Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Fyodor Dostoyevsky is one of the most influential authors the world has ever known.  Few novels have reached the lasting popularity of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Crime and Punishment isn’t popular because it is near-impossible to read – it is popular because it instantly pulls the readers into the dark, sweaty, and paranoid vision of its world and then possesses its audience till the last sentence.
When Dostoyevsky began work on the book his circumstances were dire. After the author had gambled away his assets he was unable to pay bills and eat decently. The despair of his situation found its way into the novel and an actual double murder that he read about helped shape this suspenseful, idea driven novel.
But he was not met by much enthusiasm when he tried to sell his story. Eventually the author managed to find a publisher – a magazine, owned by his sworn enemy – and then work began on not one but two novels: Crime and Punishment and The Gambler. It was an enormous challenge, and if Dostoyevsky was on fire the heat is felt in Crime and Punishment when Rodian Raskolnikov feverishly stumbles through the streets of St. Petersburg, haunted by his deeds and – eventually, on some level – his longing for redemption.
For the former student Raskolnikov has killed a pawnbroker and her half-sister, and he thinks that the crime won’t matter in the great scheme of things if he uses the money to do good. But Raskolnikov’s true motivation is ideological – he simply believes that some humans stand above the established moral principles of society, and that anything is allowed if it’s in pursuit of a higher purpose.
But to think and to do are two different things, and the blood Raskolnikov has shed begins to haunt him. However, Raskolnikov is not troubled by the crime per se; no, instead he’s troubled by the fact that he is troubled by it – that he turns out to be an ordinary man and not a man who can ignore society’s moral code. Roughly 17 years later, Friedrich Nietzsche would find a name for the kind of man Raskolnikov wanted to be: der Übermensch – the Superman.
And as Raskolnikov’s world view crumbles, he begins to long for punishment, not noticing that he’s in the midst of it.
Then something unexpected happens, and her name is Sonya, a young woman with deep literary roots. Her story goes all the way back to Rahab of the book of Joshua, a woman who makes it possible for the tribe of Israel to enter the Promised Land. Much like Rahab, Sonya shows the path to a new kind of life.

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