Sunday, September 2, 2007

Crime and Punishment (Dostoyevsky)

Crime and Punishment (Russian: Преступление и наказание) is a novel by Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky, first published in the literary journal The Russian Messenger in twelve monthly installments in 1866, and was later published as a novel.

Crime and Punishment focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, an impoverished St. Petersburg student who formulates and executes a plan to kill a hated, unscrupulous pawnbroker for her money, thereby solving his financial problems and at the same time, he argues, ridding the world of evil. Written at fever-heat, Crime and Punishment is considered by many as the first of Dostoyevsky's cycle of great novels, which would culminate with his last completed work, The Brothers Karamazov, shortly before his death.

The novel portrays the murder of a miserly, aged pawnbroker and her younger sister by a destitute Saint Petersburg student named Raskolnikov, and the emotional, mental, and physical effects that follow.

After falling ill with fever and lying bedridden for days, Raskolnikov is overcome with paranoia and begins to imagine that everyone he meets suspects him of the murder; the knowledge of his crime eventually compromises his sanity. However, he falls in love with the prostitute Sonya along the way. This relationship can be interpreted as an allegory of God's love for fallen humanity—and the redemptive power of that love—but only after Raskolnikov has confessed to the murder and been sent to imprisonment in Siberia.

Apart from Raskolnikov's fate, the novel, with its long and diverse list of characters, deals with themes including charity, family life, atheism, alcoholism, and revolutionary activity, with Dostoyevsky highly critical of contemporary Russian society. Although Dostoyevsky rejected socialism, the novel also appears to be critical of the capitalism that was making its way into Russian society at that time.

Raskolnikov believed that he was a "super-human," that he could justifiably perform what society considered a despicable act—the killing of the pawn broker—if it led to his being able to do more good through the act. Throughout the book there are examples: he mentions Napoleon many times, thinking that for all the blood he spilled, he was not morally culpable, as he was "above" the conventions of society. Raskolnikov believed that he could transcend this moral boundary by killing the money lender, gaining her money, and using it to do good. He argued that had Isaac Newton or Johannes Kepler had to kill one or even a hundred men in order to enlighten humanity with their laws and ideas, it would be worth it. Thus he is thrown into a moral existential confusion over the death of the pawnbroker's sister. Never at any time in the novel is he repentant over the death of the pawnbroker.

Raskolnikov's real punishment is not the labour camp he is condemned to, but the torment he endures throughout the novel. This torment manifests itself in the aforementioned paranoia, as well as his progressive realization that he was not justified in his actions and he could not cope with what he had done. It is the resolution of the inner battle within himself - between his inhuman philosophy and his distinctly human character - that allows his redemption.

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Adaptations of the novel
There have been dozens of film adaptations of te Dostoyevsky's classic novel. Some of the best-known are:
* Crime and Punishment (1935, starring Peter Lorre, Edward Arnold and Marian Marsh).
* Crime et Châtiment (1956, France directed by Georges Lampin, starring Lino Ventura and Jean Gabin)
* Eigoban Tsumi to Batsu (1953, manga by Tezuka Osamu, under his interpretation)
* Преступление и наказание (USSR, 1969, starring Georgi Taratorkin, Tatyana Bedova, Victoria Fyodorova)
* Crime and Punishment (1979, television serial starring Timothy West, Vanessa Redgrave and John Hurt)
* Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment (1998, a TV movie starring Patrick Dempsey, Ben Kingsley and Julie Delpy)
* Crime and Punishment in Suburbia (2000, an adaptation set in modern America and "loosely based" on the novel)
* Crime and Punishment (2002, starring Crispin Glover, John Hurt, Vanessa Redgrave and Margot Kidder).
* Crime and Punishment another television serial (2002, starring John Simm)
* Robert Bresson's Pickpocket is a loose adaptation of the novel which substitutes murder with the crime of pickpocketing.
* Aki Kaurismäki's Rikos ja Rangaistus (1983; Crime and Punishment), the acclaimed debut film of the Finnish director with Markku Toikka in the lead role; the story is set in modern-day Helsinki and this hard-boiled version is convincingly close to the spirit of the original).

The adaptation in 1935 (a clip from this version is above) was directed by Josef von Sternberg. According to the Leonard Maltin this adaptation is "Fascinating Hollywoodization of Dostoyevsky's novel about man haunted by murder the committed. Low budget but full of inventive ideas by von Sternberg."


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