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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment was my second book by Fyodor Dostoevsky and I wasn't terribly impressed.  It's probably my lack of sophistication as a reader.  I didn't enjoy The Brothers Karamazov either, but I still found it to be very well written with very memorable scenes.  Crime and Punishment is structurally interesting but, while dealing with fairly similar subject matter, lacks characters that are nearly as interesting as those in The Brothers Karamazov.

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The protagonist, Raskolnikov, decides that the true geniuses of society are justified in taking any action, no matter how repugnant, so long as it is needed for them to accomplish great things.  Conveniently, Raskolnikov is such a genius.  Using his newly rationalized freedom, he decides to kill an old woman who is also a pawn broker.  He botches it up in a few different ways and proceeds to lose his mind.  Most of the time his actions (and the actions of others) made no sense to me.  There are interrogations that seem interesting but peter out to nothing.  It's not clear to me that Raskolnikov ever felt remorse of any kind.

This book presents the same obstacles that I find in every Russian novel.  Every character has three or more names, none of them familiar or easy to remember.  There are situations that don't come across easily over the gap of time and culture.  I'm glad I read Tolstoy first so that I knew I could enjoy Russian literature and wasn't scared entirely away by Dostoevsky.

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