What can you say in a blog post about experiencing the Vast Human Condition over a three month span? I’ll try.
As I said on Unputdownables, reading Crime and Punishment was exhilarating. Annihilating. I felt full of fear, compassion, hate, love, you name it. I questioned every idea I thought I believed in. Repeatedly. The end of section six was the most INCREDIBLE end of a novel I’ve ever experienced. Even after the epilogue (which I did not like!) you get the sense that nothing is complete.
During the read-a-long, I kept on referring to the book as “grey” — as in not black and white. A prostitute has the most pure morals and motives of the book. One character who seems at first generous and protecting (Luzhin) is actually the worst villain of the book (yes, worse than Svidrigaïlov. Much worse in my opinion). Dostoevsky is talking about higher things than our petty, changing societal norms. Whilst I think he has some definite opinions (love and kindness as the only remedy we have in this world) Dostoevsky is definitely asking more questions than providing answers. After reading this book, I may just have to admit there are no answers, but only questions.
These words of Razumihin get to the heart of it for me. I’ll leave you with them. You may feel just as uncomfortable and unresolved as I feel right now after reading them. I hope they inspire you to read Crime and Punishment.
Human nature is not taken into account, it is excluded, it’s not supposed to exist! They don’t recognise that humanity, developing by a historical living process, will become at last a normal society, but they believe that a social system that has come out of some mathematical brain is going to organise all humanity at once and make it just and sinless in an instant, quicker than any living process! That’s why they instinctively dislike history, ‘nothing but ugliness and stupidity in it,’ and they explain it all as stupidity! That’s why they so dislike the living process of life; they don’t want a living soul! The living soul demands life, the soul won’t obey the rules of mechanics, the soul is an object of suspicion, the soul is retrograde! But what they want though it smells of death and can be made of india-rubber, at least is not alive, has no will, is servile and won’t revolt! And it comes in the end to their reducing everything to the building of walls and the planning of rooms and passages in a phalanstery! The phalanstery is ready, indeed, but your human nature is not ready for the phalanstery—it wants life, it hasn’t completed its vital process, it’s too soon for the graveyard! You can’t skip over nature by logic. Logic presupposes three possibilities, but there are millions!
(how great is this cover for C&P? It really gets to the heart of what the book is about, in my opinion. Cover design by Shelby Blair – entry for the 50 Watts’ Polish Book Cover Contest. You can see more entries here — they’re all so compelling)