Monday, June 25, 2012

Crime and Punishment--It's Really Not That Hard!

Doesn't some Dostoevsky sound good right about now?

There's some sort of universal law that states that when summer comes around, people's standards should disappear.  It's summertime!  Time to fill up for a 32-ounce soda, catch a superhero movie, or read something trashy that we've been saving up for.

But why?  Whose idea was this?  Summers are not for wasting, comrades!  Last year, I tackled Infinite Jest, which I wrote about in my "Summer of Jest" posts, and which was a reading experience that I will never forget.  This year, I'm reading Crime and Punishment.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did not choose to read this strictly out of my own magnanimity.   I will be teaching AP literature at my new school, and AP students there have traditionally read C and P as their summer reading assignment.  (Yeah!  I know!  I thought the same thing.)  Clearly, I had to get on the ball and start re-reading it myself.

And you know what I've found?  C and P is an entirely readable book.  If you have any interest in serious literature, you should heavily consider taking on this novel.  At the heart of the story is a fascinating crime and a protagonist who is struggling with a weighty philosophical dilemma.  It takes a lot of concentration to keep those pages moving, but all the while you are conscious that you are in the middle of a serious, character-building endeavor.  And it's worth it.

The biggest obstacle to understand what is happening in C and P is understanding the Russian names.  Each character has multiple names, and these names change depending on who is speaking to whom, and the relationships among the characters in the room.  For instance, one of the characters (and there are a lot of them) is named Sofya Semyonovna Marmeladov, and most characters call her Sofya Semyonovna every time they refer to her.  Family members, however, call her Sonia.  If you aren't aware of the names and rules of conversation, you can get lost quickly.

I am reading Constance Garnett's translation, which weighs in at 505 pages.  My initial plan was to read 50 pages a day and finish it in ten days, but then we got a new dose of Memphis storms and  a tree fell in my yard and I lost an entire week of reading.  I've pared that down to a goal of 30 pages a day, and it has proven to be a manageable goal.

I'll have lots more to say about the novel when I am done reading; until then, До свидания.

1 comment:

  1. I read this book a couple of years ago and loved it. Once I got in to it, it was hard to put down. As a bonus, several sections of it are very funny, too. That's what really surprised me.

    But, I'll admit, I'm reading a lot of mystery thrillers this summer. I may do some more serious reading here and there, but certainly no YA books until school starts but up in August. Just adult books.