Friday, April 15, 2016

Crime and Punishment [1866]

The first of his greatest works and his second full-length novel following his return from exile in Siberia, Crime and Punishment remains Russian giant Fyodor Dostoevsky’s single-most most renowned creation and a masterpiece in world literature – its influence on future artists and philosophers has possibly been second to none. This deeply introspective tome of a book, with strong Biblical overtones as the title clearly suggests, was many things at once – an engaging crime drama and police procedural, an intense psychoanalytical study of the mind of a criminal, a searing portrait of poverty and social alienation, a tragic melodrama on familial bonds and relationships, and a powerful meditation on what entails as a crime. The novel begins on an unforgettable note when its deeply disturbed protagonist, Rodion Raskolnikov, a former law student, murders a vile pawnbroker, by choice, and her dim-witted sister, by accident. What followed was a sprawling account of the spiraling impacts that spread across a multitude of characters – Raskolnikov’s ravishing, headstrong sister Dunya; the brilliant investigator, Petrovich, in charge of solving the beguiling crime; Svidrigailov, the brazenly sensual and gleefully depraved man who’s crazy for Dunya; Raskolnikov’s loyal friend Razumikhin; Sonya, the fragile daughter of a compulsive drunkard who’s been forced into prostitution and with whom Raskolnikov develops a lasting relationship. Raskolnikov’s “NapolĂ©on Complex”, wherein a crime acts as a stepping stone for greater deeds, served as a key motif for what propels him, and that, combined with his unresolved dilemma between nihilism and charity on one hand, and faith and rationality on the other, made this a complex human treatise on existential angst and moral anguish. The vivid depiction of the seedy and sordid St Petersburg urban milieu, marvelously accentuated the book’s bleak and moody atmosphere, while the wintry epilogue in Siberia, carved out of the author’s experiences of hard labour in Omsk for political subversion (which formed the basis for the semi-autobiographical The House of the Dead) was implosive and disquieting.

Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky
Genre: Crime Drama/Philosophical Novel/Psychological Novel
Language: Russian
Country: Russia

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