A Curse on Dostoevsky by Atiq RahimiReading Dostoevsky in Afghanistan becomes “crime without punishment”
Rassoul remembers reading Crime and Punishment as a student of Russian literature in Leningrad, so when, with axe in hand, he kills the wealthy old lady who prostitutes his beloved Sophia, he thinks twice before taking her money or killing the woman whose voice he hears from another room. He wishes only to expiate his crime and be rightfully punished. Out of principle, he gives himself up to the police. But his country, after years of civil war, has fallen into chaos. In Kabul there is only violence, absurdity, and deafness, and Rassoul’s desperate attempt to be heard turns into a farce.
This is a novel that not only flirts with literature but also ponders the roles of sin, guilt, and redemption in the Muslim world. At once a nostalgic ode to the magic of Persian tales and a satire on the dire reality of now, A Curse on Dostoevsky also portrays the resilience and wit of Afghani women, an aspect of his culture that Rahimi never forgets.
A s its title suggests, A Curse on Dostoevsky puts itself in conversation with the great Russian writer, and specifically with Crime and Punishment. Instead of St Petersburg, the action unfolds in Kabul. Atiq Rahimi was born in Kabul, but divides his time between France and Afghanistan. Raskolnikov becomes Rassoul, while in place of Sonia we have Rassoul's fiancee Sophia. The work of the detective Porfiry is carried out by several commanders and militiamen. The text justifies its relationship with Dostoevsky's novel thus: "This book is best read in Afghanistan, a land previously steeped in mysticism, where people have lost their sense of responsibility. Dostoevsky claimed that if God didn't exist, everything would be permitted.
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For every crime, there must be a punishment…. Amid the war-torn streets, Rassoul searches for the meaning of his crime. Instead he is pulled into a feverish plot thick with murder, guilt, morality and Sharia law, where the lines between fact and fiction, dream and reality, become dangerously blurred. For more information and how to buy this book, please see this link. His mother was a teacher, and his father was a provincial governor under the monarchy of Zahir Shah.
Violence in Afghanistan has provided material for dark fables Jamil Ahmad , gory epics Nadeem Aslam and sentimental blockbusters Khaled Hosseini. In this slim puzzle of a novel the French-Afghan writer Atiq Rahimi takes a more unusual approach, recasting Crime and Punishment in Kabul during the civil war that followed Soviet withdrawal and preceded the rise of the Taliban. The frantic opening leaves you dazed. When Rassoul turns himself in, his confession barely raises an eyebrow, which gives him cause to reframe the murder — if it was a murder — as a perverse protest at the cheapness of Afghan life. And while the points of reference are high-literary — one Youssef K appears late on — the rug-pulling gestures may be familiar to anyone who stuck with Dallas. Cavafy: the great Alexandrian.