Ancient's Reviews > Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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's review
Jun 19, 2007

liked it
bookshelves: classics
Recommended for: hmm... don't know if I really can (see review)
I own a copy

Rated 3 stars for being good in parts but uneven on the whole.

Crime and Punishment was on my personal to-read list for a long time since Dostoevksy's Notes from the Underground is one of my all-time favorite books. On top of that, several people had personally recommended C&P to me, and it's considered to be among the greatest classics of all time.

So, I got around to reading it, and honestly, I was disappointed.

A case of having too high of expectations? Probably. Here's the thing, C&P is a 500 (or so) page novel that's at least 300 pages too long. I started and gave up on C&P on at least two separate occasions because the introductory chapters are so boring. When things start to get interesting early on, Dostoevsky shifts focus to characters and situations that I couldn't care less about.

I'm neither are Dostoevsky nor a C&P expert. This book might be much better in the original Russian or after more analysis and/or multiple readings. My novice impression is that if the book's core elements were saved and most of the meanderings into distracting subplots discarded, it could tighten C&P up, making for a more emotionally satisfying and engaging read.

Dostoevsky had an amazing ability to communicate, capture, and penetrate into irrational and contradictory nature of the individual psyche. I think his best writing comes when dealing with a small, intimate cast of characters and/or with the inner thoughts of individuals. The larger Dostoevsky's focus and the bigger his cast, the more his writing suffers. That's my opinion anyway, for what it's worth.

C&P isn't horrible, but it's not as great as it could have been. If you're going to give it a read, my advice is to avoid the old, standard (and dull) Constance Garnette translation.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Phillip (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:07PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Phillip A lot of my views on Russian literature changed a LOT after I lived there for a summer. We (Americans) are so different culturally (duh!), and have very different expectations from form, pace, and narrative. I really think this is a great novel, and the translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky is an essential choice. I'm not here to convince you - but it also reads differently as you get older. I have come to appreciate it more and more as I have read it again over the years. I also am not convinced it's Dostoevsky's greatest work (Demons? Brothers Karamazov? The Idiot?). I also loved Notes from Underground...

If you like that book, you might check out Beckett's post-war trilogy (Malloy, Malone Dies, The Unnameable) - I see it as one of the more successful descendants of Dostoevsky's great first-person narrative.

message 2: by Ancient (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:10PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ancient Thanks for the imput. So, what exactly about C&P would make it a more obviously greater read to a Russian vs. a non-Russian reader? And how does it read differently with age? I'm genuinely curious, as I was genuinely disappointed after slogging through what seemed to me to be many pages of irrelevant, boring side plots about marriage proposals and the protagonist doing a whole lot of nothing.

I want to like C&P more than I do. So, what's the deal here anyway?

Martyn I have to agree with your review, I was disappointed as well. And I agree that the book could do with being cur in half (at least!). You make some great points here.

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