Air, I need air.
That is exactly how I felt when reading the book. This is the third work of Fyodor Dostoevsky that I read. Considered one of his greater works, Crime and Punishment takes you deep into the mind of one of literary world’s most fascinating protagonists, Raskolnikov. And all through the reading of the book I was so engrossed in the book, what with it being holiday season and having chunkloads of hours I can dedicate to reading, that finally when I turned the last page, I was surprised and thankful that the world was still spinning around happily oblivious to the intense experience of reading this classic. Imagine a world full of Dostoesvskian despondent rascals wandering around with axes.
Raskolnikov and Svidrigailov
Most of the negative reviews of the book comes from readers not able to empathize with such a rascally paranoid brooder as Raskolnikov. While I understand he shows little love to friends and family, his strong sense of right and wrong, the driving need to analyze and arrive at justice constantly and at varied nuances will make most people hold him in high respects. And to me he really came across as a troubled, grumpy and yet kind “helpable” soul. However if there is another character who is as interesting as Raskolnikov then it has to be the character of Svidrigailov. Some of his dreams are plain out of the darkest abyss. And his denouement shows that he is of different mettle than Raskolnikov.
As I was growing up I never went anywhere near Russian Literature for fear of its purported bleak and bleary subjects and landscapes. Kind of like Bergman movies. But ironically, I realize that those are the kind of subjects that I really dig. Probably because those are the kind of questions that I toy with mostly in my head.
In addition to the usual politics, morality, religion, love and mental anguish, Dostoevsky touches on aspects of marital life, sensuality, depravity and extra marital affairs astutely. Considering that this is a book that was written in the 1800s the subject, the treatment and language is very strikingly contemporary.
Dostoevsky reverts to salvation in a lot of his works which can be a little bit of a dampener if you are of the scientific mind but then, unlike him, we have never gone through a near death experience. Who knows what might become of us if that happened to us. We would probably turn into half crazed eternally chattering icon clutching zombies.
To me, this is a classic that is worth its mythical stature.