Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Crime & Punishment

Discussion thread for Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime & Punishment

study group discussion

Discussion as part of our Jordan B Peterson Reading Group and Study Group.



which translation?


Here’s my article about Crime and Punishment:

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I read this book a long time ago. After reading The Brothers K. For a class in high school, I picked up this book. I don’t think I understood the themes fully back then, but I still greatly enjoyed it.


Just about my favorite aspect is how easily Dostoevsky gets into your head. Or leads you into the character’s head. As a young person with some affinity with nihilism, I suppose it wouldn’t take much for me to get into Raskolnikov’s head so maybe that’s not a testament to the writer’s ability, but I digress. Porfiry was my absolute favorite. As I was pretty much putting on my Raskolnikov hat the whole time, I really felt the panic and anxiety whenever the detective appeared on the scene and when he was speaking with the main character, I felt as Raskolnikov felt, utterly trapped between my conscience, my desire to get away with it, Porfiry’s masterful interrogation and the desire to just “end it all” by giving myself over to the law. Without Porfiry, Raskolnikov seems to find some relief from his guilt.

What still stands out to me to this day is the killing of Lizaveta. Rodion never meant to do it. He was overconfident and arrogant in thinking that things would work out just as he intended. He didn’t know himself. He didn’t know he would kill her in a fit of panic (at least that’s how I remember it happening). He thought all would go according to plan, he would play Napoleon and that would be that. The whole affair would be wrapped up in a neat little bow. Whatever righteousness his act might have had, it was all gone the moment he killed Lizaveta. Not that there was much righteousness there in the first place. He was in hell after the killing. I can’t imagine he anticipated this. He wanted to do the Superman thing and transcend good and evil. Problem is, that’s just not in him. Very few people have no conscience and he’s just not one of them; if anything he seems to have quite a strong conscience. I think it serves as a good message for anyone who advocates violence, even for a “good” cause. Can you live with yourself afterwards? Can you really? And if you can’t, maybe it’s wrong.

If I must place Raskolnikov within the Dostoyevsky universe, it’s probably a mash up between two of the Karamazov brothers. Long story short, there is a thinker and there is a doer. Raskolnikov is very clever, but he also has the courage of his convictions. He acts on them, whereas the “thinker” brother does nothing but write papers and diatribes. After some bad thing happens due the “doer” acting on the “thinker’s” ideas, the latter goes into a moral paralysis, a “brain fever”, if you will, very similar to Raskolnikov’s mental breakdown near the end. I suppose that’s part of his tragedy. He has a conscience and he’s way too intellectual to really believe that his act was right. He’s only half of a doer and cannot get away from questioning himself. It would have been easier if he was just a Napoleon or an Alexander who act but don’t seem reflect much on why they’re doing it. Maybe that’s also part of being self conscious. Most “great”, “beyond good and evil” people don’t seem to be. Or, if they are, they suppress it.

One thing that puzzles me is Dostoevsky took care to tell us how impoverished Raskolnikov was. What’s the relevance to the story? I don’t remember. Maybe I need to read it again. I don’t remember why he was so impoverished. Did he fail out of school? Did he create his own circumstances? I don’t remember if it had anything to do with his desire to kill Alyona. Probably. But I can’t say for sure. I definitely need to reread this book.

Kind of how meat, dairy, eggs all come in neat packages - completely devoid of their actual procurement.

I spoke to an eastern-european during the study group discussions, and they emphasised that social standing is a large part of russian culture. Similar to a caste system. Hence the emphasis on him as a student, or the drunkard’s wife as coming from a noble family.

I think the impoverishment, wasn’t particularly true externally - he had means and resources and friends that could help him - but his own mind impoverished him. His girlfriend seems to make him realise that.

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Anyone else get the suspicion that Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is about Raskolnikov?

Update: Seems I’m not the first person to have this suspicion, there are many others.

If I remember correctly from one of Dr. Peterson’s lectures, one of Jung’s ideas is that we can’t really transcend the concepts of good and evil, as Nietzsche described. We’re too deeply biological; we can’t escape how we evolved, and some of that evolution has to do with how we evolved to think about good and evil. Hence why we need to “revivify the father” instead of inventing our own values.

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Just a summary of my conclusions for which audiobook and translation to use.

For translations:

  • Constance Garnett was terrible, however this is the most popular translation, many things are translated poorly or not at all, sometimes entire paragraphs are missing
  • Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky was great
  • Oliver Ready was even better as it included footnotes of all the subtle references

For audiobooks (they all use the Garnett translation though unfortunately):

I had never considered it until now and I can see what you mean but the parallel is too vague. I think if you read up on Freddie Mercury and what he was going through you’ll realize that there’s more of him in that song than Raskolnikov.

Freddie was born in a Zorostian family and was in the 70s in a relationship with a girl. Whom he betrayed by sleeping with another man.

I think this is what the song is about, him coming clean not only to his girlfriend but also to himself, his family as a bisexual man. And being afraid to stand the judgement.

The line in which he sings

“Mama, just killed a man
Put a gun against his head
Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead”

I think he’s talking about himself, killing the man that his family and girlfriend wanted him to be and transcending or shifting into a whole new man. The man he used to be is now dead.

“Mama, ooo
Didn’t mean to make you cry
If I’m not back again this time tomorrow
Carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters”

That is read as, if you don’t accept me as who I am it’s alright, I understand.

Sorry for sidetracking this thread. :slightly_smiling_face:

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