Many years ago, when I was in my early 20s, I shared a flat with someone who had a copy of “Crime and Punishment” by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. When I started reading it, I found it easy to identify with the feelings of isolation and alienation of the (anti-)hero, the impoverished student Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov.
Raskolnikov thinks himself intelligent enough to be above the law, and do justice his own way. However, he then goes and murders someone. The victim is innocent, but the reader is not invited to find her likable. This was a brilliant move by Dostoevsky, because it forces the reader to examine himself. Do we not all sometimes harbour feelings of superiority? The rest of the book is all about Raskolnikov’s attempts to deal with the fact that he has killed someone.
The lesson the book taught me was to “consider the possibility that I might be wrong”. It taught me some humility. For that, I am deeply grateful to Dostoevsky.Continue reading