“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

On Prestuplenie And Punishment

I’m treating myself to a read of Dostoevsky’s CRIME AND PUNISHMENT in a Wordsworth Classics edition at the moment, and came across the following at the end of the Introduction:
The Russian word for ‘crime’ in the title of the novel and elsewhere is prestuplenie from pre (across) and stuplenie (a stepping) – i.e. similar to the etymology of the English ‘trans-gression’. This sense of ‘stepping across’ a barrier or a moral code is missing from the word ‘crime’.
  Maybe it’s just me, although I very much doubt it, but I always assumed that the crime in any given crime novel – murder, kidnap, blackmail, etc. – is at least as important in terms of its differentiating the lawful from the unlawful (the ‘awful’?) as it is in kick-starting the story. A crime can be any specific act that is illegal or unlawful; but the act of committing a crime is always an act of transgression.

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