Fyodor Dostoevsky: “Crime and Punishment”

Ugly Flower in the classics - Crime and Punishment

The Happy Journey of the Classics Rudely Interrupted

“I would like to read you on a complete disaster of a book and why it should be buried!!”

My eccentric Scottish friend sent me these words well over a year ago – and how I have wondered if I would fulfill that request at some point. Well Alastair, you get your wish. This one is for you! Here is why I think Crime and Punishment should be “buried”!

Enough already with the wonderful, incredible, inspiring book reviews! Could I really write a review of a book I loathed, of an author that I could neither comprehend nor appreciate on any level, and could this book even be considered (gasp) a classic?

Yes on all accounts and then some. I will tell you in this post why I found “Crime and Punishment” to be a miserable read and yet how reading such a book can shape our attitude towards the differences of opinion and style.

I write deeply personal reviews of every book I read and as of late, I have been immersed in the world of classics. In the self-improvement and personal development world, I have found few techniques can enrich our knowledge faster than reading a classic. It is imperative to read to keep our minds active and sharp and reading a classic is the best means to that end. It is all the more reason to read them at a later and sweeter time in life because through a classic, we see more in ourselves after we have aged a little and experienced a lot.

Ah I had such a sweet journey for a while. A hidden world of treasures opened its doors to me when I would stumble upon new, yet ageless works of literature by brilliant minds such as Leo Tolstoy, Alexander Dumas, Henry James or the Brontë sisters. Authors who told the greatest stories, plots which thickened with every chapter, writing which fed my deepest desires for hearing the beauty in the English language – I was in heaven! I had found the invincible way to consistently read great books, or so I presumed – quite wrongly as you shall see. The journey was promising until just a few weeks ago when I decided to read the much anticipated “Crime and Punishment”on my list – and my perfect romance with the classics was thus severely scarred.

Why I Loathed Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”

Not all classics are created equal and call me crazy but I hardly consider Dostoevsky altogether an author, much less one of the prestigious classical breed!

The plot – a young student murdering an old, unpleasant pawn-broker and having to deal with the psychological aftermath – could have been promising, if not for the story telling, the writing style, the character depiction. In short, if not written by Dostoevsky.

He goes into monstrous proportions of expressing everything in the characters’ minds without relating any one thing to another or tying any of it to the overall plot in even a remotely tangible way. He – the author – is nearly as disturbed and as much on the verge of insanity as his protagonist, Rascolnikov, and while it may sound fascinating, it does not bode well for story-telling of any kind. He subjects us to every unfinished thought, every draft of an idea, every whim and notion, every passing fancy, fantasy and delusion in Rascolnikov’s head and yet does not allow us to arrive at any possible sensible conclusion. Following either a conversation or a monologue anywhere in the book is akin to going on a winding roller coaster ride without the remotest thrill – and repeating that cycle a few hundred times until the last page of the book.

It is this miserable style of Dostoevsky’s story telling which numbed my interest and robbed me of any compassion toward any character whatsoever, for how could an author inspire our compassion or interest when he insists on not telling the story and on not communicating with the reader and instead on leading us on a path which ends in utter incoherence and confusion?

“Crime and Punishment” is a meaningless, maddening maze with no point, no beginning and no end, no purpose, no plot and especially, no prose.

Reading is the best pastime for an active mind! If you like to see the other book reviews, check the index of In Print.

Going Against the Current: Always Follow Your Heart

This all begs the question, why did I insist on reading – and more importantly, on finishing – the book?

Despite my obsession to finish that which I start, I have left books half-finished before, some for sheer difficulty (“A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawkins and “The Fabric of the Cosmos” by Brian Greene), some for lack of interest. For those books, I felt comfortable to leave them unread (at least for the moment). This time though, I had motives to finish reading. I wanted to understand how such a book could be considered a classic. I wanted to know the plot and the characters behind a popular work of literature. I wanted to see why a few friends considered this a powerful read which could have shifted my perspective on certain subjects. And I wanted to give Dostoevsky a full chance.

Now I have done all that and have achieved none of my objectives. I remain clueless as to why this miserable writing can be anywhere on the similar scale as the masters of literature and why it is admired by many.

Then I realized, it is not necessary to understand all of that. Instead, I arrived at this conclusion:

  • We must respect the differences opinion in taste and style in all things.
  • We must not expect ourselves to necessarily love the acclaimed works of art or literature.
  • We must not try to convince others to appreciate a work of art or literature we happen to love.
  • We must pave our own path to exactly what we love.

In his biography of Colin Powell, Oren Harari describes in great detail the General’s leadership style, a brilliant strategy that should be a personal leadership style for smart living. During the information-gathering phase for a decision, Powell would gather his teams and advisers, listen carefully to every intellect and opinion on the matter, and welcome every word of wisdom and weigh in every bit of advice — but in the end, the final decision, he would tell us, always rested with the leader.

We are the leaders of our own lives. Our decisions — our likes, our desires, our choices – should not necessarily reflect popular opinion, social media trends, pop culture, or the judgment calls of even those closest to us. We should gather intellectual data, listen carefully, consider all options, learn and educate ourselves but in the end, let the final decisions on what we enjoy float to the surface from within our own heart.

This review is my opinion of “Crime and Punishment”. Yours may be different. I can respect and appreciate it even if I do not understand it. By the same token, I should practice less defensiveness and more detachment next time someone tosses aside my most beloved novels or movies. We are unique individuals and the only thing that matters is that we always be true to what we like without predisposed notion, peer pressure, and outside influences.

After all, reading this book was not in vain — and indeed reading a classic does result in the best personal development lessons.

Penny for your Thoughts

Love to hear your thoughts on this Russian classic, on other works by Dostoevsky – if you can convince me to give him another try! – and on embracing our different nature when it goes against main stream. Or on any similar topics so long as you wish to share your thoughts! Thank you for reading!

  • http://experienceandgrow.com Tom Sörhannus

    Sorry to say but I haven´t read anything by Dostoevsky but I very much enjoyed reading your conclusions from reading the book. We all see art work in different ways, well, we all see the world in different ways. Thank you also for the tips on reading classics. You got me tempted to go out and find some of them.

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Hi Tom, how nice to see you – oh well, this was my first read by Dostoevsky and from my review, you can see that at least I don’t recommend him but I try to look for something to take away from everything I read and so very glad this one resonated with you. If you want me to recommend a good classic, let me know or look at the In Print category archives or search by “classics” tag and you’ll see some of my beloved works reviewed here! Thanks for your comment!

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  • http://daringclarity.com Lana Kravtsova

    One of my favorite books. But I understand why you didn’t like it. I once wanted to buy Crime and Punishment for my ex husband to read. I looked through, I think, three versions of translations and hated every one of them. I ended up buying him something different. Dostoyevskiy should be read in Russian. That’s all I can say in defense:)

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Dear Lana, lost in translation is a big possibility – I am so happy you saw the differences then in English vs. Russian. I often wonder just how much else gets lost even in good translations! I love how you still left a comment and RT the post even though it’s a favorite book. Lovely to see you here, thank you for adding your thoughts!

  • http://hanofharmony.com The Vizier

    Hi Farnoosh,

    I have wanted to leave a comment on your blog for some time and this is a great place to start.

    I am a huge fan of books and I just love to read. The books that I enjoy reading the most are historical epics and science-fiction. I especially love history because there is so much to learn from the experiences of those who have gone on before us.

    Early in my life, I always tried to conform to the opinion of others. I tried to read Memoirs of a Geisha and Lolita because people told me they were classics. These were books I never finished, in fact, I couldn’t get past the first few chapters. Over time I realized that my taste was different from others and I no longer paid too much attention to what was popular. In fact, I don’t like things that are extremely popular, although there are some rare exceptions.

    I like you illustration of Colin Powell because this view resonates strongly with me and how I see life. Incidently, I also came across this story but it was from reading the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. In the story, set in Ancient China, the warlords were often adviced by many brilliant strategists. But even though it was prudent for him to listen carefully to advice, it was up to him to decide what path to choose.

    One of the villians, Cao Cao, who managed to conquer half of Northern China was famed for his intelligence and cunning. But he always made it a point to consult his advisors before he acted. If he sufferred defeat because of his error in judgment, he made sure to reward the advisors who had repeatedly cautioned him against acting in such a manner. In this way, he showed his open-mindedness and his willingness to listen to advice.

    The only Russian classic I read was Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. It was interesting, but not really my cup of tea because I took a long time to finish it and did so through sheer effort. Currently, I read the books that appeal to my interests without bothering whether it is a classic or not. Such labels are subjective anyway.

    When it comes to history, I prefer the Oriental and Eastern empires like the Byzantines, the Ottomans, the Mongols, the Mughals, the Persians, the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. It is sheer joy to know what you love and to follow your passion with great abandon. Although I read more non-fiction books, the historical epics I read involve these empires as well. Some of the books I have read over and over again are Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Taiko, Arabian Nights and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

    Currently, I am trying to finish Dune. Now that is a classic that I read because I liked the story, not because it is a classic, of which I have no regrets reading. I know I will reread this series over and over again. I am looking forward to starting on the Shahnameh soon. But again it is because I love the setting and the history behind it.

    We all have our own tastes and preferences in life. Even though I may not share the same interests as you do, I will still respect those interests because that is what you are passionate about. It is the same when it comes to the things I am passionate about. If we make the effort, we can find common ground with each other. And in doing so, there is much we can learn from others to aid our personal growth.

    Thank you for this wonderful article! :)

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Dear The Vizier (is that a title or a name? ;)) – how nice to see such a lengthy and detailed comment from a new reader. Thank you for taking the time to do this. I enjoyed learning about your approach to reading. Oh Lolita, I gave that book 3 good tries before I threw up my hands in defeat! Memoirs of a Geish captivated me and I was in Japan at the time – and Anna K is my FAVORITE book, I loved it so there, we are all different and it’s wonderful to have the freedom to explore that which we love – and to have the wisdom to do so. Thank you for sharing so much about your reading and the historical anecdotes. Come back again and thanks for your thoughts here! (I may look into Dune now too!)

      • http://hanofharmony.com The Vizier

        Hi Farnoosh,

        Vizier is a title. They were the ministers of Middle Eastern empires and kingdoms who served the Sultan. A grand vizier was the equivalent of a prime minister. I have always liked to read about the Middle East and the role of the vizier was one of my favourites. I suppose I am fond of helping and giving advice. It could be due to my being INFJ.

        Since I like to read, this reply was rather effortless haha!

        If you are going to look into Dune, you might want to read this article I wrote recently on managing fear with a science-fiction litany. The inspiration for the article came from the many quotes in the book. One of the things that appeal most to me about Dune is that I really learned a lot about life from the way the characters managed the challenges they faced. When it comes to political intrigue on a planetary scale, you are bound to learn a thing or two.

        I look forward to being a frequent visitor from now on. :)

        • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

          Well, I am from Iran – or Persia if I am feeling authentic like tonight – so Viziers were definitely used in those places, as were Sultans! I know you mentioned the Shahnameh too which is on my shelf, ready to be read. A friend of mine, who is neither Iranian nor speaks the language, was fascinated by the Shahnameh so we had my dad read it in Farsi one afternoon. The cadence was unreal; I couldn’t read it all in Farsi but the translation – the good ones – are not bad either! As for Dune, going to read your review, thanks for pointing it out – and I look forward to seeing you more here on the blog!

          • http://hanofharmony.com The Vizier

            I guessed you were from Iran by your name. And I also figured you would be familiar with the Shahnameh even if you had never read it before. It’s a pity I can’t read Farsi, maybe I’ll learn it in the future when I find the time. You’re perfectly right. The good translations of the Shahnameh are good, so I can only wonder what it must be like in Farsi. Oh I have a treat for you. I remember stumbling across this website on the comic version of Shahnameh.

            Well I intend to hang out around your blog for the long haul. This is a good place to stay. :)

            • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

              Yes, I am. And the Shahnameh is BEAUTIFUL, timeless and amazingly poetic and touching in Farsi – I wish my Dad let me put up my video of him reading it for us but I do not have release rights. Sigh…! Thanks for the comedy, but it went over my head! I’ll just stick with the original, and yes, you had better come back here and I’ll be back to Han of Harmony soon!

  • http://www.thebridgemaker.com Alex Blackwell

    I’m with you Farnoosh.

    It was required for me in college (I was an English major) and I barely got through it. To me, it was dense, uninspiring and too high-brow. Its appeal is a mystery to me.

    Alex

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Dear Alex, how nice to see you here. I love the Bridgemaker but I am a silent reader of your great stuff. I envy your English major past – I was in electrical engineering for not one but two degrees and never pursued my love of English til now. As per my Russian friend Lana, it seems we may have lost a lot of Crime&Punishment during translation – I guess we shall never know. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts!

  • http://www.abundancetapestry.com Evelyn Lim

    I’m going to be honest. Save for Brontë sisters, I have not read any of the classics that you’ve mentioned. However, most certainly, I have read books that I could not finish. And these books are supposed to be best sellers. I usually just set them aside and move on.

    Sorry to hear that Crime and Punishment wasn’t able to give you a pleasant experience. It’s great that you’ve managed to learn something, though :-)

    Warm regards,
    Evelyn

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Dear Evelyn, a few years ago, I couldn’t even say that for the Brontë sisters and it has taken a lot of time and effort to push through the classics but it’s only come later in life. As for best sellers, don’t even get me started! :)
      So happy to see you here and thank you for the encouragement and for dropping by!

  • Marion

    I am with you too Farnoosh

    It just never appealed to me so I never finished it. But that is the great thing about books they have the power to touch some and not others. I suppose they are a bit like people in that aspect.

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Hi Marion, interesting – I am glad to know you felt the same – although I have promised to practice detachment regardless ;)! And very amusing that you compare books to people. Very nice to see you here, thanks for weighing in your thoughts!

  • Brett

    As Crime and Punishment is one of my favorite books, I’m a little struck by this post.

    It was my opinion when reading the book that Dostoevsky deliberately made his narrative haphazard and disjointed to give the reader some insight as to what Raskolnikov’s mind was like during that period. You noted the parallels between Dostoevsky and his protagonist; I don’t think that’s a coincidence, especially in a limited third-person narration.

    And I dislike many “classics” as well, so don’t feel bad about disliking Crime and Punishment – among them are War and Peace and Lolita.

    Nice, in-depth post!

    Also, the translation affects things majorly. I love my translation of the Brothers Karamazov by Andrew McAndrew, but I loathed Crime and Punishment’s translation by Constance Garnett, the latter of which was Dosteovsky’s first English translation, if I recall correctly.

    Dostoevsky’s true masterpiece is The Brothers Karamazov, and although you might not Dostoevsky, I love the man’s writing. Different strokes for different folks, I guess – but maybe I like more digressive and stream-of-consciousness writing (a la Pynchon, Marquez, and Joyce).

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Brett, I knew I would hear from you – I remember a long time ago, on another literary post, you told me how you felt about Crime & Punishment and then about The Brothers Karamazov which everyone who has read has loved. I think Lana hit it on the nail when she said much is lost in translation. I was lucky to have the best translation for Anna K. and I am reading War & Peace soon because I am in love with Tolstoy’s writing. I do not mind the stream of consciousness and the psychological flow of thoughts – or even confusion in a story – but there was absolutely no way to follow or to care about what was happening with the writing style which I happened to read the Gutenberg ebook version on the Stanza app (iPhone) it was produced by John Bickers and Dagny and David Widger….Anyway, here’s to better reading! Thanks for dropping by!!

  • http://www.happyheartandmind.com Zengirl @ Heart and Mind

    Farnoosh,

    I know we talked about this before so I know how you feel about “crime and punishment”. I think personally it is classic but very complex to read as many Russian classics book are.

    We both are classic books lovers, so this was a surprise to me but I respect your honesty. I think certain classics are overrated too.

    Like Lana said, maybe when you translate a book or poem in to another language, something is lost. Also, many books are shorter or simplified version of it, which makes complex stories hard to understand.

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Preeti, my dear, I tried. I read every single page, I even did it during long plane rides and vacation hours – I really gave it a chance and it just didn’t work for me. We do both love classics and I did hear Lana and think that may just be the best way to let it go. I loved Tolstoy, our other Russian friend, and he was complex as complex gets so maybe it was just a personal taste. Thank you for being here and encouraging me! Here’s to a next great classic.

  • Clearly Composed

    I can’t make it through A Tale of Two Cities. I know it is a classic and held in high regard but it works better than a sleeping pill for me. It’s not that it is overly challenging or horrid, for lack of a better word, but more like a crime and a punishment to try to get through it! I decided finally there are way too many classics out there yet to devour and I can let this one stay on the shelf. :)

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Hi dear Emma, funny – I wasn’t *crazy* about Dickens but I only read a bit of David Copperfield – but I am not done giving it a chance. It’s just lower on my list right now. And yes when we realize there is SO MUCH amazing writing out there, it’s really best to let some things sit on the shelf. Thank you for weighing in your beautiful thoughts!

    • http://www.foursides.ca James M

      I was about to post something similar. A Tale of Two Cities has to be the worst “classic” book available to us. In high school, I fell asleep while reading it so many times that I simply gave up. I passed the multiple choice test about the book, and hacked my way through the final essay about it.

      Definitely a book I will not be sharing with my daughter as she grows older.

      • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

        Seriously? Someone gave me this book in hard cover as a gift and I have yet to open it. I suppose it is not as utterly inspiring as that first page…”It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….” – and James, welcome to prolific living, thanks for leaving your thoughts and being such a sweet Daddy! Hope to see you again here!

  • http://www.kaizenvision.com Aileen

    I’m happy you told us why you finished reading this book – because I was wondering what could possibly keep you reading it. “I had motives to finish reading. I wanted to understand how such a book could be considered a classic. I wanted to know the plot and the characters behind a popular work of literature. I wanted to see why a few friends considered this a powerful read which could have shifted my perspective on certain subjects. And I wanted to give Dostoevsky a full chance.” – quite impressive motives for completing the read.

    While it’s true that not all people enjoy the same books, or philosophies, it’s a fascinating thing to actually take it in while part of our being would rather just close the book and walk away.

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Hello my dear Aileen, I was so determined, so frustrated and had come such a long way that I just could not turn around – this is supposed to be a classic and I wanted to have a full opinion before tossing the Russian author aside. Thank you for sharing your thoughts – and highlighting my reasons to finish it. I am thinking of reading Lord of the Rings next or finish that Brief History of Time ….. we’ll see. Thank you and great to see you again!

  • http://SourcesOfInsight.com J.D. Meier

    You really do know how to make captivating pictures … with just the right words and visuals.

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Hi J.D., I struggled so much with this photo – because as you know I use all my own photos and I read this book on the iPhone and had no related photos so this comment makes me particularly happy, thanks!

  • Felicia

    Hi Farnoosh,
    We are all entitled to our opinions. I agree with you that while some people agree that a certain book is a great read, others will disapprove and say it is trash. I had a fun time reading your review about Crime and Punishment. :)

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Thank you dear Felicia – I meant to add some entertainment and humor to the review while delivering my reasons in the most professional tone. The fact that you appreciated it shows I may have delivered that – you don’t say how you feel about Crime & Punishment – did you enjoy it? If so, I am so curious as to why? Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • http://zasmine-circa-me.blogspot.com/ jasmine

    I was also reading crime and punishment and I just finished it!
    As disturbing as it was I loved it. What I hated was how all these people who commented and apparently loved the book couldn’t defend it. And ‘lost in translation’, what a joke!
    I appreciated the most from the book the socialist critique during a time of great social and intellectual debate in Russia, a time that among other things saw the emancipation of the serfs, nihilism, socialism, and ermerging questions about the relevance of God. Dostoevsky’s psychological novel captures a disturbed mind in turmoil from its own philosophic ideals. Raskolnikov’s expectations for himself as a “Napoleon” above the law are distorted by his own inner turmoil, and his “punishment” may be realizing his place as a human in the midst of humanity.The religious turn the story takes and the lovely hint of romance and drama. I enjoyed the fact that there was so much drama.
    Dostoevsky’s ability to dredge out the human condition is almost unrivaled in all of literature. And what better a protagonist to discuss criminal theory than the character Raskolnikov, the student who gave up the study of law and became the hunted of the law.
    I read that this 1866 novel predicted the way Lenin would use high ideals to justify murder and imprisonment of innocent people in the 1917 Revolution.
    This is what classics are, they are the punctuation marks in history, they will tell the tale of their time, their geography always. Who better than Raskolnikov to tell the tale of that wretched St. Petersburg, that city in those 9 days.

    • http://www.prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Dear Jasmine, I am so so happy someone came to seriously defend the book – I was really hoping someone would. I do like to say that unless you are fluent in Russian (you may be, I am not sure), that at least one person who suggested the Lost in translation was speaking from comparison of Russian version to English version so it’s possible you could take so much away from the book but some of the original intent of the author may still be lost. Anyway, we are free to love or loathe a book, even if a classic. If you read the blog, you know that I adore classics and I love Tolstoy who I think is far superior to Dostoevsky in terms of drawing out the human drama in fine detail. No matter, I really and truly appreciate this perspective and love to see the opposite views…..! You might really enjoy the other Dostoevsky novel, The Brothers Karamazov, also. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave your thoughts.

  • jasmine

    No offence intended Farnoosh, a classic is how I came to your blog in the first place- Madame Bovary which I think we both loved immensely.
    I just didn’t understand why people who loved the book didn’t defend the book.
    I know zilch Russian by the way, but let us drop the translation argument. Obviously, we didn’t lose the whole book to the translation. We would have lost Madame Bovary too then (I read it in English at least).
    Keep reading and writing!
    :)

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Are you kidding? You didn’t offend me one bit. We are just talking about an old Russian classic :)!! Oh Madame Bovary, je l’adorait (I adored it) and if my French had stayed as strong as college, I would have read Gustave Flaubert in French – the love of classics is strong over here and I hope you continue to visit and always, always speak your mind here….I love the honest perspectives, dear Jasmine. Thanks for your comments and happy reading to both of us!

  • http://balanceinme.com Anastasiya

    Hi Farnoosh,
    I just found this post of yours and I got extremely interested in your review. I am from Ukraine (pretty much Russia) and of course I read Crime and Punishment in school. After reading the book I fell in love with Dostoevsky’s writing and his way of using small details, descriptions and almost irrelevant pieces of information to put you in the mind of his characters. Plenty of people in Russia and Ukraine do not understand and do not like this book. However, in my opinion it has always been a masterpiece.
    While translations have a lot to do with the “feel” of the book I think that cultural differences are most important. The book describes a period in Russia’s through the story of one person. Like Jasmine mentioned above, it almost uses the picture of Raskolnikov to show what the country was going through at the moment. It was torn apart from the inside and every decision that was made led only from bad to worse.
    Reading Crime and Punishment is almost like watching Forrest Gump or Napoleon Dynamite in Russian. If the person watching these movies does not understand life in the US then they simply cannot grasp all the details, humor and irony that make these movies masterpieces. I must say that Crime and Punishment definitely has a gloomier way of making its point…
    It is always interesting to read opinions of other people about books. I must confess that I never finished any single book by Lev Tolstoy (it’s just not my style I guess :-)) Thank you for posting your feeling and thoughts about the book.

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Dearest Anastasiya, what a pleasure to have your beautiful appearance here on prolific living – and talking about Russian literature, no less! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on the book – I was more than anything looking for ways to come to appreciate Crime & Punishment because it really went over my head – even though I identified with Tolstoy’s Anna K. like no other masterpiece – and I felt so much of the culture, so much of the tradition, maybe it was the translation, maybe the prose, I don’t know – Your example makes the point, there is no way other cultures can appreciate the intricacies of each other as much as the local people do but I look for authors who are regarded as the masters of writing to cut through that and be able to bring that sense of Russia in this case at that particular period and make it accessible to all of us. I guess my disappointment was in more ways than one. I am so happy to know your thoughts, thanks for sharing them!

  • http://almost60really.com Paula Lee Bright

    I enjoyed this post immensely! (I’m @ChildWillRead for my teaching work; this other person for my own life!)

    It’s funny. I was assigned Crime and Punishment, of course, in my first year of college, many, many years ago. I dreaded it, I hated it, and finally, it was 2 days before exam time.

    I was a freshman, so not very experienced. I really blew it! I couldn’t get to the end of the damn book!

    An odd thing happened though. I read and I read and I read. I took the test. I flunked because I was only 17, and had never heard of Cliff Notes! I hadn’t reached the end, so couldn’t draw any conclusions or make any arguments for my point of view on the test.

    But after the test, after the first F of my life…I went back and finished the novel. I had to. I’d become so enmeshed with the poor tortured man that was Rascolnikov, and the history of the upheaval going on around him (I think I had to know that fact of Russian history to fully “get” the story, but now I can’t even remember if I knew it then, or “added” it to my memory later!)…that I couldn’t stop reading.

    I left the test distressed, and went to the dorm. There, I read through the afternoon and night, and went to other classes the next day bleary-eyed and exhausted. And I don’t recollect, but I imagine I probably did poorly (again!) in class because I was so wrapped up in the Russian tale of woe.

    Sometimes, a book just hooks you. And sometimes, a book just doesn’t! As a reading teacher, and a book worshipper, I think that personal taste is evolved throughout our entire life, our make-up, who we are as time goes by.

    For you not to like C&P, makes total sense to me. For me to have loved it—doesn’t! But it is a fact, and a long-standing one. Many times in my life (and it’s been long—I’m an OLD gal. 57. Almost 60, really!) I’ve thought back to R. and thought about lessons learned through his misfortune.

    Now that I’ve heard from Russians, I wish I COULD have read it in the right language. It probably would have been much, much better.

    But I loved it. I’m glad I did. And I’m glad you hated it! It’s what makes talking about books the most fun conversations in the world. :D

    • http://prolificliving.com/blog Farnoosh

      Dear Paula, you can’t begin to imagine how much I enjoyed you recounting your tale and your memories of C&P. Thank you a million times for sharing it. I absolutely love it when people disagree with me on a book because as you said, we could have amazing reasons to love or hate the same exact thing – and that is why books are the greatest treasures of our time. (Some books are an exception but all classics I would say are a treasure because they create reactions, emotions, and provoke thought and feeling long after they are read). I imagine I will think differently about it at some point – and will always wonder why I didn’t hook to this story as I did to say Anna Karenina, both Russian literature, both very unhappy stories but Leo Tolstoy mesmerized me while Dostoevsky drove me crazy with frustration! And I am really glad you stopped by to share your thoughts, thank you so so much!

  • http://pratiquer-la-meditation.com Moutassem

    Hello Farnoosh,
    I loved this book (i Read the french version)! So your review grabbed my attention. I though you were going to praise the close-encounter with the protagonist´s psychology.. But you didn’t!

    It shows that we all have a different sensitivity and some books will resonate with us While others won’t. But please don’t give up on Dostoevsky. He’s a major author that has inspired many of our modern authors. I remember listening to an interview of Paul Auster who said that he decided to write after reading ‘Crime and punishement’

    Thank you for your great blog
    Moutassem

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi Moutassem, I am sorry to disappoint you – I could not get into Dostoevsky and I am sure he was a big influencer in literature … but I adore Tolstoy and little known fact: I later read that Tolstoy himself didn’t consider Dostoevsky an author … I wonder if it’s a matter of style and preference. Thank you for your comment, I can’t believe I blogged about this 2 whole years ago! Great to see it’s still circling the inner webs :)!