Crime and Punishment read-a-long end of week one


The Crime and Punishment read-a-long is hosted by Wallace over at Unputdownables. In week one we read from the beginning to part 1, chapter 5. The official discussion post for this section is over here. However, I thought I’d expand on my own thoughts so far.

I’m finding it a slog. Already. I’m not sure if this is the grim subject matter (it’s super depressing) or the translation. I am reading a Penguin Popular Classics edition from 1997. The translator is not acknowledged at all, which is very poor. And a bit of searching on the Internet suggests it is not a respected edition. I may have to borrow a different translation from the library.

But back to the book itself. In this short section we meet Rodion Raskolnikov, who was a law student until he dropped out due to money troubles. We find him in a depressed state, not at all in his right mind, barely getting anything to eat and seriously contemplating committing some terrible crime that he thinks will solve all his troubles.

So far I am heavily reminded of Knut Hamsun’s Hunger, inasmuch as the setting is bleak and impoverished but the main character has clearly known a better life and perhaps that’s even why he isn’t dealing very well with poverty. He gives away money in random acts of kindness but then immediately regrets it. And of course the longer he goes without eating a proper meal, the crazier his state of mind becomes.

But Hunger I found compelling and so far I am not compelled by this. I don’t find Raskolnikov sympathetic. Sure he’s upset by seeing women reduced to terrible circumstances by bad or useless men, but he doesn’t even say as much out loud, let alone do anything to help. He has resolved not to let his sister accept a marriage offer, on the grounds that not only is neither party in love, but they don’t even like each other and the suitor has a worrying idea that rescuing a woman from poverty will make her indebted to him for life. However, said husband would indeed be able to save Raskolnikov’s mother and sister from poverty, not to mention give Raskolnikov himself a good job. Either he hasn’t heard of the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers” or he hasn’t figured out that he’s a beggar.

This is such a revered classic I am determined to keep going but I will have to see what the library has to offer in terms of different translations. It’s such a shame if that is my problem here.