Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment

Synopsis

Crime and Punishment is one of the most important novels of the nineteenth century. It is the story of a murder committed on principle, of a killer who wishes to set himself outside and above society. The novel is marked by Dostoevsky's own harrowing experience in penal servitude, and yet contains moments of wild humor. This new edition of the authoritative and readable Coulson translation comes with a challenging new introduction and notes that elucidate many of the novel's most important--and difficult--aspects.

Excerpt

Crime and Punishment was written in circumstances of acute psychological pressure. Dostoevsky had not long returned from Siberia, and was intent on establishing a literary career disrupted by ten years of penal servitude and exile. The two literary journals he had started with his brother Mikhail had been closed down. His wife had died and shortly afterwards his brother, to whom he was very close, had also died. He felt morally obliged to support his feckless stepson as well as the family of his own brother. Yet he was desperately short of money. He turned to a rogue publisher, Stellovsky, and concluded an iniquitous contract, which unless he delivered a further manuscript on time would deprive him of his author's rights for nine years. He fled abroad to escape his creditors and to join his young mistress, Apollinaria Suslova, but abroad fresh trouble awaited him: she had fallen in love with another, and the tortured, self-lacerating relationship that now developed between her and Dostoevsky could well have been taken from one of his novels. He sought consolation in gaming at Wiesbaden but lost what little he had left of the money he had received from Stellovsky as well as a loan from Turgenev. He skulked in a hotel room for which he could not afford to pay and tried to subsist on tea.

It was in these circumstances that he conceived the idea for a novel about a student living in abject poverty, immured in a cramped, dingy room, hiding away from the psychological pressure of family and friends, and seeking to redeem his fortunes at a stroke by the murder of an old pawnbroker. Yet the novel, which in similar fashion Dostoevsky hoped would restore his own fortunes, was to be more complex than this bare outline. In offering the novel to the publisher Katkov in return for an immediate advance, he linked his plot to ideological motives which cast light on contemporary Russian society:

It is a psychological account of a crime. The action is contemporary, in the present year A young man, an expelled university student, petit bourgeois in origin, and living in extreme poverty, who through the superficiality of his thought and the instability of his ideas has . . .

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