After two months, I finally got through that sizeable tome. My husband calls it the world’s first crime novel. It gives a lengthy account of the state of a mind of young student, Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov, who inexplicably kills two sisters and who manages to get away with it for a time, while also longing to reveal the truth and going through a variety of physical ailments and strange mood swings. At the end, Raskolnikov is serving an 8-year sentence in Siberia, but still does not accept responsibility for his actions. What is responsibility? Who is bound by social norms and the law? Are some people allowed greater latitude than others because of their nature? Why would some people think they are not bound as others are? This is more than a question of arrogance and Dostoievsky delves deeply into it.
The book also describes part of the St. Petersburg society, educated, but poor families living in precarious conditions. Lodgings are small, dirty, poorly lit. Food is basic and not always of good quality. There is a lot of drinking. They own little, and many don’t have a steady income. Some resort to scams or prostitutions to make a living. There is an underlying argument that moving from the city to the country may bring neither happiness nor prosperity. That may be linked to arguments attributed to Levin in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.
There may be much more to say here about characteristics of Russian peasants, urbanization trends in Russia compared to the rest of Europe and the roots of the Russian revolution. Quite a lot of food for thought. And I’ve a few more Dostoevsky on my Kobo whenever I feel like reading more.
One thing keeps popping up in my mind: How different would this book be if it had been published as one book that an editor would have considered in its unity, rather than as a 12-part series published in the course of one year (1866)?
Dostoevsky, Fyodor, Crime and Punishment, Gutenberg Project. (Constance Garnett translation)
(Hate that Gutenberg Project makes it hard to figure out what edition I am reading)
And here is a good review I found: