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Crime and Punishment

Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Author

David McDuff - Translator

David McDuff - Introduction by

David McDuff - Notes by

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ISBN 9780140449136 | 718 pages | 31 Dec 2002 | Penguin Classics | 5.07 x 7.79in | 18 - AND UP
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The profound drama of redemption and the torments of the psyche

Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, commits a random murder without remorse or regret, imagining himself to be a great man far above moral law. But as he embarks on a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with a suspicious police investigator, his own conscience begins to torment him and he seeks sympathy and redemption from Sonya, a downtrodden prostitute.

Translated with an Introduction and Notes by David McDuff

‘McDuff’s language is rich and alive’  
New York Times Book Review

Student Review by Christopher Turner, University of Bath Spa.

 

What happens when a person lives in a world void of morality? Thus embarks the exploration of one of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s greatest novels, Crime and Punishment. Amidst the impoverished and grim streets of St Petersburg an ex-student, Raskolnikov, strolls contemplating the murderous deed he intends to commit. Imagining himself a man in the league of Napoleon, a man with enough psychological stamina to overcome such a deed, he brutally murders his moneylender. However, when the authorities begin their investigation and assumptions collapse Raskolnikov’s conscience begins shrouds him in a darkness almost inescapable. Crime and Punishment is not a conventional detective or murder mystery novel. Rather it is an acute and subtle psychological study which encompasses elements of unbearable tension, page-turning addictiveness and intrigue. Dostoyevsky’s omniscient narration sets the reader in the perfect stance of observation whilst yet fusing a close relationship between reader and that of the main character, Raskolnikov. It at once an exploration of the inner depths of the psyche and also a progressive journey with the characters embodied in the novel.

One does not meet a cast of clichés, here, in Dostoyevsky; the pages are soaked with humanity, there is not a clear, defining dichotomy between hero and villain – as perhaps would be found in a Dickensian narrative. Rather, the characters that roam the streets of St Petersburg and breathe among the letters on the page suffer from bad consciences, alcoholism and prostitution. There is no room for romantic and idealistic representations in this novel; stark brutality makes sure of it. However, whilst Crime and Punishment is a novel of despair and psychological torture it is also, frequently and paradoxically, highly comedic. Readers will find themselves laughing at the absurdity of certain situations the characters are thrust into. The novel’s tone is temperamental, the reader often finds themselves in a scene of utmost darkness to be propelled, almost instantly, into a scene of absurd and awkward comedy not knowing whether to laugh or cringe.

Crime and Punishment is not a piece of detective fiction, nor is it a romantic novel or solely a character study. It is a hybrid, fusing elements of various genres. It is the novel’s diversity which makes it such an entertaining and accommodating read. David McDuff’s translation is fluent, vibrant and highly accessible. During his lifetime, Dostoevsky was falsely sentenced to death for being part of liberal group in a time of paranoid leadership. He was acquitted at the last minute after suffering and seeing the horrors of Siberia. It is not uncanny that after being acquitted that he then went on to write the masterpieces that would immortalise his name. Sublime, psychological, profoundly philosophical, innovative and, ultimately, a delightful read; Crime and Punishment remains the most famous of those masterpieces.



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