Written by Fyodor Dostoevsky in 12 monthly installments during 1866 for the russian literary magazine named Russian Messenger
I don’t even know what I can write about this book that hasn’t already been written. So, I won’t write about it. I will tell you about the book through my eyes. I don’t know if it is right or wrong. I just know that I loved it and it took me a long time to read.
3 Things about the above book that took me by surprise
- Even though there is too much whining and pain, you have to put these aside. You accept it and then you can get on with the story. You can just flow with the story.
- The writing is awesome; dense and colorful and full of life.
- The way religion is included is interesting and I still don’t understand exactly how religion came into it. I will try to explain, but it sort of arises during the narrative. It falls out of the characters.
I think the Russians have the market cornered on pain. I think it is all pain too, psychic, emotional even literal pain. (And Russian artists own it. I think the Russian people own it.)
My question while I read the book was always, “Is this about man and his relationship with poverty or hopelessness or is this only about madness?”
In the previous post I spoke of the brilliance of literary classics. The language in this book is sublime. It is truly brilliant. Here is a random example from any page, “ He felt utterly broken: darkness and confusion were in his soul. He rested his elbows on his knees and leaned his head in his hands.” And the words before and after were just as clear and just as electrifying to my imagination.
The story of Raskolnikov is the story of an aspiring lawyer, a brother and son, a poor poor man who only sees injustice in the world. Is he a savior or is he a mad man? He imagines and falls into so much psychological despair that you can’t help but to feel for him. You also hate is arrogance and lack of humility. He is the definition of the tortured soul and the author never lets you forget it. He somehow rationalizes a murder through his filtered and pained existence in the world.
He murders a horrible old pawn shop lady, a user who takes advantage of the poor and afflicted. In the process he comes upon an innocent, her sister, and must kill her to complete the perfect crime. There can be no witnesses.
The crime is neither warranted nor perfect. It is sad. Sadness from the perspective of lost lives.
This brings me to how good the writing is. You feel this guys pain through his ragged clothes, his immense feelings for an anonymous drunk who is losing his family, his lost love for his sister and mother, and his newfound love of a young prostitute. We see 19th century Russian in all its heat, cold and rain come pouring off the page and you are in it. You can see the tiny apartment. The rags. The beard. You can feel exhaustion and pain. Yet, somehow, there is hope. Hope in justice. Hope in love. Is that where I see faith?
This is not easy to read. The language goes on and on. The characters names and nicknames are confusing. The type is small. But it is worth it.
It worth it because as you read in a flow, you then see the flow and beauty of the language. It is magical and difficult. And again, worth it.
I can’t even point out from memory how religion sort of shrounds everything. It is a lack of faith that runs this story. An overall lack of faith in G_d or even a lack of faith in man. It is most personified in Raskolnikov, where he grinds his teeth after the murder and basically whips himself over and over trying to make sense of what he has done.
This quote defines Raskolnikov in his own mind, “Bitter is the ascent to Golgotha.”
He dreams of death prior to the murder. This is where his mental state is really in question. The murder is so unnecessary and he falls into the state of guilt and confusion that defines a guilty person. He is in a sleepy haze. Either manic or sleeping and never eating. It must be defined as some sort of mental illness, yet it also is a reference to faith. Faith in man and Faith in G_d.
There is a dichotomy about the man, who is nicknamed Rodya, he has so much anger and pain on one side of his brain and on the other, he is filled with compassion and love.
He helps a drunk girl who has been taken advantage of and who is in the sites of a predator.
He helps a hopeless drunk. He calms him at the bar. When he dies in the street, he takes his family’s hard earned money and hands it over to the wife (who is mad) to bury her husband.
He has a good friend who wants only the best for him.
He has a family. His mother and sister, who love him dearly and only want him to be with him.
He gives away money, though they are crushed with poverty.
Does he embrace the poverty as part of his penance?
He falls in love with Sonia.
My question is….Does he find peace? Does he find what he is looking for?