A Curse on DostoevskyA Curse on Dostoevsky by Atiq Rahimi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

what a fascinating read. a mildly hallucinatory version of Afghanistan between the wars.

our hero, Rassoul, reprises Crime and Punishment: for the love of a lady, rather than merely money, he murders an old madam. but, however much the Russians tried, Afghanistan is not Russia, and the societal pressures are not the same. so what does Rassoul’s crime mean in the context of war-riven Kabul, and what does redemption mean?

Rassoul’s crime is not Raskolnikov’s, as it turns out, and try as he might to redeem himself, neither is the punishment.

to me, the book brings up some really interesting questions. what is a crime in a place where the legal system totters on one last leg and a crutch? how can one redeem oneself on an earthly plane when nobody wants to hear a confession? is it society’s forgiveness one should seek, or does forgiveness lie elsewhere. what’s the purpose of punishment? there’s a fascinating scene in which one character argues that execution is not meant to wipe out the murderer, but the crime itself, as if two murders might somehow cancel each other out, like matter and anti-matter. and who is entitled to punish, the State or the victim’s family? we of the West pretty much assume that that right can belong only to the State, but really, who is more injured by a murder than the family?

it’s a very different outlook, and worth a read for that reason alone.

but it’s also a very good book, asking some Big Questions, and i think it deserves the attention of a discerning reader.