Tag Archives: Crime and Punishment

Sofi Oksanen, Quand les colombes disparurent (When The Doves Disappeared)


This book describes the survival strategies adopted by various characters as they grapple with the historical events they cannot influence. There is the fighter who resists situations he disagrees with and tries to help those who want to flee from it, there is the chameleon who tries to align with the forces at play and goes as far as changing his name (and beliefs!) and find all sorts of ways to justify his own behavior. Their the pretty woman who is sent to seduce a German officer and falls in love with another and imagines that is her ticket to safety, freedom and happiness and gets in the end terribly disappointed.

Some people have described this book as complex or difficult. It is only so if you are not accustomed to multiple voices and nonlinear timelines… And the design of the chapter headings make it easier to keep track by stating the location and year of the action that takes place in it. Two of the voices belong to brothers with widely differing political leanings, Roland and Edgar, and the third to Edgar’s wife Juudit. There might be a complication due to the fact that some characters change names depending on the political situation or to go into hiding. Then, you initially have to guess who’s who but that rapidly becomes clear.

I have seen in a newspaper article somewhere (just don’t remember where) that Oksanen wanted to write a Judith story. Well, I had to look up that biblical reference to see what she meant. So, Judith was a beautiful, intelligent and cunning woman who seduces a ruthless general and decapitates him in his sleep (that might be an oversimplification of what happens in the Book of Judith, but that’s have to do here). The Juudit of Oksanen’s story is not so cunning and while she gets into the bedroom, she ends up finding it way too comfortable to leave…

One thing that stuck me was the description of Juudit worrying about being seen at her mother’s old apartment being reminiscent of the scene where Raskolnikov is stuck in the apartment of the woman is murdered in Crime and Punishment. There is similar description of fear of repercussions and thinking about how to get out of that tough spot. I wonder is that was on purpose.

Overall, this was quite a compelling read. I will be looking forward to more books from Sofi Oksanen. See previous reviews here and here.


Oksanen, Sofi. Quand les colombes disparurent. Collection « La cosmopolite ». Stock, 2013. (originally published in Finnish in 2012)

Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky


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: