A desperate young man plans the perfect crime - the murder of a despicable pawnbroker, an old woman no one loves and no one will mourn. Is it not just, he reasons, for a man of genius to commit such a crime - to transgress moral law - if it will ultimately benefit humanity?
So begins one of the greatest novels ever written: a powerful psychological study, a terrifying murder mystery, and a fascinating detective thriller infused with philosophical, religious, and social commentary.
Raskolnikov, an impoverished student living in a garret in the gloomy slums of St. Petersburg, carries out his grotesque scheme and plunges into a hell of persecution, madness, and terror. Crime and Punishment takes the listener on a journey into the darkest recesses of the criminal and depraved mind and exposes the soul of a man possessed by both good and evil - a man who cannot escape his own conscience.
Public Domain (P)2010 Tantor
I wanted to write a review to say how much I enjoyed Dick Hill's enthusiastic, energetic rendition, even if many of his characters sounded at times like Peter Lorre, which didn't detract. A fascinating novel in so many ways.
"Crime was punishment"
This is one of those novels I always meant to read, but never got around to. I'm pleased I did. One can plainly see what all the hype is about. It is a very ambitious exercise to try to capture the meanderings of a tormented soul. Of course Dostoevsky succeeds in the attempt, as we know. Still, it is no small achievement and it makes the listening difficult because for most of the novel I felt like an eavesdropper and voyeur as a flawed man grappled with his demons. Large amongst these demons is Raskolnikov's pride, his belief in his own moral superiority and his disdain of help. I'm not sure anyone other than a Russian of the era of this tale could have captured the desperation, the fatalism and the climax so fully. Because listening is difficult, it takes some perseverance so that at times I felt as if I was doing the time for Raskolnikov's crime.
As to the plot controversy, of which there is much written, I subscribe to the group that thinks the Epilogue is worthwhile. I can see why some say it is unnecessary, but I guess it depends on whether you want the loose ends tied-up, or not. Of course, be warned, if you skip the Epilogue (particularly its Chapter 2), you will leave with a different view of the book and, I suspect, Dostoevsky's world view.
As to the performance, I can imagine that this was a terrifically difficult book to read aloud. I settled on Dick Hill's version, having started with Anthony Heald's. I found the latter too fast, too frantic and difficult to follow (see my review there which reproduces the above). Hill's version is slower (about 2 and an half hours slower) less frantic and has a nice 5 minute opening setting the scene of Dostoevsky's world before the narration begins. He has a better differentiation in character than Heald (in my opinion) and his narrator is calmer. Also, his pronunciation of the tri-nominal Russian names is more sonorous (not Tolstoy-ish, but this is not Tolstoy).
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