This week I’m reading Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky for the third time. Read it the first time in French and Russian Lit in college. Never had I ever read any of those authors before, and I was blown away. We also had to read parts of Les Miserables, which I loved also, but have never, ever managed to finish. The first two times reading C&P I read the translation by Constance Garnett. This time I’m reading the one by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. It’s a crackling, fresh translation, but then, any translation would be or would appear to be, because the story has a snap about it, drenched in a pathos that is somehow never wallowed in. This is the Dostoevsky writing I like, in C&P and The Idiot. Although I made it through them, I couldn’t stand Notes from Underground or The Brothers Karamazov.
Raskolnikov is relatable in the sense that from time to time we all struggle with this necessity and nuisance of having to have work and earn our daily bread. Most people, though, don’t resort to plotting murder and think of ourselves as secret kings or Napoleons above the law in order to get out of it. Incidentally, I’d forgotten Raskol’s first name was Rodion. Ugh. I’m glad he’s referred to by his last name most of the time and that it sounds like rascal. Despite being a murderer, I’ve always kind of liked him as a character. Now that I’m older, though, we’ll see if my opinion is the same.
This is a book in which character after character is given the opportunity to do the right thing, and they continually choose the opposite, at least at the beginning of the story. They do at least begin to do the right thing, but spiral downward, a very human trait. I don’t even remember whether Raskol turns himself in or not at the end, but am excited to find out. It’s also making me want to read both The Idiot and Little Dorritt again, which is by Dickens, but also about people in debt. If you’re looking for good, long stories to read this winter, check out the classics. So many are so, so good.