Of course, Dostoevsky’s claim to have invented a new literary genre doesn’t solely rest on Crime and Punishment. Although it was published when he was 45, after so many books and setbacks, it marked a breakthrough, not a culmination. Its resemblance to Hamlet resides both in its details (fatherless ex-student, bookish sidekick, philosophy, mumbling, murder) and in its peculiar status, as an extraordinary achievement that also serves as the preparation for a trio of more ambitiously unsettling tragedies.
Various touches point towards Dostoevsky’s later novels: a reflection on the “holy fool” (The Idiot), a dream involving a city-wide disease (The Possessed), a smattering of theodicy (The Brothers Karamazov). It is not an insult to Crime and Punishment but a tribute to its author to say that his most famous book, the face he shows to the world, plays a more servile role within his body of work, something like a hinge, or border – a spin-off that doubles as a gateway drug to more exalted highs.
Leo Robson writes of the importance of Crime and Punishment to its author and the literary world, even those who disliked it. (via Prufrock News)
What makes Dostoevsky’s characters so real? They aren’t just mouthpieces for the author’s voice. Peter Leithart describes it.
Dostoevsky’s polyphonic world is full of free subjects, not objects. We don’t know what they might say or do next, and we suspect that the author doesn’t know either. They speak in their own voices, and Dostoevsky doesn’t drown them out. His voice is only one among many.
But Dostoevsky is also concerned with the suppression and source of true human freedom. “True freedom is love, the capacity to sacrifice one’s Ego for the good of others.” And the only way to sacrifice one’s Ego is to surrender to Christ. (via Prufrock News)
During the year 1866 only Crime and Punishment was being read, only it was being spoken about by fans of literature, who often complained about the stifling power of the novel and the painful impression it left which caused people with strong nerves to risk illness and forced those with weak nerves to give up reading it altogether.
A great novel is 150 years old this year, and readers are talking about it. Prufrock News has collected several links, and the curator, Micah Mattix writes about it for the WSJ. If you don’t have access to the WSJ, here’s a post he wrote on why every Christian should consider reading Dostoevsky’s classic.