Crime and Punishment

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Drawing on his own real life experiences in prison, Dostoyevsky introduces us to the life of Raskolnikov, a poor student tormented by his own negativity, pessimism and the struggle between good and evil. Thinking that he is above the law and convinced that all ends justify the means, he murders an older woman who he regards as stupid, greedy and good for nothing. In the aftermath, Raskolnikov is overwhelmed with guilt, confesses to the crime and goes to prison. There he begins to believe that redemption and ultimately happiness can only be achieved through suffering. Dostoyevsky masterfully immerses religious, social and philosophical elements into the novel, one that would become an immediate success.

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About the Author

The two years before he wrote Crime and Punishment (1866) had been bad ones for Dostoyevsky. His wife and brother had died; the magazine he and his brother had started, Epoch, collapsed under its load of debt; and he was threatened with debtor’s prison. With an advance that he managed to secure for an unwritten novel, he fled to Wiesbaden, hoping to win enough at the roulette table to get himself out of debt. Instead, he lost all his money. He had to pawn his clothes and beg friends for loans to pay his hotel bill and get back to Russia. One of his begging letters went to a magazine editor, asking for an advance on yet another unwritten novel — which he described as Crime and Punishment. One of the supreme masterpieces of world literature, Crime and Punishment catapulted Dostoyevsky to the forefront of Russian writers and into the ranks of the world’s greatest novelists.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Russian

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