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Crime and Punishment (Collector's Library) Hardcover – August 1, 2010
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About the Author
Fyodor Dostoevsky was born in Moscow in 1821. Between 1838 and 1843 he studied at the St Petersburg Engineering Academy. His first work of fiction was the epistolary novel Poor Folk (1846), which met with a generally favourable response. However, his immediately subsequent works were less enthusiastically received. In 1849 Dostoevsky was arrested as a member of the socialist Petrashevsky circle, and subjected to a mock execution. He suffered four years in a Siberian penal settlement and then another four years of enforced military service. He returned to writing in the late 1850s and travelled abroad in the 1860s. It was during the last twenty years of his life that he wrote the iconic works, such as Notes from the Underground (1864), Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1868) and The Brothers Karamazov (1880), which were to form the basis of his formidable reputation. He died in 1881.
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Many things may indeed be lost in translation, and many others get misrepresented but we may not know. The result of reading only the English versions is that one’s choice is largely subjective. Compared to the Garnett version, the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation seems very modern – until Ready’s came along. Little things like changing ‘had not’ to ‘hadn’t’ renders Ready’s version not only a little more modern but also more informal. That is not to say that the atmosphere of old Russia is lost. Ready uses ‘fibs’ for ‘lies’ (Pevear/Volokhonsky) in one passage.
Ultimately, the reader has to decide for himself which style he enjoys more. Here is a comparison from one of my favourite passages (there are many) from the book. I set out first the Pevear/Volokhonsky version then the Ready version:
“What do you think?” Razmumikhin shouted, raising his voice even more. “You think it’s because they’re lying? Nonsense! I like it when people lie! Lying is man’s only privilege over all other organisms. If you lie- you get to the truth! Lying is what makes me a man. Not one truth has ever been reached without lying fourteen times or so, maybe a hundred and fourteen, and that’s honourable in its way; well, but we can’t even lie with our minds! Lie to me, but in your own way, and I’ll kiss you for it. Lying in one’s own way is almost better than telling the truth in someone else’s way; in the first case you’re a man, and in the second – no better than a bird. The truth won’t go away, but life can be nailed shut; there are examples. (Pevear/Volokhonsky)
‘Now what are you thinking?’ cried Razumikhin, raising even more. ‘That it’s their lies I can’t stand? Nonsense! I like it when people lie. Telling lies is humanity’s sole privilege over other organism. Keep fibbing and you’ll end up with the truth! I’m only human because I lie. No truth’s ever been discovered without fourteen fibs along the way, if not one hundred and fourteen, and there’s honour in that. But our lies aren’t even our own! Lie to me by all means, but make sure it’s your own, and then I’ll kiss you. After all, lies of your own are almost better than someone else’s truth: in the first case you’re human; in the second you’re just a bird! The truth won’t run away, but life just might – wouldn’t be the first time.
Ready’s version has a table of chronological events and a fresh, inspiring introduction that will help the first-time reader understand and appreciate the context of ‘Crime and Punishment’
It's right up there with Pevear/Volokhonsky's C&P and Brother's Karamazov.
Some parts of Ready's translation flow better while the same part falls flat in P&V's version, and vice-versa.
The book opens with the obviously mentally unstable Rodion Raskolnikov contemplating a murder and robbery of an old pawnbroker. After carrying out the murder, the rest of the book shows the twists and turns of the investigation and Raskolnpikov's declining mental state as he anguished over the crime.
What made the book so incredibly intriguing to me was the incredible portrayal of Raskolnpikov's mental illness and it's progression through the book. Dostoevesky does an incredible job of showing what goes on in the mind of someone with a serious mental illness. There are many scholarly articles on the internet that analyze the nature of Raskolnokov's illness.
Another outstanding feature of the book is the outstanding depth of the character portrayal of the characters in the book. There are quite a few characters in the book, but I felt that I really got to know them as I progressed through the book.
A couple of hints to enhance a reader's enjoyment of the book......
Read about Dostoevesky's life. His life is as interesting as that of any of the characters in his books. In particular look for hints as to how he was able to understand and portray the psychology of his characters, particularly their thought processes. He understood because he likely experienced similar psychological problems.
The other hint to increase your enjoyment of the book is to keep notes on the different characters as they are introduced. The Russian names are unfamiliar to most of us and it can be difficult to keep up with who is who until you get the know the characters. You can also find lists and descriptions of the characters on the internet if you prefer.
It is a fascinating book!