BOOK 145: CRIME AND PUNISHMENT: FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY
It was first published in the literary journal The Russian Messenger in twelve monthly installments during 1866. It was later published in a single volume. It is the second of Dostoyevsky's full-length novels following his return from 10 years of exile in Siberia. Crime and Punishment is considered the first great novel of his "mature" period of writing.
Dostoyevsky conceived the idea of Crime and Punishment in the summer of 1865. At the time the author owed large sums of money to creditors, and was trying to help the family of his brother Mikhail, who had died in early 1864. Projected under the title The Drunkards, it was to deal "with the present question of drunkness ... [in] all its ramifications, especially the picture of a family and the bringing up of children in these circumstances, etc., etc." Once Dostoyevsky conceived Raskolnikov and his crime, now inspired by the case of Pierre François Lacenaire, this theme became ancillary, centering on the story of the Marmeladov family.
Despite its title, the novel does not so much deal with the crime and its formal punishment, as with Raskolnikov's internal struggle (the book shows that his punishment results more from his conscience than from the law). Believing society would be better for it, Raskolnikov commits murder with the idea that he possessed enough intellectual and emotional fortitude to deal with the ramifications, [based on his paper/thesis, "On Crime", that he is a Napoleon], but his sense of guilt soon overwhelms him to the point of psychological and somatic illness. It is only in the epilogue that he realizes his formal punishment, having decided to confess and end his alienation from society.
TRIVIA: When Crime and Punishment came up in an interview, Alfred Hitchcock told French director Francois Truffaut that he would never consider filming it. Hitchcock explained that he could make a great film out of a good book, and even (or especially) a mediocre book, but never a great book, because the film would always suffer by comparison.