Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky

Crime and Punishment was written by the Russian author, Dostoevsky in 1866.

Confronted with destitution, ideology, questionable mental stability and the sometimes strangely coincidental circumstances of St. Petersburg life, a university student, Roskolnikov, takes it upon himself to commit murder. An introspective portrayal of the psychological, social and legal ramifications of the act keeps the reader questioning and anticipating the motives and plot twists throughout the 703 pages.

In the true spirit of Dostoevsky, the book is filled with layer upon layer of analysis of the human condition. The characters bring a rich discussion of multiple subjects to life; law, morality, religion, family, social position, addiction and mental illness are some of the many themes present in the story.

I read a German translated edition from 1977 printed by the Winkler Verlag München. An interesting difference between the English and German titles shines light on the depth of the book’s interpretive potential. Schuld und Sühne (Guilt and Atonement) as opposed to Crime and Punishment depicts the array of psychological challenges Roskolnikov must face. He theorizes, in the midst of a kind of feverish mental affliction, that it be morally permissible to commit a crime for the sake of a higher purpose and whether there be certain figures, who on account of their assumed superiority, (perhaps such as himself), should be considered above the law. We see him struggle with guilt, love, faith and human connection while attempting to justify his theory and witness the ultimate culmination of his dealings in the end. The ambiguous nature of the characters and the effects of their interactions with one another leave one grappling with the concept of good and evil and what it means to be a moral being in a social world.

I highly recommend this as well as any other book by Dostoevsky to anyone looking for a philosophical, psychological and brilliantly written literary masterpiece. This is a story that leaves one speechless, exhausted and enlightened.