My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
About the Author:
Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (11 November 1821 – 9 February 1881), sometimes transliterated Dostoyevsky, was a Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist, journalist and philosopher. Dostoevsky’s literary works explore human psychology in the troubled political, social, and spiritual atmospheres of 19th-century Russia, and engage with a variety of philosophical and religious themes.
His most acclaimed works include Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1869), Demons (1872) and The Brothers Karamazov (1880). Many literary critics rate him as one of the greatest psychologists in world literature. His 1864 novella Notes from Underground is considered to be one of the first works of existentialist literature.
Publication Year: 1866
I think every reader, at one point or another, has heard about Fyodor Dostoyevsky. His book ‘Crime and Punishment’ is a well-known classic. It has been in my to-read list for a long time but I couldn’t bring myself to read it. I’m so glad I finally finished it! It is one of the first existential literature I read which I thoroughly enjoyed and I would love to explore more of this genre.
“The man who has a conscience suffers whilst acknowledging his sin. That is his punishment.”
‘Crime and Punishment’ revolves around the protagonist, Raskolnikov, a former student who has descended into poverty. Living an isolated life with no hope for the future, he decides to commit a murder based on a theory he has invented. According to him, men can be categorized into two classes: ordinary men or law-abiding citizens and the extraordinary men who have the right to commit crimes and instead of punishment, they are rewarded for their transgressions.
He believes he belongs to the latter group and even goes as far as comparing himself to Napoleon. He rationalizes his misdeed by claiming that the world would be a better place without the victim.
“To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s.”
Although Raskolnikov manages to escape from the crime scene unnoticed, he cannot escape his guilty conscience. We follow Raskolnikov who’s going through an inner battle trying to rationalize his actions to himself while trying to avoid the police officer Porfiry Petrovich who suspects him.
The novel was a very interesting, thought-provoking mix of psychology and philosophy. It delves deeper into the criminal psyche and sheds a light on the working of a criminal mind. As the title suggests, we follow the crime and the path towards its punishment.
The author painted a vivid picture of the 19th century Russia with a stark, despairing depiction of poverty and destitution such as the noisy taverns, tiny and crowded apartments, sketchy people roaming the streets, people driven by desperation to commit desperate acts. It broke my heart to see the pain and hardships of these people.
While there are some black and white characters, most of the other characters are morally ambiguous. You hate them for their actions but you understand them and can’t help but pity them.
I enjoyed the first half of the novel a lot while the other half felt a little slow. Raskolnikov was so unpredictable and paranoid. One moment, he was walking the streets deliriously, acting suspicious and the next moment, he was collected and tactfully planning his next move. He is one of the most eccentric protagonists I came across and had so much fun trying to figure out what he’s going to do next.
In the beginning, he absolutely does not feel any remorse for what he has done but he cannot escape the little voice in his head that would not let him live as if nothing happened. I also enjoyed his interactions with the other characters in the book.
I also enjoyed the conversations between different characters on the subject of nature and the cause of crime. There were sarcastic and many humorous moments which lightens the serious tone of the novel and makes it pretty enjoyable to read.
The novel raises some important questions like: Is a crime justified? Would the world be a better place without useless people? Doesn’t killing anyone make you evil too? Most importantly, who gave you the authority to decide who gets to live? The ending just brought everything together beautifully.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It’s a classic worth reading.