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Crime and Punishment

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Crime and Punishment is a novel by the Russian author Dostoyevsky. Crime and Punishment focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished ex-student in St. Petersburg who formulates and executes a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker for her cash. Raskolnikov argues that with the pawnbroker's money he can perform good deeds to counterbalance the crime, while ridding the world of a worthless vermin. He also commits this murder to test his own hypothesis that some people are naturally capable of such things, and even have the right to do them. Several times throughout the novel, Raskolnikov justifies his actions by comparing himself with Napoleon Bonaparte, believing that murder is permissible in pursuit of a higher purpose.

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The Gambler

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The Gambler is a short novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky about a young tutor in the employment of a formerly wealthy Russian general. The novella reflects Dostoyevsky's own addiction to roulette, which was in more ways than one the inspiration for the book: Dostoyevsky completed the novella under a strict deadline to pay off gambling debts.

The first-person narrative is told from the point of view of Alexei Ivanovich, a tutor working for a Russian family living in a suite at a German hotel. The patriarch of the family, The General, is indebted to the Frenchman Des Grieux and has mortgaged his property in Russia to pay only a small amount of his debt. Upon learning of the illness of his wealthy aunt, "Grandmother", he sends streams of telegrams to Moscow and awaits the news of her demise. His expected inheritance will pay his debts and gain Mademoiselle De Cominges's hand in marriage.

One day while Polina and Alexei are on a walk they see a Baron and Baroness. Polina dares him to insult the aristocratic couple and he does so with little hesitation. This sets off a chain of events that details Madame de Cominges's interest in the General and gets Alexei fired as tutor of the General's children. Shortly after this, Grandmother shows up and surprises the whole party of debtors and indebted. She tells them all that she knows all about the General's debt and why the French man and woman are waiting around the suite day after day. She leaves the party of death-profiteers by saying that none of them are getting any of her money. She then asks Alexei to be her guide around the town famous for its healing waters and infamous for its casino where the tables are stacked with piles of gold; she wants to gamble.

Alexei starts to gamble to survive. One day he passes Mr. Astley on a park bench in Bad Homburg and has a talk with him. He finds out from Astley that Polina is in Switzerland and actually does love him. Astley gives him some money but shows little hope that he will not use it for gambling. Alexei goes home dreaming of going to Switzerland the next day and recollects what made him win at the roulette tables in the past.

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Notes from the Underground

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Notes from the Underground is a novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Notes is considered by many to be the first existentialist novel. It presents itself as an excerpt from the rambling memoirs of a bitter, isolated, unnamed narrator (generally referred to by critics as the Underground Man) who is a retired civil servant living in St. Petersburg. The first part of the story is told in monologue form, or the underground man's diary, and attacks emerging Western philosophy, especially Nikolay Chernyshevsky's What Is to Be Done?. The second part of the book is called "Àpropos of the Wet Snow", and describes certain events that, it seems, are destroying and sometimes renewing the underground man, who acts as a first person, unreliable narrator.

Dostoyevsky again confronts the concept of free will and constructs a negative argument to validate free will against determinism in the character Kirillov's suicide in his novel The Demons. Notes from Underground marks the starting point of Dostoyevsky's move from psychological and sociological themed novels to novels based on existential and general human experience in crisis. War is described as people's rebellion against the assumption that everything needs to happen for a purpose, because humans do things without purpose, and this is what determines human history. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called Dostoevsky "the only psychologist, incidentally, from whom I had anything to learn."

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The Idiot

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The Idiot is a novel written by Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The 26-year-old Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin returns to Russia after spending several years at a Swiss sanatorium. Scorned by the society of St. Petersburg for his trusting nature and naiveté, he finds himself at the center of a struggle between a beautiful kept woman and a virtuous and pretty young girl, both of whom win his affection. Unfortunately, Myshkin's very goodness precipitates disaster, leaving the impression that, in a world obsessed with money, power, and sexual conquest, a sanatorium may be the only place for a saint.

In her essay "The Epileptic Mode of Being," Elizabeth Dalton wrote that in The Idiot, more than in any other of Dostoevsky's works, we are shown "the actual experience itself" of one mind wrestling with the various tensions of life - rather than simply dwelling on "intellectual speculation," as we see in Crime and Punishment and Notes from Underground.

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The Brothers Karamazov

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The Brothers Karamazov is the final novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The Brothers Karamazov is a passionate philosophical novel set in 19th century Russia, that enters deeply into the ethical debates of God, free will, and morality. It is a spiritual drama of moral struggles concerning faith, doubt, and reason, set against a modernizing Russia. Dostoyevsky composed much of the novel in Staraya Russa, which inspired the main setting. Since its publication, it has been acclaimed as one of the supreme achievements in literature.

The Brothers Karamazov displays a number of modern elements. Dostoyevsky composed the book with a variety of literary techniques. Though privy to many of the thoughts and feelings of the protagonists, the narrator is a self-proclaimed writer; he discusses his own mannerisms and personal perceptions so often in the novel that he becomes a character. Through his descriptions, the narrator's voice merges imperceptibly into the tone of the people he is describing, often extending into the characters' most personal thoughts. In addition to the principal narrator there are several sections narrated by other characters entirely, such as the story of the Grand Inquisitor and Zosima's confessions. This technique enhances the theme of truth, making many aspects of the tale completely subjective.

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