Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky, translated by Constance Garnett

I didn’t particularly like Crime and Punishment… it was third-person omniscient but drifted into unreliable narrator territory because the protagonist is crazy, and you spend a lot of time watching him very closely as he goes around in circles being indecisive. I find his behavior dull at best and really frustrating at times—which is perhaps the point, but it’s unpleasant and rather drawn-out. I think I was expecting more overt philosophy, but there’s only a couple of scattered bits.

I read the Constance Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment. If you are trying to decide on a translation, check out my post over at Medium on which translation of Crime and Punishment you should read.

More on what I liked about the translation and didn’t like about the novel below.

One thing I like about the Garnett translation is that, as the editor of the Wordsworth edition points out, “To avoid puzzling her readers, Mrs Garnett deliberately restricted her use of diminutives (in contrast to subsequent translators).” I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like I need every variation of every Russian name in the book to be represented accurately. The names in the book already appear in several variations as it is.

The aim of the philosophical content seemed to be to denigrate a kind of Nietzschean “rational” egoism which boils down to “The ends justify the means”, especially in hindsight, as it’s the winners who write the history books. The ambitious protagonist at first believes the powerful can justify anything, and views himself as one with Napoleonic power. Pathetically, he comes to realize he is mistaken. The antidote for his delusions is humility and Christian repentance.

Both the problem and the solution seem flawed to me: I don’t feel tempted to believe in “extraordinary” people who are exempt from moral accountability. Nor do I embrace a faith that views humans as inherently culpable. Thus the whole plot strikes me as a failed attempt to overcome a strawman.

When and Why I Read Crime and Punishment

I was too tempted by the price! Bought it for 50% off SG$5.89. But according to the rules I've been trying to follow for a couple of years now, if I buy it, I can't just put it aside for another day. Last in, first out. Means I have to read it. So that's what I'm doing!

Genre: Classic Literature (Russian)
Date started / date finished: 28-Mar-20 to 05-Apr-20
Length: 485 pages
ISBN: 9781840224306
Originally published in: 1867/2000
Amazon link: Crime and Punishment