I just finished my first audiobook and chose Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The problem is, the novel can be difficult to follow because the characters are called by several different names, depending on who is speaking. This specificity is directly related to the Russian language and culture and is still valid today. I made a Crime and Punishment Character map and I found a map of locations in St Petersburg to better understand the novel.
This is my first novel by a Russian author. I knew it by name but didn’t know anything about the story. I was hooked from the beginning. This is one of my favorite books, with the Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.
Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, is available as an audiobook on Audible (the 1st month is free, so the first book is free), as an eBook on Kindle ($ 4.99), or as a paper edition on Amazon ($ 11.89) or in bookstores. There are also PDF versions which can be found through Google (I’m not sure if they are legal, so I prefer not to link). I listened to it as an audiobook on Audible for free and it was great. The reader’s voice is very pleasant.
To more easily understand the novel and delve deeply into the story, I have prepared:
- an explanation of names in Russian
- my map of the names of the characters, with their relations
- a map of the locations in St. Petersburg
- the problem
Names in Russia
Each country or culture handles names in a different way.
In France, we all have a surname and a first name. You can have more than one first name, but it’s completely optional. The surname is inherited from his parents, there is no real choice. You can also have a custom name.
In Mexico (and in the Spanish-speaking world), each person has a first name, a patronymic surname (the father’s surname) and a matronymic surname (the mother’s surname).
In Russia, it’s different. Each person has a first name, a patronymic and a surname which also bears the gender (male / female). For example, Dostoevsky names the main character of Crime and Punishment and his sister:
- Rodion (First name) Romanovich (Patronymic name: son of Roman) Raskolnikov (last name)
- Avdotya (First name) Romanovna (Patronymic name: daughter of Roman) Raskolnikova (last name)
In addition, there are diminutives. They are probably obvious to a Russian, but they don’t make sense to me. Sometimes we can even have a diminutive of the diminutive. In Crime and Punishment, we will have:
- Rodion which becomes Rodia which becomes Rodka
- Avdotya, which becomes Dunya which becomes Dunechka
Not everyone uses just any name. The diminutive is used by a close person. The second diminutive, by a very very close person.
Conversely, to show respect or distance, we are not going to say “Sir”, but we are going to use the first and last name, ie Rodion Romanovich.
In Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky also uses the surname, but it is more associated with a thought, a reflection of another character. For example, Rodion will use Loujin when he is thinking about himself. But when he’s talking to someone, he’ll use Pyotr Petrovich instead.
To go further on how names work, there is a Wikipedia page on this topic.
Crime and Punishment Character Map
Crime and Punishment map in St Petersburg
I didn’t make it, I found it. If you plan to visit St Petersburg, you can find activities related to Dostoevsky’s novel and life.