“And, in the dark, a thought came to me that no one had ever had before me: I wanted to kill someone, just in order to dare.”
This graphic adaptation of Crime and Punishment masterfully illuminates Dostoevsky’s psychological thriller. Acclaimed French artist Alain Korkos vividly brings to life the mental anguish and moral dilemmas that plague Raskolnikov, a poor St. Petersburg student who murders a miserly pawnbroker. In this classic of Russian literature, the hero, unable to quell his guilt and paranoia, falls from a self-styled “super human” to a tormented soul in search of redemption. Both a philosophical inquiry and searing social critique, this suspense-driven drama remains as widely popular today as ever.
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It might seem like an impossible task to cram such a heady work as Dostoevsky’s powerhouse crime novel into a graphic novel, but Mairowitz and Korkos have managed a fairly successful interpretation. They set the action in present-day Russia, which leads to some surprisingly clever allusions, but apart from that, they keep fairly close to the plot of the original, a strategy that creates some definite sticking points. Characters appear out of nowhere with little explanation of how they relate to the story, and certain minor and major details won’t make much sense to readers unfamiliar with the original. That said, the black-and-white artwork is a haunting expression of Raskolnikov’s severe inner turmoil; the stark angles, haunted visages, and heavy preponderance of black on the page captures psychological dread with an almost Hitchcockian flair. No one can expect this to match the depths of the original, but don’t think of it as a Cliffs Notes–esque alternative, either. Minor nudity, drug use, and blood splatters might make for a hard sell for classroom use. Grades 10-12. --Ian Chipman
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