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Crime and Punishment: A Novel in Six Parts with Epilogue (1866) by… - Electric Pages
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Electric Pages
Date: 2009-02-10 20:45
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Tags:fyodor_dostoevsky, loss_of_faith_2008, russia
Crime and Punishment: A Novel in Six Parts with Epilogue (1866)
by Fyodor Dostoevsky, translated by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky
564 pages - Vintage Classics

Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov is a former student, having dropped out before finishing his studies, who currently lives in a small garrett apartment, and is barely scraping by without much hope for the future. A plan occurs to him to murder an old woman who works as a pawnbroker, but complications occur as he tries to carry out his plan. Inter-weaved with the plot of the killing is the story of Raskolnikov's mother and sister arriving in Petersburg so that his sister can be married (strictly because they are in need of money), and as well another thread where Raskolnikov gets to know a drunkard civil servant and his chaotic family, which includes an eldest sister who has become a prostitute to support them.

This was my second time reading this much-praised story, though it was the first time I read this translation. The first one I read was by Constance Garnett, who is criticized for making all the authors she translated sound the same, like late-period Victorians. That was my first read by Dostoevsky, and went to read most of his works (many in translations by Pevear & Volokhonsky) and I suppose he became one of my favourite authors. But in reading this particular work in the more faithful translation, I have to say it was a bit of a slog, and I didn't thoroughly enjoy it, though I'm not sure if that's because of the rough and scattered style of the original, or simply because time has moved on. Dostoevsky's style has always been very frantic and a bit disorganized (with often noticeable changes in focus over the course of a novel, the result of having originally been published in serialized form), and I did feel like he perhaps could use a good editor like Garnett. The sweep and final resolution of the novel is still very affecting, but I can't say the novel as a whole lived up to my previous memories.

'Do you know how I regard you? I regard you as one of those men who could have their guts cut out, and would stand and look at his torturers with a smile--provided he's found faith, or God. Well, go and find it, and you will live. First of all, you've needed a change of air for a long time. And suffering is a good thing, after all. Suffer, then. Mikolka may be right in wanting to suffer. I know belief doesn't come easily--but don't be too clever about it, just give yourself directly to life, without reasoning; don't worry--it will carry you straight to shore and set you on your feet. What shore? How do I know? I only believe that you have much life ahead of you. I know you're taking what I say to you now as a prepared oration, but maybe you'll remember it later and find it useful; that's why I'm saying it to you. It's good that you only killed a little old woman. If you'd come up with a different theory, you might have done something a hundred million times more hideous! Maybe you should still thank God; how do you know, maybe God is saving you for something. Be of great heart, and fear less.' (pg. 420)
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