Dostoevsky Draws Doodles of Raskolnikov and Other Characters in the Manuscript of Crime and Punishment

Raskolnikov Svidrigailov

Like many of us, Russ­ian lit­er­ary great Fyo­dor Dos­to­evsky liked to doo­dle when he was dis­tract­ed. He left his hand­i­work in sev­er­al manuscripts—finely shad­ed draw­ings of expres­sive faces and elab­o­rate archi­tec­tur­al fea­tures. But Dostoevsky’s doo­dles were more than just a way to occu­py his mind and hands; they were an inte­gral part of his lit­er­ary method. His nov­el­is­tic imag­i­na­tion, with all of its grand excess­es, was pro­found­ly visu­al, and archi­tec­tur­al.

“Indeed,” writes Dos­to­evsky schol­ar Kon­stan­tin Barsht, “Dos­to­evsky was not con­tent to ‘write’ and ‘take notes’ in the process of cre­ative think­ing.” Instead, in his work “the mean­ing and sig­nif­i­cance of words inter­act rec­i­p­ro­cal­ly with oth­er mean­ings expressed through visu­al images.” Barsht calls it “a method of work spe­cif­ic to the writer.” We’ve shared a few of those man­u­script pages before, includ­ing one with a doo­dle of Shake­speare.

Crime and Punish Doodles

Now we bring you a few more pages of doo­dles from the author of Crime and Pun­ish­ment, a nov­el that, per­haps more so than any of his oth­ers, offers such vivid descrip­tions of its char­ac­ters that I can still clear­ly remem­ber the pic­tures I had of them in my mind the first time I read it in high school.

My visu­al­iza­tions of the angry, des­per­ate stu­dent Raskol­nikov and the sleazy socio­path­ic Svidri­gailov do not exact­ly resem­ble the faces doo­dled at the the top of the post, but that is how their author saw them, at least in this ear­ly, man­u­script stage of the nov­el.

The oth­er faces here may be those of Sonya, police inves­ti­ga­tor Por­firy Petro­vich, recidi­vist alco­holic father Semy­on Marmelodov, and oth­er char­ac­ters in the nov­el, though it’s not clear exact­ly who’s who.

Crime and Punish Doodles 2

Dos­to­evsky had much in com­mon with his nov­el­’s pro­tag­o­nist when he began the nov­el in 1865. Reduced to near-des­ti­tu­tion after gam­bling away his for­tune, the writer was also in des­per­ate straits. The sto­ry, writes lit­er­ary crit­ic Joseph Franks, was “orig­i­nal­ly con­ceived as a long short sto­ry or novel­la to be writ­ten in the first per­son,” like the fever­ish novel­la Notes From the Under­ground. In Dos­to­evsky’s man­u­script note­books, “exten­sive frag­ments of this orig­i­nal work are to be found here intact.”

Franks quotes schol­ar Edward Wasi­olek, who pub­lished a trans­la­tion of the note­books in 1967: “They con­tain draw­ings, jot­tings about prac­ti­cal mat­ters, doo­dling of var­i­ous sorts, cal­cu­la­tions about press­ing expens­es, sketch­es, and ran­dom remarks.” In short, “Dos­to­evsky sim­ply flipped his note­books open any time he wished to write,” or to prac­tice his cal­lig­ra­phy, as he does on many pages.

Crime and Punish Doodles 3

The pages of the Crime and Pun­ish­ment note­books resem­ble all of the man­u­script pages of his nov­els in their orna­men­tal hap­haz­ard­ness. You can see many more exam­ples from nov­els like The Idiot, The Pos­sessed, and A Raw Youth at the Russ­ian site Cul­ture, includ­ing the sketchy self por­trait below, next to a few sums that indi­cate the author’s per­pet­u­al pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with his trou­bled eco­nom­ic affairs.

Dostoevsky Self Portrait

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Fyo­dor Dos­to­evsky Draws Elab­o­rate Doo­dles In His Man­u­scripts

Dos­to­evsky Draws a Pic­ture of Shake­speare: A New Dis­cov­ery in an Old Man­u­script

The Dig­i­tal Dos­to­evsky: Down­load Free eBooks & Audio Books of the Russ­ian Novelist’s Major Works

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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