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Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky (November 11, 1821-February 9, 1881) was a Russian writer of novels, short stories and essays. He is best known for his novels Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov.

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Jessie Coulson's translation provides the text for the Third Edition of this acclaimed Norton Critical Edition. New footnotes have been added, based on discoveries by the leading Soviet Dostoevsky scholar, Sergei Belov. "Backgrounds and Sources", highly praised in the Second Edition, remains unaltered. Included are a detailed map of nineteenth-century St. Petersburg, selections from Dostoevsky's notebooks and letters, and a crucial passage from an early draft of his novel. Noteworthy among the several new "Essays in Criticism" are a little-known but important passage by Leo Tolstoy on Raskolnikov; an essay by Sergei Belov; observations by the Russian literary theoretician and scholar Mikhail Bakhtin; and an essay by the Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz. A Chronology of Dostoevsky's Life and a Selected Bibliography are also included.

– W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

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Crime and Punishment

"If I could only read one book again for the rest of my life, it would be this, Crime and Punishment, always and forever."

09/11/11

I believe I was sixteen when I read Crime and Punishment for the first [four] time[s]. I held the book in my hands, all too many pages of it, wholly unaware that it'd shape everything that came after.

It's a book that scares and intimidates me now because maybe my whole life will be turned over again. Afraid it'll throw me into another existential crises, make me afraid of mirrors and the night again, and so I try, rather unsuccessfully, to avoid it. But I can't, never could: Raskolnikov's as much a part of me as any real world memory or friend or experience I've ever had.

It was the first book to make me really cry, and I wept into it, dropping the tears onto the page as I turned page after blurred page, unable to even look away until the book was finished, just two days after it was given to me. I stared at what I held in my hands and knew nothing would ever feel like this again, that the world outside this cover was changed irreparably, unequivocally. And so the only option was to turn back to page one and so I burned through it once more before the week was finished.

If words can save a life [they can], Dostoevsky's saved mine, even when I wasn't quite aware how much I needed him, needed someone to. It completely destroyed me, dismantled the entire world, the limits of existence, and it spent the next six months or six years reconstructing me, making me hopefully better than yesterday.

If I could only read one book again for the rest of my life, it would be this, Crime and Punishment, always and forever. It may not be as magnificent or perfect as The Brothers Karamazov, but it matters to me more than I can even express. It's so much more than a book or a story: it's my whole life, before and after.

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2 Comments

  1. Brian Warfield said on 09/29/11 at 3:21 pm Reply

    I read this when I was in high school and it immediately went onto my favorites shelf. And every once in a while I am tempted to take it down and reread it, but I am so afraid that I have changed since high school. So many other books that I loved in a geeky, nerdy, or genuine way in my youth have not grown up with me; I have outgrown them. And I am worried that if i pick up Crime and Punishment now, I will no longer be able to keep it on my favorites shelf because it will let me down in some nostalgia-crushing burst of failed expectations.
    When I spent a semester in Russia, I was subconsciously keeping my eyes open for landscapes or architecture or something I would recognize from books I’d read (I read a lot of Russian Lit in high school for some reason). And it wasn’t until I was in St. Petersburg that everything about it struck a resounding chord all through my cortex. I looked up the place where I’d had the most excruciating moment of identification and it turned out to be the bridge where Raskolnikov contemplates suicide. I was probably wrong, but at that moment I thought there was nothing more I could expect from Crime and Punishment.

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  2. ydde said on 10/04/11 at 9:11 am Reply

    Thanks for the comment, Brian!

    I actually feel a bit similar about the whole thing, even rereading Dostoevsky. I ran through all of his novels and stories over the course of a year way back when but haven’t read any of them since I was maybe twenty, which is, I think, the last time I read Crime and Punishment. Part of it is the fear that it won’t live up and then, like I said above, the fear that it’ll turn my life inside out again. And, I mean, the way it’s grown inside me, I can’t imagine it being easy for it to live up to itself, if that makes sense. Almost like, because it was so significant it’s taken on this grandness and depth that it might not be able to capture in me again. And maybe that’s part of it, too, finding that it can never hit me again the way it hit me that first or second or third time. How, because it’s so deeply inside of me, it can never again do what it did.

    Man, I’ve always wanted to go to Russia. It’s been my number one place since high school when, too, I was deep into Russian literature [still am, really, but not like then]. Even beyond the literature and cinema [which is also spectacular], it’s a place of such interesting and intense history. I don’t know, it’s just somewhere that I need to go and see, but I’ve yet to go. I’ve wander all over Europe and am now bumbling around the far east, but I somehow missed the in between, the place I always meant to go in the first place.

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