Journey from redemption


Punishment and Crime, an elusive book

Rarely does a book or the ultimate intention of its author remain so elusive. Louis Iribarne’s translation of Duchowna’s Kara i Zbrodnia is the subject of a pirandellesque post on The Curmudgeon blog. Rather than reprint the whole article here (or even search for the book) I would recommend all readers with an interest in moral philosophy to read the original review by the following the link at the end of this post. Here is just a brief taster.

Punishment and Crime is divided into two parts, one for each of the nouns in the title; but in the novel itself, it is the „Crime” section that comes first. It recounts the wanderings, around a large and unfriendly city, of a man who seems to be some kind of eccentric tramp. It is winter; there is dirt in the sky and slush on the ground; the man does not appear to have a home, but spends his nights slumped in various doorways, dreaming obscure memories which are summarised for us in broken phrases interspersed with ownerless names. The daytime he spends hanging about church buildings, loudly declaiming to the congregations as they move in and out of services, and occasionally joining them himself in order to heckle from the rear during the sermon.

In this way he eventually kindles the interest of Father Jerzy, the hard-working and eminently practical young pastor of one church whose steps the tramp has frequently misappropriated for his rhetorical exercises. At first he harangues Father Jerzy as he harangues everyone: stridently, mercilessly and without cease; but after a week or two of plentiful food and proper bedding, he begins to unwind just enough for Father Jerzy to gather the little that the reader has already learned from numerous doorstep dreams. The tramp is a stranger to the city; his past, though unknown in most of its particulars, is extremely tragic; and he is violently anti-religious.

The reviewer sees the book as posing the classic question – why a good and merciful God should allow so much suffering to be inflicted on the relatively sinless. But according to him trying to answer this question only leads to a deeper and dangerous dilemma for religious leaders – the choice between presenting religion as spiritual panacea and religion as harsh truth.

The review is highly recommended. You will want to read more by the same author:


One Response to “Journey from redemption”

  1. On behalf of the late Samuel Grimsnipe, many thanks for the kind words. Getting hold of the book is indeed a difficult business – nearly as frustrating as trying to find Gruppenführer Louis XIV or Gian Carlo Spallanzani’s The Idiot – but perhaps that fine cover design will persuade more readers to take an interest.


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