Laura Leaney's Reviews > Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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Jun 14, 2015

it was amazing

** spoiler alert ** This is a GREAT book of literature. It is a mesmerizing, hypnotizing, fascinating look at the human mind and its drives and motivations. The book's central concerns are so varied and so relevant as to take away one's breath. What is covered? Only the nature of man, the nature of evil, the conflict between fate and free will, the effects of poverty and environment on the psyche, the significance of dreams, the moral dilemmas inherent in utilitarianism, the significance of suffering, the effects of guilt, the nature of existential action, the difference between ordinary and extraordinary human beings, and perhaps most importantly, the possibility for redemption. "Crime and Punishment" takes us into the congested, stinking, summer streets of St. Petersburg in 1865 and forces us to contemplate the geography of our own mind by following the sick anxiety of Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov as he contemplates murder (and does it) then suicide (and rejects it). The punishment that follows is gothic, thriller-like! We meet doppelgangers and doubles, and we watch as the detective Porfiry Petrovich hunts him down using psychoanalytical tools new to the time. Dostoyevsky is acutely aware of the troubles inherent in the modern mind: the conflict between spirituality/religion/God and the desire for free will/greatness/social progress. Some people find Raskolnikov "whiny," and in a way he is, but what he is whining about concerns mankind's social ills, and they are not trivial.

I first read this novel in high school. I did not find it an easy read then. But I could not get Raskolnikov out of my mind. His behavior fascinated me - and although my situation was nothing like Raskolnikov's, I couldn't help but understand his anger and his self-loathing. Alfred Kazin said that Raskolnikov is Dostoyevsky's Hamlet, his "deranged prince - a prince passing through great turmoil, unkind to those who love him best, suspicious of everyone; a prince who has killed [. . .:] out of impatience at his own weakness - yet a prince nevertheless, one of the true souls among men." To me, he is also a prince of suffering. He is one of the most tortured souls in literature, and although I was never a complete fan of the epilogue, I always loved him and wished and wished that he would find his peace in that pastoral Siberian prison Dostoyevsky puts him in.

The writing is concentrated, purposeful. Every scene works to advance the possibility of Raskolnikov's confession and "resurrection." All of the primary symbols of the unconscious are here: blood, water, enclosed spaces (coffins, closets) are but to name a few. Characters pop up as if they arrive from "underground" as reminders of guilt. There are rumors of women raped, children who hang themselves in garrets, and beatings. There is nowhere that Raskolnikov can go to escape the violence, the depravity, and worse, the horror of his own crime. This is a marvelous book. Do not let the complexity and the length deter you from reading it.
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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Suzanne Laura, is McDuff your preferred translator on C&P?


message 2: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Leaney No........and I have no idea why my review is under this particular edition. I've only read three editions - and I like the Pevear translation the best. I also like the one I use in class (Sydney Monas). Hmmm. I think I need to see if I can fix my error.


Suzanne Pevear it is then.


message 4: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Leaney Yay!


Arnie Great review of what might be my favorite book. I don't know why so many people feel Kalashnikov and Notes From Underground are whiny. They're criticisms of society seem spot on.


message 6: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Leaney You should read the negative reviews of this book. They're really interesting.


Arnie The list of reviews is over 100 pages. I went over the first page. I did notice that all my friends who read it and all of my face book friends on good reads Liked or loved it. Facebook friends all gave it five stars. My friends in "real life" all loved it with the exception of a few who haven't read it.
As far as the people who didn't like it, they're entitled to their opinion, I'd say more but I don't waant to sound like a condescending snob.


message 8: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Leaney 100 pages? Wow. At least it's a book that people feel strongly about, I guess. What makes readers like or love a particular book is a fascinating topic. During a book club discussion of Madame Bovary I remember being shocked when a member whose taste I admired admitted he disliked the book. A lot. I could not have disagreed more. A complicated subject. I wish all my friends loved the same books I do!


Arnie I probably have differing opinions with all my friends on some books. Certain ones are almost universally popular but there are always differing tastes. The best you can hope for is a large overlap.


message 10: by Lilo (new) - added it

Lilo Sounds like a must-read, yet I wonder whether I would not be too impatient for Dostojewsky. I read some Dostojewsky in my youth but don't remember whether I finished the books. Well, I don't have time for classics right now, anyway. I am still all into non-fiction European history of the 20th century.


message 11: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Leaney It's funny. I think Dostoyevsky is such a 20th century mind; he'd flip over what the world has come to. He does take patience to read though--you pegged that right.


message 12: by Lilo (new) - added it

Lilo Laura wrote: "It's funny. I think Dostoyevsky is such a 20th century mind; he'd flip over what the world has come to. He does take patience to read though--you pegged that right."

Patience is not exactly one of my virtues. :-) Seriously, my main problem is lack of time. I just can't afford to read thick volumes while I still have so many other non-fiction must-reads.


Antonio Scotto di Carlo Congrats for the wonderful review. I read this book more than ten years ago. With Hamlet and In Search of Lost Time is my favorite book. I can't forget the first face-to-face between Rodja and Porfiry, my best scene. That was thrilling! I felt all Rodja's anxiety!


message 14: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Leaney Oooh, I agree. I love that scene, and Porfiry plays with Raskolnikov like a cat does a mouse. It's terrific. I also love Hamlet. I didn't finish all the volumes of Proust, but the ones I did were fabulous. You have good taste in books!


Antonio Scotto di Carlo I saw you have good taste too!
I just had a moment of weakness with my last reading...
It took 2 years to finish Proust's Reserche, so I can't blame you ;)


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