This magnificent novel is about the murder of a miserly, aged pawnbroker and her younger sister by a radical, destitute St. Petersburg student named Raskolnikov, and the emotional, mental, and physical effects that follow. It is a remarkable masterpiece about a man's turbulent inner life and his relationship to others and to society at large. Dostoevsky explored the human condition on many levels in this great piece, and among the main themes the novel explores is the rather strange theory that criminals have a spiritual need to be punished - that indeed they demand it. Today we might think of this as masochism and dismiss Dostoevsky's thesis as the powerful wanderings of a mind steeped in the mysticism of the Eastern Orthodox Church. But this wonderful classic is far more complex.
Raskolnikov the intellectual divides humanity into two types: the meek, submissive mass of mankind and the "Supermen". The Nietzschean Superman can violate any law or principle to attain his beneficial ends. Since Raskolnikov has allied himself with the Superman, he intends to prove his superiority by committing a murder without remorse by eliminating an "undesirable" person.
The novel's central question is whether it is justifiable to commit an atrocity in order to improve humanity. Dostoevsky shows us that a person cannot control and direct his life solely with his reason and intellect, that free will is limited. Listen as one of the finest psychological novels ever written unfolds.
Translated by Constance Garnett.