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aleph_0
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First of all, I recently finished Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. If anybody is looking for a fun read that has a lot of philosophical innuendos, definitely re-read them. Boy are they great books!

Anyway, I'm not working on Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and wondering: What's with all the hoopla? It's an interesting exercise to read this book and constantly maintain in your mind the context that Raskolnikov--no matter how Dostoe may make it seem like you're there with him and on his side--is a horrible human being. But the writing style is terribly dry, unsatisfying, and uninteresting; the characterization is strong in some ways but weak in most; the plot is, so far, fairly unappealing (though I should really reserve this judgment until finishing the book); the same goes for the theme, though I can't help but think it's quite ugly and wrong.

So why did Ayn think so much of his writing?

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I'm (not?) working on Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and wondering: What's with all the hoopla?

Why did Ayn think so much of his writing?

IMO Crime and Punishment isn't Dostoevsky's best. I much prefer The Idiot, The Possessed/Demons, The Brothers Karamazov. If you haven't read any other Dostoevsky, I'd suggest starting with one of those instead. Heck, The Idiot's Rogozhin is more interesting than Raskolnikov anyway <_< That said...

The writing style is terribly dry, unsatisfying, and uninteresting; the characterization is strong in some ways but weak in most; the plot is, so far, fairly unappealing; the same goes for the theme, though I can't help but think it's quite ugly and wrong.
C & P doesn't have (IMO) the complexity of plot/theme/characters as some of the other Dostoevsky books. As far as finding his writing style "terribly dry?" Could be a bad translation (though I doubt it.) You might just have different tastes.
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I remember finding Crime and Punishment's plot to be VERY entertaining and the book to be excellent (if a bit depressing). The inner turmoil that Raskolnikov experiences and the attack on Utilitarianism I thought were brillinat. It's possible that you got a bad translation that takes away significantly from the story.

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But the writing style is terribly dry, unsatisfying, and uninteresting; the characterization is strong in some ways but weak in most; the plot is, so far, fairly unappealing (though I should really reserve this judgment until finishing the book); the same goes for the theme, though I can't help but think it's quite ugly and wrong.

So why did Ayn think so much of his writing?

Hm.. I'm not sure why someone would think of it as dry, unsatisfying, or uninteresting, but all three I really don't know. I mean, there are no opium smoking caterpillars, but.. Maybe you'd like his Notes from Underground. That was a huge influence on later philosophy (existentialism), and probably a better portrait of moral depravity than Crime and Punishment, but almost everything he wrote is a classic, IMO. He wrote romantic stories about ideas and people who exercise their free will. He, Hugo, and Ayn Rand are my three favorites. But I enjoyed Alice in Wonderland, too (although I was an adolescent when I read it-- I'd probably get a lot more out of it now).. I haven't read Through the Looking Glass yet; which one's better?

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IMO Crime and Punishment isn't Dostoevsky's best. I much prefer The Idiot, The Possessed/Demons, The Brothers Karamazov. If you haven't read any other Dostoevsky, I'd suggest starting with one of those instead. Heck, The Idiot's Rogozhin is more interesting than Raskolnikov anyway :) That said...

C & P doesn't have (IMO) the complexity of plot/theme/characters as some of the other Dostoevsky books. As far as finding his writing style "terribly dry?" Could be a bad translation (though I doubt it.) You might just have different tastes.

Oops, yeah, I meant "now" rather than "not". Anyway, my old history profe recommended The Bros over C&P, but my girlfriend recommended C&P and she's a very wise author and poet, so I went with that one. To be honest, I think I may simply not have a taste for Russian lit all together and it will probably be some time before I venture back into it.

I have considered that I have a bad translation. Considering my lack of funds, I went with a cheap hand-me-down edition. But since I'm so thoroughly uninterested in the story, I just don't have the will to go to the library and compare other translations. I really couldn't care, now about 2/3 through the book, whether Rask lives, dies, gets caught, turns himself in, jumps off a bridge, or marries his sister (the only thoroughly interesting and appealing character in the story, and sitting far too much on the side-lines).

I remember finding Crime and Punishment's plot to be VERY entertaining and the book to be excellent (if a bit depressing). The inner turmoil that Raskolnikov experiences and the attack on Utilitarianism I thought were brillinat. It's possible that you got a bad translation that takes away significantly from the story.

Everybody talks about the psychology of the story, but I'm really not impressed by it. So he has these inward contradictions and emotions that rattle him, he has a desire to be punished, he feels he has forever destroyed the act of communication with the outside world but now must play an unending game of manipulation... Yawn.

Hm.. I'm not sure why someone would think of it as dry, unsatisfying, or uninteresting, but all three I really don't know. I mean, there are no opium smoking caterpillars, but..

Now if C&P had that, I'd pass it around like pamphlets from a born-again Christian. Throw in a creepy id-like magical cat and I'm in heaven.

There's just no painting of the story. Everything is the visual equivalent of stick-figures, except Dounia and to a lesser degree, Razumihin. It does have the richness of Rand's illustrations, or Bradbury's enchantments. It's just, "And he wore rags, and a stained hat, and he walked the street, and he passed out, and he woke and followed a man with a cane and..." and I'm thinking, either get to the point or take me on an exploration; but don't just hand me a list of instructions about where the story is going, like they're cooking ingredients.

But I enjoyed Alice in Wonderland, too (although I was an adolescent when I read it-- I'd probably get a lot more out of it now).. I haven't read Through the Looking Glass yet; which one's better?

Which is better? Might as well ask which of my future children I'd like to shoot dead. They're both simply inspiring and thought-provoking, and wonderful illustrations of so many different concepts. Alice is the more natural and immediately captivating story, but about mid-way through TTLG it is easily on-par with Alice. There is SO much philosophy and logic in those books. Did you know Carroll was a mathematician and logician? I have long been looking for the perfect example of an improperly formed analogy so that I could clearly explain what makes an analogy appropriate and what makes one inappropriate. I found it, I think, in TTLG. I have it in my notes somewhere. I read both in a day. I would highly recommend reading them again if you have the interest.

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But since I'm so thoroughly uninterested in the story, I just don't have the will to go to the library and compare other translations.

There are probably a few translations on the net, since it's in public domain. I don't remember what translation i had though, because my book ended up getting torn to shreds in the wind (because I'd always read it in the car, when my friends' car didn't have air conditioning, and we'd always have the windows down).

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To be honest, I think I may simply not have a taste for Russian lit all together and it will probably be some time before I venture back into it.
Hyperbole perhaps, but if you don't have a taste for Russian lit, you don't have a taste for any good literature. Classic Russian literature, pound for pound, stands up with any other subgroup of literature. Gogol, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Nabokov, Tolstoy, Lermontov? Heck, I'd learn Russian just to be able to read Pushkin :) And don't forget to include the expatriate Rand's contributions!

Everybody talks about the psychology of [C&P], but I'm really not impressed by it.
I'd second that. I like reading about badass criminals (Empress Livia from I, Claudius, or Toohey). I like reading about well-intentioned people who become criminals through mistaken principles (Willie Stark in All the King's Men, or Wynand). I even like psycho criminals and farcical criminals.

What I hate are criminals who regret their crime simply because they're being ensnared by the police or some inborn sense of right and wrong, and psychologies that hold that to be of significance. The Raskol embodies both of these.

There's just no painting of the story. Everything is the visual equivalent of stick-figures... It does [not]have the richness of Rand's illustrations.
Really?? Would you say the illustrations of Anthem are richer than those of C&P? Or that Anthem is filled with "stick-figures"?

Toss that copy of C&P for now. Read the first three or four chapters of The Idiot. If that doesn't convince you that Dostoevsky is just as illustrative as Rand, nothing will save you :D

I mean, there are no opium smoking caterpillars, but..
Now THAT makes for some good readin'!
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Hyperbole perhaps, but if you don't have a taste for Russian lit, you don't have a taste for any good literature. Classic Russian literature, pound for pound, stands up with any other subgroup of literature. Gogol, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Nabokov, Tolstoy, Lermontov? Heck, I'd learn Russian just to be able to read Pushkin And don't forget to include the expatriate Rand's contributions!

...

Really?? Would you say the illustrations of Anthem are richer than those of C&P? Or that Anthem is filled with "stick-figures"?

Toss that copy of C&P for now. Read the first three or four chapters of The Idiot. If that doesn't convince you that Dostoevsky is just as illustrative as Rand, nothing will save you

Ehhh... let's leave Russian lit to polite disagreement (if I am to judge it by C&P).

I personally don't care for Anthem so much. When I think of the quintessential Rand writing I think of Atlas and The Fountainhead.

And there's no way I'm starting more Russian lit any time soon. Right now I've got some Vonnegut and Nietzsche to read. After that, hopefully, I'll be in grad school and have other reading assignments. If I venture back into Russian lit ever, I think it will be Nabokov, since that's something my girlfriend also recommends.

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Ehhh... let's leave Russian lit to polite disagreement (if I am to judge it by C&P).

I personally don't care for Anthem so much. When I think of the quintessential Rand writing I think of Atlas and The Fountainhead.

I didn't mean to sound impolite. My point was that, just as you wouldn't judge Rand solely by Anthem, you shouldn't judge Russian literature by C&P alone.

If I venture back into Russian lit ever, I think it will be Nabokov, since that's something my girlfriend also recommends.
The same girlfriend who recommended that other terribly dry, unsatisfying, uninteresting book? :)

All's I'm saying is: don't dismiss Russian lit if you're ignoring the hoopla (by the professor and everyone here) for Dostoevsky's better works. It'd be like evaluating Rand's literature on Anthem and The Night of January 16th.

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I didn't mean to sound impolite. My point was that, just as you wouldn't judge Rand solely by Anthem, you shouldn't judge Russian literature by C&P alone.

The same girlfriend who recommended that other terribly dry, unsatisfying, uninteresting book? :)

All's I'm saying is: don't dismiss Russian lit if you're ignoring the hoopla (by the professor and everyone here) for Dostoevsky's better works. It'd be like evaluating Rand's literature on Anthem and The Night of January 16th.

No doubt, I took no offense. And quite right, it's not just to make a conclusive judgment on Russian lit by C&P alone. But there does seem to be a quality of writing that I don't see in any other literature, America, ancient, Latin, or otherwise, that seems to be distinctly Russian, and that's what I'm basing my judgment on. Maybe that's just Dostoe's style and is not exactly Russian, and maybe it's just C&P and this book is not properly representative of any other Russian lit. I keep my mind open, but I'm still skeptical.

And yeah, it's the same girlfriend that recommended C&P. But it's also the same girlfriend that loves Atlas and The Fountainhead, and Hugo. But she also likes Hemmingway, *vomits a little in my mouth*... Whatever. If she tells me to read Nabokov, sooner or later I'm going to read Nabokov. She's a sharp one--if she recommends it, there's probably something to it. (Aleph --> :thumbsup: )

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i terribly enjoyed crime and punishment. the suspense going on within raskolnikov and the confusing shift between his mind and reality was quite interesting and quite absorbing i'd say. although i won't say that he's a good person, raskolnikov and crime and punishment as a whole is an essential twist in the development of "the brothers Karamazov", which is an even better novel. ^^

read the history of Dostoe and i think you'd come to like crime and punishment. ^^

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PS i'd also like the say that there's no other style like the russian one. it's powerful, quite reflects the humor of siberia.absorbing and makes one wants to just get the reading done, see what happened. russian lit is real to the point of sheer austerity!!! i think it created, by itself a new form of tone or atmosphere in literature.

i enjoyed Chekov, Tolstoy, dostoe, rand. they're powerful writers with a unique, semi-mathematical culture embedded in there tone in writing.

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But she also likes Hemmingway, *vomits a little in my mouth*... Whatever.

Oh, hm.. I haven't read tons of Hemmingway, and what I read isn't totally profound or anything, but I don't know if he deserves a vomit, either. He's nowhere near the level of Dostoevsky or even Lewis Carol, but there is an eloquence to his style. He's got that stark machismo thing going for him (I think he got that from Nietzsche). Now, if she likes Jack Kerouac or Charles Bukowski or something, then you might vomit a little (if you're like me). James Joice or Gertrude Stein are grounds for a breakup. : )

I'll tell you who gets me.. Anais Nin. Girls tend to like her, I notice. Everything I've read by her.. Well, it doesn't make me vomit, but it's kind of scary! Lots of violent imagery. What's the appeal? I dunno... (seems kinda trashy to me)...

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  • 1 year later...
First of all, I recently finished Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. If anybody is looking for a fun read that has a lot of philosophical innuendos, definitely re-read them. Boy are they great books!

Anyway, I'm not working on Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and wondering: What's with all the hoopla? It's an interesting exercise to read this book and constantly maintain in your mind the context that Raskolnikov--no matter how Dostoe may make it seem like you're there with him and on his side--is a horrible human being. But the writing style is terribly dry, unsatisfying, and uninteresting; the characterization is strong in some ways but weak in most; the plot is, so far, fairly unappealing (though I should really reserve this judgment until finishing the book); the same goes for the theme, though I can't help but think it's quite ugly and wrong.

So why did Ayn think so much of his writing?

I remember it is as being extremely gripping -- but then I have a conscious. I imagine sociopaths would get NOTHING from the book! haha It was quite suspenseful (will he get caught or won't he?!?) and the air loomed with murder, the guilt hung in every word. Masterfully written, though a god-awful subject and as far removed from an aesthetically pleasing sensibility as you could get. I didn't like the ending at all, though I'm sure some would find it hopeful in a way.

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The only fiction that I have read, apart from whilest at school, are those written by Ayn Rand. I found The Fountainhead most enjoyable.

So what are the recommendations to read considering I don't usually read fiction? also, considering some people have issues with translations, when recommending books please state the best translation as I may go out and buy them :lol:. Oh and state them in order if that is required, in the sense of difficulty...least difficult first please :)

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  • 1 year later...

I see C&P as an exploration of the disease of rationalizing and the way it can torment and nearly destroy a man's soul. It simply cannot be understood by a reader who has never himself engaged in serious rationalizing, and is thus not for everyone. I am shocked that the novel is sometimes assigned as high school reading, as the average teenager will not have the psychological maturity or self-awareness required to mine its depths.

I'm exaggerating a little for effect here, of course. Reading this book--suffering through the nauseating and initially inexplicable contradictions of Raskolnikov's inner monologues--is quite an ordeal, and nothing I would wish to inflict on those not ready (or not needing) to walk the fine, tense line of the protagonist's pathology.

But the ending--the beautiful ending--makes it all worthwhile. "Life had taken the place of dialectics, and something else had to work itself out in his mind..." The dark clouds yield to rays of sunshine illuminating fertile ground for psychological healing, in the original sense of the word.

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