Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic is often heralded as one of the great literary achievements of the Victorian era. This epic story delves deep into the psychosis of Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, a morally bankrupt bourgeois murderer, whose belief that he’s destined for greater things makes him think he’s above the law. The original text is long – about 600 pages in a recent edition – so turning its nuances into a 128-page graphic novel ought to be doomed to failure.
And while this adaptation necessarily ends up as Crime and Punishment Lite, it also succeeds in a number of ways. Primarily, if you’re leaning that way anyway, reading this is likely to make you want to read the original. The re-telling that Korkos and Mairowitz have created is engaging and well crafted, and almost certainly more accessible to a wider audience than Tolstoy’s original.
The second point of interest is that they have chosen not to do a literal abridgement but to set the story in the modern day. Adding televisions and pop-cultural references to the scenery adds a new angle to the piece, turning it into an exploration of how little has changed in the last 140 years – the nature of man remains essentially the same, and the trappings of the modern world have little impact on Raskolnikov.
The end result may disappoint Dostoevsky aficionados, as every shortened adaptation of any great novel so often will. But in changing the historical perspective Korkos and Mairowitz have managed to add another layer to Dostoevsky’s original, creating a graphic adaptation that might just get you stuck into the original version. For an adaptation of a classic, that must surely make it a resounding success.