Crime And Punishment
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Category: Fiction / General
462 pages; ISBN: 1-84022-430-4
Rating: 10/10 (Ratings explained)
Hmmm.Given that this novel has been the subject of critical works longer than the book itself, summing it up in Blether length is quite a challenge.
For those who don't know the plot, Raskolnikov an impoverished law student murders a rather unsavoury pawnbroker and her innocent sister who gets in the way. His subsequent attempts to come to terms with his misdeed are continually, almost comically, interrupted - by his friend who thinks he's ill, his sister Dounia's need to be rescued from two undesirable suitors and the irrepressible altruism which drives him to help out the desperate Marmeladov family. And the police are on his tail too.
Crime And Punishment is not a whodunnit but a why done it ? Raskolnikov himself isn't sure what prompted him and what he expected to gain from murder.He spends the whole novel pondering his motives latterly assisted by two would-be redemptors, the begninly persistent detective Porfiry and the implacable religious prostitute Sonia Marmeladov. The scene in which she takes on and defeats Raskolnikov's cynicism by reading to him the story of Lazarus is so powerful it had me in tears.
Although guilt and redemption are the central themes there is so much more in this extraordinarily rich novel.It is a portrait of a city,St Petersburg, on the cusp between an unsustainable feudalism and naked capitalism with all its cruelty and corruption.The political ideas of the time are covered and largely trashed in favour of Dostoyevsky's Orthodox ideals. (Dounia's despicable fiance Luzhin is a Thatcherite a century ahead of his time). And were she slightly more centre stage Katerina Marmeladov would be up there with the likes of Madame Bovary as one of the great tragic heroines in literature.
Another measure of the novel's stature is that it rides over some glaring faults. The long epilogue in Siberia is entirely unnecessary adding nothing new.The plot TWICE relies on unlikely instances of eavesdropping and one seemingly intractable problem is solved by a bizarre eruption of altruism in a hitherto rather unpleasant character.However none of this matters - you remain utterly compelled.
A true classic.
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