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|Prestuplenie i nakazanie
Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky
publisher: serialized in Russkii vestnik Jan.-Dec. 1866, 1866
Crime and Punishment
publisher: Querido, Amsterdam, 1993
translation: Richard Pevear / Larissa Volokhonsky
refered to by:
The Secret History
Louis Paul Boon
Heart of Darkness
Old People and the Things that Pass
[De kellner en de levenden]
|When Dostoyevsky started work on Crime and Punishment in the summer of 1865 he was depressed and in serious financial straits. A recent gambling spree had depleted his savings, and he owed money for personal expenses as well as bills for 'Epokha', the journal he founded and had been forced to discontinue. Threatened with debtors' prison, he was approached by an unscrupulous publisher who offered a ridiculously exploitative contract under which Dostoyevsky signed over the copyrights to all his existing works and agreed to write a work of fiction by the end of the following year. For all this he was paid the sum of three thousand rubles, most of which was quickly swallowed up by promissory notes; what little remained was squandered at the gaming tables. Destitute once again, Dostoyevsky forced himself to concentrate on his writing, and by that fall had conceived of the idea for a novel-length work about a family ruined by alcohol.
The roots of Crime and Punishment can be found in various episodes in Dostoyevsky's life. His original idea, a murderer's first-person confession, came to him during his prison term in Siberia - an experience that profoundly changed his political views and instilled in him a life-long respect for order and authority. There is also evidence that he conceived of the Marmaledov family as the basis for a novel to be titled The Drunkards, but which was never published. Finally, Dostoyevsky was reacting to the political climate in St. Petersburg, where the impulses of the revolution could be found in the nihilist and radical movements, which Dostoyevsky abhorred. Regardless of its origins, Dostoyevsky meant the novel to be as close to perfect as possible. He took extensive - now famous - notes regarding its structure, toying with different points of view, character, structure, plot, and a variety of thematic strains.
The efforts paid off. Crime and Punishment is a superbly plotted, brilliant character study of a man who is at once an everyman and as remarkable as any character ever written. It poses a simple question, 'Can evil means justify honorable ends?' and answers it convincingly without didacticism or naiveté. Dostoyevsky intimates himself so closely with Roskolnikov's consciousness, and describes his turmoil and angst so precisely and exhaustively, that it is easy to forget that the events take place over the course of a mere two weeks. He encourages us to identify with Roskolnikov: the painstaking descriptions of the student's cramped, dingy quarters; the overpowering sights and sounds of a stifling afternoon on the streets of St. Petersburg; the excruciating tension of Porfiry's interrogation - all serve to place the reader at the heart of the action: Roskolnikov's fevered, tormented mind.
The murder itself is almost incidental to the novel; Dostoyevsky devotes no more than a few pages
| to describing its execution, although he details the painful vacillations that precede the incident and, of course, exposes every aspect of its aftermath. Similarly, Roskolnikov's punishment, in the literal sense, is put off until the epilogue, with his sentence - reduced to seven years due to the accused's apparent temporary insanity - to a Siberian labor camp. Thus Dostoyevsky brilliantly invites readers to put forth their own notions of Crime and Punishment, and engages us in an irresistible debate: Who is the real criminal? Marmeladov, for abandoning his family? Luzhin for exploiting Dunya? Svidrigailov for murdering his wife? Sonya for prostituting herself? The greedy pawnbroker whom Roskolnikov murdered? Or, to turn the question around: Who among us is not a criminal? Who among us has not attempted to impose his or her will on the natural order? Furthermore, we are made to understand that Roskolnikov's true punishment is not the sentence imposed on him by the court of law, but that imposed on him by his own actions: the psychological and spiritual hell he has created for himself; the necessary sentence of isolation from his friends and family; the extreme wavering between wanting to confess his crime, and desperately hoping to get away with it. Compelled, ultimately, to confess his crime - and the confession scene is the only incident in which Roskolnikov actually admits to the crime - we feel that Roskolnikov has suffered sufficiently. Indeed, the epilogue with its abbreviated pace and narrative distance feels like a reprieve for the reader as well as for the criminal. Finally, in Siberia, Roskolnikov has found space.
The public reception of Crime and Punishment was enthusiastic - if a little stunned. There was much discussion about the novel's overwhelming power and rumors of people unable to finish it. Readers were shocked by Dostoyevsky's gruesome descriptions and enthralled by his use of dramatic tension. Perhaps the most virulent, and unexpected, criticism came from readers who felt that Dostoyevsky's portrait of the nihilist movement was an indictment of Russian youth and that its premise was inconceivable. For more than a century, critics have argued about the book's message: Is it a political novel? A tale of morality? A psychological study? A religious epic? As Peter McDuff points out in his Introduction to the Penguin Classics edition, interpretations may be more revealing of the critic than of the text. Whatever Dostoyevsky's purpose - political, moral, psychological, or religious (and most likely he meant to touch on each of these themes) - one thing is certain. In Roskolnikov, Dostoyevsky has created a man who is singular yet universal. He is someone with whom we can sympathize, empathize, and pity, even if we cannot relate to his actions. He is a character we will remember forever, and whose story will echo throughout history.
Lezen&Cetera, Pieter Steinz
|ON DOSTOYEVSKY'S BOOKSHELF|
40 different authors, ca. 1450 B.C. - ca. 95 A.D.
Particularly the New Testament (Christian ethics and so on)
William Shakespeare, 1602
When Hamlet's mother remarries shortly after his father's death he's suspicious. And when his father's ghost tells him that he was murdered by the queens's new husband, Hamlet swears to take his revenge.
William Shakespeare, 1606
Macbeth's tragedy is that of a good, brave and honourable man turned into the personification of evil by the workings of unreasonable ambition.
The Collected Poems
Lord Byron, ...
This volume comprises the complete poetic works of Byron. As well as including such works as 'Childe Harold', 'Don Juan', 'The Two Foscari', 'The Lament of Tasso' and 'The Vision of Judgement', it also contains his shorter lyrical poems.
Honoré de Balzac, 1833
One of the the earliest and most famous novels in Balzac's Comedie Humaine. Eugénie's emotional awakening brings her into direct conflict with her father, whose cunning and financial success are matched against her determination to rebel.
Charles Dickens, 1852-1853
A savage, but often comic, indictment of a society that is rotten to the core, Bleak House is one of Dickens' s most ambitious novels, with a range that extends from the drawing rooms of the aristocracy to the poorest of London slums.
Charles Dickens, 1849-1850
The 'widow and orphan novels'.
Portrait of the artist as an outcast.
The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol
Nikolai Gogol, 1835-1840
In these tales Gogol guides us through the elegant streets of St Petersburg. Something of the deception and violence of the city's creation seems to lurk beneath its harmonious facade, however, and it confounds its inhabitants with false dreams and absurd visions.
Victor Hugo, 1862
France in the first quarter of the 19th century: Jean Valjean, a poor man, steals a loaf of bread and then spends years trying to escape his reputation as a criminal. In later years he rises to become a respectable member of society; but policeman Javert will not allow him to forget his past.
|BOOKS BY FYODOR M. DOSTOYEVSKY:|
Crime and Punishment
Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, commits a random murder without remorse or regret. But as he embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator, Raskolnikov finds the noose of his own guilt tightening around his neck.
|WHAT TO READ AFTER CRIME AND PUNISHMENT?|
CLASSIC PSYCHOLOGICAL CRIME NOVELS
The Talented Mr Ripley
Patricia Highsmith, 1956
Ripley wanted out. He wanted money, success, the good life - and he was willing to kill for it. This is the first novel to feature Patricia Highsmith's anti-hero, Tom Ripley.
A Judgement in Stone
Ruth Rendell, 1977
Four members of the Coverdale family died in the space of 15 minutes on St Valentine's Day. Eunice Parchman, the housekeeper, shot them down on that Sunday evening while they were watching opera on television, and was arrested two weeks later. But the tragedy neither began nor ended there.
Killing Me Softly
Nicci French, 1999
Alice is a young woman who has all she wants from life: a group of close friends, a loving boyfriend, a successful career. Then one day she meets a stranger, and gives up her ordered existence for a passionate affair that leads her into deception and a dark, secret, dangerous realm of experience.
GUILT AND ATONEMENT
The Secret History
Donna Tartt, 1992
The Secret History tells of a small circle of friends at an esteemed college in New England, whose studies in Classical Greek lead them to odd rituals, shocking behavior - and murder.
Albert Camus, 1956
Jean-Baptiste Clamence, a successful Parisian barrister, has come to recognize the deep-seated hypocrisy of his existence. His epigrammatic and, above all, discomforting monologue gradually saps, then undermines, the reader' s own complacency.
Old People and the Things that Pass
Louis Couperus, 1906
'The Hague novels'
Three very old people are bound together by a secret, which they believe is known only to them. But unfortunately, this isn't the case.
KINDRED (19TH-CENTURY) SPIRITS
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886
In seeking to discover his inner self, the brilliant Dr Jekyll discovers a monster.
The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1850
The tale of a passionate woman in 17th-century Boston who challenges the system of moral authority and places belief in the higher law of her own heart.
KINDRED (RUSSIAN) SPIRITS
A Hero of Our Time
Mikhail Lermontov, 1840
Lermontov's only novel examines a weary and cynical man trapped in the futility of his age.
Vladimir Nabokov, 1934
In this tale, Hermann, a German chocolate manufacturer, stumbles across a man he believes to be his double and starts plotting to turn this accidental encounter to his advantage.
[Andegraund, ili Geroj nashego vremeni]
Vladimir Makanin, 1998
Petrovich, a hopelessly unpublished writer, goes underground in an effort to 'protect his art' from corruption.
|Notes from the Underground|
The first novel from Dostoevsky's mature 'second period' works, divided in two parts, presents an unnamed protagonist, a twisted angry student, and his worldview. It is one proud man's cry for help and perverse rejection of the world around him.
|The Idiot |
The saintly Prince Myshkin returns to Russia from a Swiss sanitorium and finds himself a stranger in a society obsessed with wealth, power and sexual conquest.
A powerful political tract and a profound study of atheism, depicting the disarray which follows the appearance of a band of modish radicals in a small provincial town. (Also published as The Possessed and The Devils)
|The Brothers Karamazov |
Three sons find their violent and vengeful lives exposed when their despicable father is murdered, and each man struggles to come to terms with his guilt over his involvement in the crime.
Mr Golyadkin is a rather middling man, a somewhat insignificant government official. Then one day he meets his ‘double’ - a man with the same name, face and background.
|The Village of Stepanchikovo |
A compelling comic exploration of petty tyranny.
editor-in-chief: Stacey Knecht, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to: De digitale pioniers and
Het Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds
Design: Maurits de Bruijn
Copyright: Pieter Steinz, Stacey Knecht
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