“I want to read Crime and Punishment!”

So you want to read Fyodor Dostoevsky’s psychological masterpiece, Crime and Punishment. And you don’t read Russian.

No problem. The novel, originally published in 12 monthly installments in 1866 and as a single volume in 1867, has been available in English since 1885 and widely available in English since 1914. You’ll find a copy in any decent library or bookstore, and if you like reading ebooks, you can download the novel for free because it’s not under copyright. That’s sorted, then.

Not so fast!

As soon as you visit the library or bookshop or click over to Amazon, you realize there are a host of publishers offering a myriad of paperback and hardcover editions and dozens of digital versions. What’s the difference?

The good news is, the book is seldom abridged, so you won’t accidentally settle for a book that’s shorter than you would have wanted. Still, there are a variety of translations available, and opinions differ about their merits. Keep reading to learn how to choose an edition that’s right for you.

“I want a free ebook of Crime and Punishment.”

I hear you! You don’t have to buy a printed copy. The Constance Garnett translation is old and its copyright has expired, so you can get a legitimate copy online for free, and luckily there’s a Standard Ebooks edition.

Download free from StandardEbooks.org

Garnett

“I want to read the absolute best translation of Crime and Punishment.”

I would love to tell you which one that is, but it depends on what you personally view as best. How do we judge translations, anyway?

Below are three quick-and-easy suggestions. If you want to put a bit more thought into choosing a translation, stay tuned. I’m going to list all thirteen of them (well, okay, seven) and share what I’ve learned so you can decide.

If you think you would be okay with the classic translation plus some nice extras, look for the Enriched Classics version of the 1914 Garnett translation.

If you want something a bit more up-to-date, try the 2017 Oxford World’s Classics edition, translated by Nicolas Pastenak Slater.
The trendy one, thanks to Oprah, is the 1992 translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky, currently available from Vintage.

Crime and Punishment: Translation History

I count thirteen translations, some of which are out of print, thus relatively scarce. I count seven in-print translations (shown in bold and numbered below).

— Frederick Whishaw, 1885
1. Constance Garnett, 1914 Heinemann
— David Magarshack, 1951 Penguin
— Princess Alexandra Kropotkin, 1953
— Jessie Coulson, 1953 Norton
— Michael Scammell, 1963 Washington Square
2. Sidney Monas, 1968 Signet
— Julius Katzer, 1985 Raduga
3. David McDuff, 1991 Viking, Penguin
4. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, 1992 Knopf
5. Oliver Ready, 2014 Penguin
6. Nicolas Pasternak Slater, 2017 Oxford
7. Michael R. Katz, 2018 Norton

Below are some details about each of the seven in-print translations. After that, I’ll share some information on out-of-print editions and adaptations, including comics and graphic novels.

1914 · Crime and Punishment

Constance Garnett

“Who was Constance Garnett?”

Constance Garnett translated a TON of stuff from Russian. Wikipedia says 71 volumes! She is credited with making many Russian works accessible in English. Her contribution to world literature is nothing to sneeze at. Vladimir Nabokov and Joseph Brodsky, nevertheless, accused her writing of being flat and of remaining the same regardless of whom she was translating.

Readers’ opinions vary about whether Garnett’s translation of Crime and Punishment is good. Commentators can’t even agree whether the text sounds Victorian and stilted or surprisingly smooth and modern. Some people say Garnett’s version was thankfully superseded long ago, and others say it never can or will be.

I’m inclined to side with those who uphold Garnett’s translation. Those who praise it sound not just nostalgic but also sensible, and those who criticize it are often motivated to praise newer translations simply because they are newer (or because they sound newer), and perhaps feel it’s safe to attack the work of someone who’s not around to defend it.

Since the translation is old, the copyright has expired, and anyone can republish the text. That means there are a lot of versions with this translation, and they’re cheap.

If you open a copy of Crime and Punishment and there’s an unsigned “Translator’s Preface” or “Translator’s Note” that starts by saying, “A few words about Dostoevsky himself may help the English reader to understand his work,” then you’ve got a copy of the Garnett translation. You can also cross-check against the wording of the beginning of Chapter 1 (see excerpt below).

Articles about the Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment

  • The New Yorker: The Translation Wars
    “Garnett’s flaws were not the figment of a native speaker’s snobbery. She worked with such speed, with such an eye toward the finish line, that when she came across a word or a phrase that she couldn’t make sense of she would skip it and move on.”
  • The Jolly Traveller Blog: Two Crime and Punishment Translations Compared (Garnett and Magarshack)
    “She may come handy to those who want a linguistic feel of the times, but I found her simply infuriating.”
  • Commentary Magazine: How to Read Crime and Punishment
    “[N]either [the McDuff translation nor the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation] measures up to the classic rendition of the novel by Constance Garnett.”
  • Wordsworth Editions: Gained in Translation
    “[A] well-established translation does have the merits of being tried and tested, and of having already appealed to a wide range of discerning readers…. When you read Constance Garnett’s Dostoevsky, or Louise and Aylmer Maude’s Tolstoy, you are joining a continuum of readers going back a century and a half.”
  • Commentary Magazine: The Pevearsion of Russian Literature
    “Students once encountered the great Russian writers as rendered by the magnificent Constance Garnett, a Victorian who taught herself the language and then proceeded to introduce almost the entire corpus of Russian literature to the English language over the space of 40 years, from the 1890s to the 1930s. Her greatest virtues were her profound and sympathetic understanding of the works themselves and a literary artist’s feel for the English language.”
  • TLS: Who-knows-he-dunnit?
    “Constance Garnett’s century-old version still flows beautifully: she alone meets the requirement of some translators that no word be used that was introduced into English after 1866 (the date of the original).”

Extract from the Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment

Get the Wordsworth / Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment

The Wordsworth Classics edition of Crime and Punishment is available as a paperback (ISBN 9781840224306, 528 pages) and an ebook (ISBN 9781848703506). It includes an introduction and notes by Dr. Keith Carabine, a bibliography, a map, and a list of characters.

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Wordsworth / Garnett

Get the Barnes & Noble / Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment

The Barnes & Noble Classics edition of Crime and Punishment is available as a paperback (ISBN 9781593080815, 576 pages) and an ebook (ISBN 9781411432017). It has been “revised thoroughly” by Juliya Salkovskaya and Nicholas Rice and includes:

  • about the author
  • historical context / chronology
  • introduction by Priscilla Meyer
  • list of characters
  • portrait of author
  • St. Petersburg map
  • inspired by…
  • comments and questions
  • further reading

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Barnes & Noble / Garnett

Get the Wordcloud / Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment

The Word Cloud Classics edition of Crime and Punishment is available with a flexible plastic/vinyl cover (ISBN 9781684122905, 528 pages) and an ebook (ISBN 9781684123537). I am not sure why anyone would buy the ebook version, because this is a showy book designed to look good. The features have nothing to do with the text itself, which is (as far as I can tell) just a standard reprint.

  • Clean, modern aesthetic
  • Heat-burnished covers
  • Specially-designed endpapers
  • Foil-stamping
  • Cute size (5.25″ x 7.75″)

Buy from Amazon

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Word Cloud / Garnett

Get the Macmillan / Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment

The Macmillan Collector’s Library edition of Crime and Punishment is available as a compact hardcover (ISBN 9781509827749, 736 pages) and an ebook (ISBN 9781509845569). It has an afterword by Oliver Francis.

The main thing to note about this edition is its small size (and small font size). It’s 4.2 x 1.4 x 6.1 inches, set in Plantin, 8.5 pt / line height 10.5pt. The materials the book is made from are really nice: cloth binding and good paper.

The “Collector’s Library” series used to belong to Barnes & Noble but in 2015 was bought by Macmillan.

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Macmillan / Garnett

Get the Enriched Classics / Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment

The Simon & Schuster Enriched Classics edition of Crime and Punishment is available as a paperback (ISBN 9780743487634, 704 pages) and an ebook (ISBN 9781416501817). It includes:

  • An introduction
  • A chronology of the author’s life and work
  • A timeline of significant events in history
  • An outline of key themes and plot points
  • Detailed explanatory notes
  • Critical analysis
  • Discussion
  • A list of recommended related books and films

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Enriched Classics / Garnett

Get the Bantam / Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment

The Bantam Classics edition of Crime and Punishment is available as a paperback (ISBN 9780553211757, 576 pages) and an ebook (ISBN 9780553898088). It includes an introduction by Joseph Frank.

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Bantam / Garnett

Get the Dover / Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment

The Dover Thrift edition of Crime and Punishment is available as a paperback (ISBN 9780486415871, 448 pages) and an ebook (ISBN 9780486114859). It includes an introductory note by editor Susan L. Rattiner and a “selection of the Common Core State Standards Initiative”, which is documentation of learning goals relevant to students, teachers, and parents in the US.

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Dover / Garnett

Get the Amazon / Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment

Some AmazonClassics cost a few dollars, some are free. I’m pretty sure they’re all free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

Download from Amazon

Amazon / Garnett

Beware copycat ebooks!

Stay away from any ebook if the publisher is “Amazon Digital Services” or “CreateSpace”. Chances are, the ebooks they offer at prices between zero and ten dollars are no better than what you’d get for free… and quite possibly worse.

1968 · Crime and Punishment

Sidney Monas

“Who was Sidney Monas?”

Sidney Monas sounds like an amazing guy. An American Jew, he was captured and thought to have died in World War II but survived, returned, and took up academic life in Princeton, and went on to earn a PhD from Harvard. Not bad for a dead guy! He died for real in 2019 at the age of 94.

People don’t seem to talk much about his translation of Crime and Punishment, even though it’s still in print. His version is mentioned in some of the articles about newer versions, but nobody seems to champion it.

Extract from the Signet / Monas translation of Crime and Punishment

Get the Signet / Monas translation of Crime and Punishment

The Sidney Monas Signet edition of Crime and Punishment is available as a paperback (ISBN 9780451530066, 560 pages) and an ebook (ISBN 9781101142318). It includes:

  • An introduction by Leonard Stanton and James D. Jr. Hardy
  • A translator’s preface
  • An afterword by Robin Feuer Miller
  • A Reading Guide (online)

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Signet / Monas

1991 · Crime and Punishment

David McDuff

“Who is David McDuff?”

David McDuff is a British translator of Russian and Scandinavian poetry and prose, an editor and a literary critic. Penguin published his translations of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and The Idiot.

Penguin is a publishing powerhouse, so you’ll be in good company whether you choose the McDuff version or the Oliver Ready one. Older Penguin editions were translated by David Magarshack.

Articles about the Penguin/McDuff translation of Crime and Punishment

Extract from the Penguin McDuff translation of Crime and Punishment

Get the Penguin / McDuff translation of Crime and Punishment

The David McDuff translation of Crime and Punishment is available as a Penguin Classics paperback (ISBN 9780140449136, 718 pages). It has:

  • An introduction
  • List for further reading
  • A note on translation
  • A note on money
  • Endnotes
  • Reading Guide (online)

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Penguin / McDuff

Get the Penguin / McDuff translation of Crime and Punishment

The David McDuff translation of Crime and Punishment is also available as a 2018 Penguin Clothbound Classic designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith in black/red (ISBN 9780241347683, 720 pages).

This one is the best gift edition.

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Penguin / McDuff

1992 · Crime and Punishment

Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

“Who are Pevear and Volokhonsky?”

Pevear and Volokhonsky are an American/Russian husband-and-wife team with a huge list of Russian translations to their credit. They became widely known in the US when Oprah chose their version of Anna Karenina for her book club.

There is a LOT of chatter about Pevear and Volokhonsky. Their translations are popular but produced a strong backlash. Their style is characterized as being either “admirably accurate” or “too literal”. I’m not positively inclined towards their version; I have the sense that their stuff has been over-hyped.

Articles about the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of Crime and Punishment

  • New York Times: Raskolnikov Says the Darndest Things
    “The version presented by Mr. Pevear and Ms. Volokhonsky does not cover the full distance to English. The way to preserve some of Dostoyevsky’s roughness is not by publishing a rough draft.”
  • The New Yorker: The Translation Wars
    “Pevear and Volokhonsky may be the premier Russian-to-English translators of the era. They are certainly the most versatile and industrious…. [They] agree with the majority of their critics that they are best at Dostoyevsky.”
  • The Washington Post: The Desperate Hours
    “I first read Crime and Punishment (in Constance Garnett’s translation) some 30 years ago when my mother had to tear the book from my grasp to send me to bed. I’ve reread the novel three more times since, and in this translation by Pevear/Volokhonsky it is better than ever.”
  • Commentary Magazine: The Pevearsion of Russian Literature
    “It looks as if people will be reading P&V, as they have come to be called, for decades to come. This is a tragedy, because their translations take glorious works and reduce them to awkward and unsightly muddles.”
  • Commentary Magazine: How to Read Crime and Punishment
    “Pevear and Volokhonsky have a very definite idea of what they are doing. They want to capture all those colloquialisms, slang expressions, and low tonalities that Garnett smoothed out. Generally speaking, they succeed quite well.”
  • TLS: Who-knows-he-dunnit?
    “Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky seem to follow the Byzantine principle of producing a translation from which the original, if it were ever lost, might be reconstituted word by word.”

Extract from The Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of Crime and Punishment

Get the Everyman / Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of Crime and Punishment

The Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of Crime and Punishment is perhaps no longer available as an Everyman hardcover (ISBN 9780679420293, 608 pages). It includes:

  • An introduction by W. J. Leatherbarrow
  • A bibliography
  • A chronology
  • A translator’s note
  • Endnotes

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Everyman / Pevear & Volokhonsky

Get the Vintage / Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of Crime and Punishment

The Pevear and Volokhonsky translation is available as a Vintage paperback (ISBN 9780679734505, 565 pages) and ebook (ISBN 9780307829603). It includes a foreword, translators’ note and endnotes.

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Vintage / Pevear & Volokhonsky

2014 · Crime and Punishment

Oliver Ready

“Who is Oliver Ready?”

Oliver Ready is a British translator. His version of Crime and Punishment, his first translation of a classic work, seems well respected; some people seem to consider it the best thing since sliced bread. Personally, I don’t like either of the current covers, and I think I prefer the older, smoother sound of Garnett to this newer but supposedly more authentically jagged language Ready uses.

Articles about the Oliver Ready translation of Crime and Punishment

Extract from The Oliver Ready translation of Crime and Punishment

Get the Penguin (US) / Ready translation of Crime and Punishment

The Penguin Oliver Ready translation of Crime and Punishment is available as a Penguin Deluxe paperback with cover art by Zohar Lazar (ISBN 9780143107637, 608 pages), and as an ebook (ISBN 9780698194151). It includes:

  • An introduction
  • A chronology
  • A list for further reading
  • A note on translation
  • A list of characters, note on names
  • A preface to notes and notes

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Penguin (US) / Ready

Get the Penguin (UK) / Ready translation of Crime and Punishment

The Penguin Oliver Ready translation of Crime and Punishment is also available as a UK paperback (ISBN 9780141192802, 752 pages)

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Penguin (UK) / Ready

2017 · Crime and Punishment

Nicholas Pasternak Slater

“Who is Nicolas Pasternak Slater?”

Nicholas Pasternak Slater is the nephew of Russian novelist Boris Pasternak, author of Doctor Zhivago, and has translated Doctor Zhivago into English for The Folio Society. He was raised bilingual and has a degree in Russian literature from Oxford. He began translation work after retiring from a career as a medical doctor.

Articles about the Slater translation of Crime and Punishment

  • TLS: Who-knows-he-dunnit? “[If] a choice is needed then Pasternak Slater probably takes precedence over Katz: the Oxford University Press edition is beautifully produced and competitively priced, and Sarah J. Young has given it a better introduction and notes.”
  • Bloggers Karamazov: Translating Crime and Punishment “In this series of posts, Bloggers Karamazov sits down with the translators to talk about the experience of translating Dostoevsky’s most famous novel.”

Extract from the Oxford Slater translation of Crime and Punishment

Get the Oxford / Slater translation of Crime and Punishment

The Oxford World’s Classics Slater translation of Crime and Punishment is available as a paperback (ISBN 9780198709718, 544 pages) and as an ebook (ISBN 9780198707753). It was edited by Sarah J. Young and includes:

  • An introduction
  • A note on translation
  • A note on table of ranks
  • A bibliography
  • A chronology
  • A map of St Petersburg
  • A list of characters
  • Notes

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Oxford / Slater

Get the Oxford / Slater translation of Crime and Punishment

The Oxford World’s Classics Slater translation of Crime and Punishment is also available as a hardcover (ISBN 9780198709701, 544 pages).

This one is a good gift edition.

Buy hardcover from Amazon

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Oxford / Slater

2018 · Crime and Punishment

Michael R. Katz

“Who is Michael R. Katz?”

Michael Katz is an Emeritus Professor of Russian and East European Studies and the translator of over a dozen Russian novels. His translation is the newest of the whole batch. I’m impressed by the wealth of features in the Norton Critical Edition; the branding of the Liveright edition points to accessibility.

Articles about the Katz translation of Crime and Punishment

  • Bloggers Karamazov: Translating Crime and Punishment
    “In this series of posts, Bloggers Karamazov sits down with the translators to talk about the experience of translating Dostoevsky’s most famous novel.”
  • The Nation: Floating in the Air
    “Katz has added something with his own translation: Hoping to accentuate what he calls the novel’s “richness of registers or tones,” he pays specific attention to how Dostoyevsky’s characters alternate between religious solemnity and drunken vulgarity. The new work also has an American simplicity and informality that sets it apart from Ready’s more elegant British rendering.”

Extract from The Katz translation of Crime and Punishment

Get the Norton / Katz translation of Crime and Punishment

The Michael R. Katz translation is available as a Norton Critical Edition paperback (ISBN 9780393264272, 576 pages) and ebook (ISBN 9780393270167). It includes:

  • A preface
  • A list of characters
  • A map
  • Material from the authors notes, letters, and drafts
  • 26 critical essays!
  • A chronology
  • Serialization
  • A bibliography

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Norton / Katz

Get the Norton / Katz translation of Crime and Punishment

It is also available as a Liveright hardcover (ISBN 9781631490330, 621 pages), paperback (ISBN 9781631495311, 621 pages) and ebook. It includes:

  • introduction
  • note on the translation
  • list of characters
  • note on chracters’ names

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Norton / Katz

Other Editions and Resouces

Crime and Punishment: Out-of-Print Collector’s Editions

Here are some out-of-print editions to look out for:

  • Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics (translated by Garnett)
  • Easton Press (translated by Garnett, illustrated with wood-engravings by Fritz Eichenberg)
  • Franklin Library (translated by Coulson, illustrated by Robert and Corinne Borja)
  • International Collectors Library (abridged, revised by Kropotkin, illustrated by Marian L. Larer)
  • Folio Society (translated by David McDuff, illustrated by Harry Brockway, introduced by Stephen Tumim)
  • Illustrated Modern Library (translated by Garnett, illustrated by Philip Reisman)
  • Modern Library (translated by Garnett)

Search Abebooks for hardcover editions

Barnes & Noble

Crime and Punishment: ESL Edition

The Level 6 Pearson/Penguin Reader (ISBN 9781405882620, 120 pages) has an introduction, list of characters, word list and activities. It comes with online resources.

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Crime and Punishment: Children’s Edition

The 2016 Pushkin Children’s adaptation in the Save the Story series is a hardcover measuring approximately 8″ x 10″ (ISBN 9781782690146, 104 pages). It was translated by Stuart Schoffman, written by A.B. Yehoshua and illustrated by Sonja Bougaeva. It looks like this:

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Crime and Punishment: Graphic Novel

Check out the 2009 Eye Classics graphic novel adapted by David Zane Mairowitz, illustrated by Alain Korkos (ISBN 9781411415942, 129 pages).

Buy paperback from Abebooks

Crime and Punishment: Manga

Osamu Tezuka originally published a manga adaptation of Crime in Punishment in 1953. Digital Manga Guild produced a version in English (ISBN 9781569703526, 200 pages).

Read more about this item’s complicated publication history:

Brought to you by serendipity!

I found some strange and unexpected things at the intersection of Art and Literature while doing research for this post.

Apparently there’s an artist in Chicago named Don Pollack who makes oil paintings of book cover mashups:

Yeah, that’s an oil painting! For US$12.5k it can be yours.

***

Also for your consideration, this Photoshop creation by London artist Simon James:

His half-forgotten classics posters are the visual equivalent of that old librarian joke: “What book are you looking for? What’s the title, or who’s it by?” “I don’t know, but it was orange.”

***

Meanwhile on Kickstarter, Beehive Books has received backing for a slipcover heirloom illuminated edition of Crime and Punishment with illustrations by Dave McKean.

You can order a copy for $100.

Too long; Didn’t read?

(Are you skimming?)

Get the Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment Free

If you don’t want to spend a lot of time on the decision process, probably any translation would be fine.

Crime and Punishment [is] a story with a power that bursts through any English version. — Washington Post

Personally I am convinced of the virtue of the Garnett translation, not simply because it is abundant and cheap or even free, or because that’s the one I read (which it was). Generations of readers have accessed Russian classics by means of Garnett’s translations; they are, themselves, classics.

Download free ebook from Standard Ebooks

Standard Ebooks / Garnett

Willing to spend some money? Try one of these editions of Crime and Punishment.

If you think you would be okay with the classic translation plus some nice extras, look for the Enriched Classics version of the 1914 Garnett translation.

If you want something a bit more up-to-date, try the 2017 Oxford World’s Classics edition, translated by Nicolas Pastenak Slater.
The trendy one, thanks to Oprah, is the 1992 translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky, currently available from Vintage.