Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Source: Lit2Go
Length: Approx. 20 hours
Reader: Rick Kistner

The book: Even within the lofty lists of Western canon, there are some books that stand above the rest in reputation. Even if you haven't read them, you don't challenge the placement on these lists of books like Ulysses, Moby Dick, or Anna Karenina. Crime and Punishment is one of these classics and up until a few months ago, I had never read it. Then I started to notice references to the book or its protagonist Raskolnikov in articles, books and even in music. Clearly, the universe was telling me what to read next.

It's not an easy read. Raskolnikov is mentally unstable through most of the book and Dostoevsky reflects his character's delirium in dreamlike imagery. To make matters more difficult, the characters are often hiding their true motives, and part of the effort of reading is figuring out how much each character knows about the other and how much each knows the other knows about the first.  The on-again, off-again lucidity of the protagonist, combined with the web of deception make the book a challenging, but rewarding puzzle.

Beneath this puzzle lies a theme that is familiar to many people nowadays: the tyranny of money. Almost every scene in the book concerns who has or doesn't have money, how much they are spending, or how they plan to get enough money to live a few more days. In doing the research for this review, I wasn't surprised to find that Dostoevsky himself was deeply in debt and wrote the book to pay his bills. Of course, there are other themes as well - morality, justice, love, and all the other big themes of human existence - but I find it comforting that this book about poverty is now available to people who can't pay for it.

Rating: 8/10

The reader: Rick Kistner again does an excellent job with this reading. For a full evaluation of his reading style, see my recent review of The Jungle. My problem in the audiobook is not so much with the reader or the recording, but that it's a difficult book to listen to. Several times in the novel, the narrative tends to change direction in a few sentences, so that if you missed a phrase or short sentence, you completely miss the twist. It's a book that requires your full attention and several re-reads of important paragraphs, so listening as an audiobook is perhaps not the best approach to take to this demanding novel.

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