As I approach the final stretch of my BBC Top 100 challenge; as the final ten draws ever closer, inevitably, the choice of what to read next is limited. The bulk of what is left are books that I’ve yet found the inclination to read; Catch 22, Ulysees, The Magus – but in amongst them are a few that I simply haven’t yet got around to – Crime and Punishment being one of them.
While I enjoyed the two other Russian entires on the list – Anna Karenina and War & Peace – there where times at which I found them both something of a hard slog; the characters were plentiful; the text quite heavy, the plot often complicated in parts. Thus it was that when it came to reading one of Dostoyevsky’s most beloved works, I approached it with slight trepidation.
Almost immediately, however, any such concerns were abated. First published in The Literary Journal 1866, it is said that Dostoyevsky conceived the idea of Crime and Punishment the previous summer, having gambled away much of his fortune, unable to pay his bills or afford proper meals. He then penned the tale of impoverished student Raskolnikov living in St Petersburg, the murder he commits and the consequential suffering – both of Raskolnikov and those around him – that follows. With nothing less than literary prowess, Dostoyevsky goes on to weave together an engaging blend of intrigue, moral and social commentary as he explores the idea of redemption through suffering. The cast of characters is intricate yet perfectly formed, as their lives interplay through a tangle of plotlines and moral dilemmas.
Crime and Punishment is story-telling at its finest, and without question one of the best books I have ever, ever read. Nothing short of a masterpiece; reading books like this are the very reason I began my BBC Big Read challenge, and will leave me forever thankful that I did.