And that’s why reading Dostoyevsky is like skydiving with Walter White!
Some books need a run up. You know the ones I mean; the black-spined tomes of densely-packed miniscule text, heavy of weight and of theme. When I look at my monochrome bookshelves there are rows and rows of hard-hitters up there – Tolstoy, Balzac, Zola, Dickens, Hugo – all waiting for me to take a deep breath and dive in. As Lucy has already tackled Tolstoy, I thought I’d try some Dostoyevsky.
‘Crime and Punishment’ may be a heavy tome in both senses of the word, but boy, is it gripping! The novel follows the story of Raskolnikov, a young man who has been forced to give up his studies due to dire impoverishment. In desperation, he brutally murders an elderly money-lender and her sister.
What is most shocking is that you see through the eyes of Raskolnikov. I was with him at every step – I felt each heartbeat, and every bead of sweat that ran down his brow, but without having to take responsibility for the crime. It was like tandem sky-diving but getting a bird’s eye view of the bloody violence of a homocidal sociopath instead of picturesque views over the South Downs, and thankfully, there were no bones broken on landing, either.
The murder scene and subsequent escape was tense and horrifically thrilling. I did find it disconcerting, because I didn’t want Raskolnikov to get caught, yet here was a man who had brutally murdered not once, but twice.
It reminded me of the conflict of emotion I’d felt while watching the TV series ‘Breaking Bad’. Like many people, I found myself rooting for Walter White, and I desperately didn’t want him to get caught – at least initially – despite the negative impact of his spiralling criminal behaviour on both those around him and on society in general.
Dostoyevsky uses Raskolnikov’s crimes and their aftermath to explore at length morality, conscience, equality, honesty and punishment. It’s an undeniably disturbing and thought-provoking novel, but it’s utterly thrilling all the same.