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Book 9: Russia (English) Crime and Punishment = Преступление и наказание (Fyodor DOSTOYEVSKY)

 

On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. Bridge.

He had successfully avoided meeting his landlady on the staircase. His garret was under the roof of a high, five-storeyed house, and was more like a cupboard than a room. The landlady, who provided him with garret, dinners and attendance, lived on the floor below and every time he went out he was obliged to pass her kitchen, the door of which invariably stood open. And each time he passed, the young man had a sick, frightened feeling, which made him scowl and feel ashamed. He was hopelessly in debt to his landlady and was afraid of meeting her.

After having struggled through Anna Karenina not long ago, and War and Peace several years ago, I wasn’t looking forward to (going by the title) another depressing, wintery Russian classic. But Dostoyevsky is nothing like Tolstoy. Crime and Punishment was far more readable for me, no doubt helped by his writing it episodically for a magazine. The (anti)hero, Raskolnikov, really is, as the New Guineans would say, a raskol. He commits a double murder and subsequently is so crazed with fear that he is suspected by everybody, and he seems to be constantly giving himself away, like a matador permitting the bull to pass dangerously close. There is quite a lot of humour, and philosophical discussion about the nature of crime and punishment from many points of view. This is a wonderful book.

 

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor (1821-1881), Crime and Punishment, translated from Russian by Constance Garnett, UK, Wordsworth Classics, 2000, ISBN 978-1-84022-430-6

(originally published in Russkii Vestnik periodical, 1866)

 

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