I just finished reading Crime and Punishment. There is simply not enough good that can be said about Dostoyevsky. For any of you who would like to read this book and savour the anticipation please don't read on, it may well spoil it for you.
The book revolves around Raskolinkov, a young intellectual who has discontinued schooling for lack of funds. The story tracks his struggle with the consequences of murdering an old woman who was a money-lender (and subsequently her daughter who comes in during the act). The murder is committed to raise support for further endeavours. His idea is that many “great” men in history have conquered others to further their cause, and surely the murder of an insignificant pawn-broker would pale in comparison to such acts as that of a Napoleon.
A significant movement in this book is how Raskolnikov deals with the reality of his “idea”. The following events torment him mentally and physically, not because of the “guilt” of what he has done but because of the arbitrariness of how the world interprets all our actions. They condemn him only because he did not succeed in his plan.
Into his life comes Sonia. This is someone who understands the world’s judgment and commits herself to Raskolnikov. The book culminates in repentance. However, nowhere does Dostoyevsky indicate that Raskolnikov repents of his murder. Rather, he understands that he has not loved and now he does love. Sonia has loved him, and while he sensed it earlier only now does he himself love. He is re-born into love. And so in one of the concluding paragraphs,
“And what did all, all the torments of the past amount to now? Everything, even his crime, even his sentence and punishment appeared to him now, in the first transport of feeling, a strange extraneous event that did not seem even to have happened to him. But he could not think long and continuously that evening or concentrate on anything. Besides, now he would hardly have been able to solve any of his problems consciously; he could only feel. Life had taken the place of dialectics, and something quite different had to work itself out in his mind.”
In many ways this reminds me of the pleas of Kierkegaard who says that there is an aspect of engaging life irreducible to conceptual analysis.