Saturday, July 26, 2008

Crime and Punishment

"But here begins a new account, the account of a man's gradual renewal, the account of his gradual regeneration, his gradual transition from one world to another, his acquaintance with a new, hitherto completely unknown reality. It might make the subject of a new story - but our present story is ended."

With these lines, I closed the book that I have enjoyed most in all my readings until now. Yes. I can say, with assurance, that Crime and Punishment far surpassed all books I have read until now. It was a wonderful experience and I am proud of the fact that I did not gulp the story down but rather read it in intervals allowing the feelings wash over me before picking the book up again to read yet another equally entertaining and very well written segment.

If you have ever noticed my blog, you would not have missed my quote of Ernest Hemingway which more than adequately describes the foremost reason I love books. When I finished reading C&P I felt that I had just come back from Petersburg - the filth and the dinginess somehow still sticking to my clothes. I felt like I spent the past two weeks with Raskolnikov.. and listened to his rants about his life.. Never before has a book so strongly drawn me in. So before have i felt so transported.. Solely for this fact, i am adding this book to my list of books read in my orbis terrarum challenge as well..

There's nothing to say about the plot of C&P..the world knows it by now. A young college student murders a wicked old woman (who he thinks doesn't deserve to live) and the book describes the events leading to, during and following the Crime. A simple plot but only Dostoevsky can make it feel like your story rather than an article you read in the newspapers. The confusion that goes through Raskolnikov's head regarding the motive of the crime (once he's already done with it) is totally understandable.. does it do it for the money? does he do it just to test himself to see if he is capable of doing such a thing? does he do it because he thinks she is useless and doesn't deserve to live? does he do it so he could eventually put the money to better use to help the people who are in dire need of it? these questions haunt you and you can see throughout the book that they haunt him too!

And then, there is the question of the fever.. did he commit the crime in delirium because of his illness or does he get ill because he's so stressed because of the crime?

To add to that, there's porfiry Petrovich who sees right through raskolnikov and provides scene by scene account of it (as though he witnessed the whole event)..sometimes you wonder if he is so perspicacious or if the guilt and confusion is that apparent from raskolnikov's behaviour.

I could go on and on with this list but in short, there's just one point that i am trying to make here. the motives for the crime and the punishment are not straightforward and i don't think they can ever be.. doestoevsky has brought that point out beautifully. There is usually never just one reason that leads to the murder.. it is always an interplay of various factors and is usually prompted by the right circumstance.. and then, the punishment. i think raskolnikov was punished for his actions.. but i don't think the eight year jail sentence was the punishment.. i think the biggest punishment was the two weeks he spent after the crime wandering around the city, trying to get back to normalcy and realizing that he could never ever live in peace with this on his mind..

I did not start the book with any sort of expectations. I knew it was going to be a tough read. I had heard about C&P all my life and I expected it to be laborious but I was willing to take up the task.. If you have been following my blog, you would know who I am doing this for. But what I found was an unexpected surprise. The book was not complicated. It had an element of suspense throughout the book which made you want to keep going on and on and the introduction of so many characters and so many parallel stories that were somehow tied together kept you interested through the 500 odd pages.

As you can see, i am totally floored by the book! I would love for everyone to read this book.. i would love to be able to discuss this with others and see what they thought of it..
if you've read this book.. leave me a comment as to what you thought of it.. and if you havent already read it, try to pick it up sometime and see if you enjoy it as much as i did!!


bethany said...

great work on the classics challenge!!! and you are still reading for the OT challenge that you completed! you are such a great reader, thanks for the inspiration.:)

I need to get started on the classics challenge.

Ramya said...

well, the credit goes to you.. it is such an interesting challenge, i don't want to be done with it.. decided that i am going to read as much as i can till the end of your challenge period..:)
the classics challenge is tough though..especially since i have picked such heavy books!

Trish said...

Wow, you really make me want to read this book now even though I've been scared of Dostoevsky for quite some time. Ok, still scared. I have Brothers Karamazov on my shelf as well (a little longer than thus more daunting) but I've heard such great things about it. One day...and I'll definitely remember your words of encouragement.

Congrats on finishing!!

Madeleine said...

I agree with Bethany, you are a great reader, I do not know if I have the courage of starting CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

I congratulate you to for finishing

bookcrazy said...

Crime and Punishment is Dostoevsky's aesthetic masterpiece like The Brother's Karamazov is his ideological masterpiece.

Probably this is the only novel of Dostoevsky that has a logical form and control. It has been my belief that while writing, he gets into a trance where he just keeps on writing. Words form faster in his head than he can put them on paper. Sometimes the gap, I guess is over chapters and not just mere pages. You get that feeling more so when you read Brothers Karamazov.

He is by far, my favourite author.

In Crime and Punishment he tries to explore whether morality breeds from faith in god or is there something inherent in us that tells us what is right and what is wrong. Brothers Karamazov is another exploration in this and other themes.

Dostoevsky famously said that if there is no God, everything should be permissible. But he knows it is not true. That's what happens to Raskalnikov. His murder is an intellectual experiment and not a crime. He maintains despite having confessed, that he is not guilty of a 'crime' in the true sense. Only the law of the society. He does not beleive that 'morally' he was wrong.

Raskalnikov is the representation of Dostoevsky's doubts whether there is any absolute morality at all or it only emanates from our religions and society. He has not figured out the answer, and he says so in this book.In Brothers Karamazov, he is more assertive towardss the existence of an absolute sense of right and wrong.

TMF said...

A very good review. In fact this is one of the books I thought of reading in the past, but never got around to do that...

As to your comments "the motives for the crime and the punishment are not straightforward and i don't think they can ever be.. " - it is very true. It is extremely difficult to see the actions of an individual with exactly the same context in which they were committed. And the judegement of crime, and the suitability of the punishment are shaped by several variables, which is why they vary widely with respect to time and place.

Thanks for a very good review again, and you have a great blog.

Keep up the reading ...

TMF said...

I also see that you read the Fountainhead. Not sure if you liked it, but if you did, then have you had a chance to try Atlas Shrugged? If not try it sometime when you have the bandwidth.

Keep up the reading !!!

Ramya said...

@trish - i'd be curious to see how you liked this one.. i am going to read Brothers Karamazov sometime.. not immediately though.. think i am done with dostoevysky for this year:)
@madeleine - come on, give it a shot.. and if you find yourself not liking it, you can always stop reading right? what do you have to lose??:)
@bookcrazy - wow! that was quite a detailed comment. Loved reading it. Looks like you've read and analyzed all of Dostoevsky's books. I'll be in a better state to discuss him once i have read other books by him.
@tmf - If you ever decide to read this book, do come back here to let me know what you thought of it.
I haven't read Atlas Shrugged. just havent gotten around to doing it i guess. I read the Fountainhead quite a while ago and wouldn't mind re-reading that one again.. maybe i'll do the two together:) Thanks!

R-Lo said...

Hi Ramya,

I'm playing catch-up with all Bethany's OT Challenge reviewers, and I just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed your work here (I like it when people review classics and older books in general and not just the flavor of the month). Cheers!