, and I am cross I have waited so long to read it.

No comments: