Friday, August 1, 2014

Review of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

This book I give 9/10 (For serious readers only)

It is hard to begin reviewing a book of such intellect and foresight.  I guess to begin I will discuss what lead to me dropping a point.  The only reason I gave this book 9 rather than 10 was the translation.  This book originally written in Russian I found translates poorly into English.  Also the metaphors are difficult to understand and the average sayings in the book make little sense.  When reading this remember that it was published in the late 1800's the same time as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  The setting represents the time period making it difficult for someone born a hundred years later and in a different continent to relate.

That being said I found Crime and Punishment absolutely enthralling.  The story is built upon the character called Raskolnikov.  He is your ordinary Russian with big ideas.  Throughout the story the author places the idea in his head that extraordinary people should not be held within the limits of law.  Some of the examples in the book were Newton and Napoleon.  For Newton he asks would it be morally wrong if Newton killed a man in discovering all his theories.  He also goes into the criminal aspects as well, but mainly sticks with the moral philosophy.

This is a really important aspect of the book.  The lead character feels he is allowed to kill and does.  Then as guilt sinks in and his mental faculties begin failing he begins coming to the conclusion he was not extraordinary and had no right to kill anyone. This is where the ideas in the book begin getting tangled.  The author does such a good job pointing out all the reasons why someone should be allowed to kill, but then incorporates the thoughts of morality and justice.  

To bring this thought process into the present I will lay out an example.  Let say a man who has figured out how to solve world hunger or how to harness an unlimited energy source must break the law while completing his task.  Yes it of course can be argued from both sides.  This is the argument Dostoyevsky brings to the table.  A man with this thought commits a crime then fights constantly with himself on the right or wrong of his action.

I also really enjoyed the characters.  The name Raskolnikov is not an easy name to remember, but I know for a fact if someone mentions that name five or ten years down the road I will remember Crime and Punishment.  The author does such an amazing job getting into the head of this man and letting the reader live through every action and thought he has.  The supporting characters are extremely memorable as well.  My favorite would be the anti-Raskolnikov named Porfiry.  Dostoyevsky brings the two men together who in their first encounter argue extremely intelligently over the idea described earlier. 

One thing that may seem lacking is the plot.  This book is a quarter million words which for a novel is very long.  If you are unable to get pulled in from the psychology of crime the author presents and are only reading for a fast paced action novel then you will be disappointed.  The novel stand firm on the presentation of ideas rather than story.  Looking through many novel lists and author lists this novel stands at the top and had been argued to be the best Russian novel ever written and in a few places argued that this is the greatest novel written of all time.  

For any true reader you need the hard cover book.  This is one of those books that deserves to be bought in print. 

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