Sunday, September 11, 2011

Book Review of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Name of book: Crime and Punishment

Author Name: Fyodor Dostoevsky

ISBN: 0-451-52723-2

Publisher:  Signet

Type of book: Adult, psychology, punishment, crime, Russia, 1860s

Year it was published: 1864-1866 (Version I have 1968)


One of the world's greatest novels, Crime and Punishment is the story of a murder and its consequences- a tale of suspense withotu equal, set in the midst of nineteenth-century Russia's troubled transition to the modern age. The novel's young protagonist, Raskolnikov, is a sensitive intellectual driven by poverty to bellieve he is exempt from moral law. In this brilliant translation by noted scholar and literary critic Sidney Monas, we are privy to the supreme expression of an author who "explored pathological states and the psychology of high tension, the realm of 'obsession' and 'possession,' because it was there one could most clearly and dramatically see the human consequences of an idea carried ruthlessly through to its logical conclusion...For Dostoevsky, an idea always has skin around it, and a human personality."


The characters do tend to be rounded, at least Raskol'nikov. Others are on the flat side. Raskol'nikov does sort of change, and although we see the mad side, he does show some good sides, such as helping take care of Marmeladov family. Sonia is best described as either virgin mary or a christ figure, (despite her being a prostitute) Raskol'nikov goes over to her for forgiveness and redemption, and she is the one that helps him turn to christianity. I read summary of The Idiot, and it's a flip I think. (In Idiot Prince Myshkin is depicted as a christ like presence, while the female character is the sinner.) I also could not understand whether or not Sonia liked him as a man or a christ love.


The only thing I understood is that if you accept or have faith in christianity then life will be more bearable, and christian love is powerful.


As someone best described it, there is countless ramblings and tangents about things that I'm not interested in at all.

Author Information:

"Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky(November 11, 1821 – February 9, 1881) was a Russian writer of novels, short stories and essays.He is best known for his novels Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov.

Dostoyevsky's literary works explored human psychology in the troubled political, social and spiritual context of 19th-century Russian society. Considered by many as a founder or precursor of 20th-century existentialism, Dostoyevsky wrote, with the embittered voice of the anonymous "underground man", Notes from Underground (1864), which was called the "best overture for existentialism ever written" by Walter Kaufmann. Dostoyevsky is often acknowledged by critics as one of the greatest and most prominent psychologists in world literature." (From Wikipedia.)


So why have I given this masterpiece a 3 instead of 5? Anti-Jewish references is one reason, another reason is the whole religion and redemption of Raskol'nikov, too much philosophy and at times it got confusing. (For the most part, not the names, just ideas and conversation...) I have to admit that either the author or translation or both are brilliant and well done because the audience experiences Raskol'nikov's thoughts and ideas and emotions as he experiences them. As I talked of before, I was not a fan of christian redemption idea and the references quickly got annoying. I also think that if he didn't include anti-Jewish references or tied Jews to negative characters then perhaps I might have given this book four stars. Some parts were confusing for me, one was towards the very end of the novel when Raskol'nikov and Svidrigailov meet each other and Svidrigailov tells stories. Raskol'nikov doesn't like stories. I don't understand why he name calls Svidrigailov that way and all that. Also, if action is your thing, then this is not the book for you. The action happens from pages 72-84 (if I might say so, very poor action,) and that is it. Rest is Raskol'nikov torturing himself and falling into a trap that others fell before him.

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)


  1. I think at the very least this deserves a four. However you are entitled to your opinion, despite vigorous protest from me ;)

    I think of the tangents like mental interludes. Little breaks, to let your mind cool down from the strenuous philosophizing, masterminded by Dostoyevsky and his often ADD like writing. You have to remember, in his time it wasn't as easy as popping an adderall. All they had was potato vodka and Lord knows, not even I can write clearly after a healthy helping of it.

    I was turned on to your blog by another who linked you in a post. Something about asian men and white women. Funny story.. actually. My mother sent me the link to the other blog in one of her infamous "why you no bring home nice Chinese girl emails". But some of your reviews really caught my eye and I stayed for that. Really liked the diversity of literature you review. Keep up the good work!

    - Benjy Wang

  2. Hi Benjy. Thanks for being a fan and for the compliment :) I read Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment last year, and unfortunately my mind isn't good at figuring out philosophy. Maybe sometime this year I'll read Dostoevsky's book The Idiot which I had been wanting to do. Have you read it? Also, out of curiosity, what is the name of the blog that had links to my posts?

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  4. It's definitely a process, learning to put yourself in the philosophical mindset I mean. It's like clearing your mind of all pretenses and indulging every idea not matter how improbable or illogical. Thinking in its highest form. Whew.. Sorry to get all poetic on you.

    Yeah I actually read The Idiot when I was 14. I didn't even get to read Crime and Punishment till I started getting up to my higher level law classes in college. The Idiot is really good, Myshkin is supposed to be the embodiment of true good. Feel free to email me if you have any questions when you're reading it, I'll put my contact info at the bottom. It's tough at certain spots.

    Any book recommendations by the way? Preferably non-fiction and a little less thinking intensive. A good book to relax to.

    -Benjy Wang


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