In Crime and Punishment we find Rodion Raskolnikov, a simple man who poses a simple question—can murder ever be justified? At once a broad philosophical investigation and a depiction of a single man’s mental deterioration, Dostoevsky’s novel borrows themes and imagery from Swedenborg, whom he read whilst in Germany in 1865. Swedenborg’s doctrine of correspondences comes to the fore in the euphemistic descriptions of St Petersburg; elsewhere, the character of Svidrigailov often voices theological thoughts straight from Heaven and Hell. In all, Swedenborg’s thoughts on the ‘love of self’ prove an apt companion to a novel which asks how far we would go to get the things we think we deserve.
FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY (1821-1881). The great Russian novelist probably bought or read Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell in a Russian translation while in Germany in 1863. Swedenborgian elements have been identified in Crime and Punishment (begun in 1865) and the discourses of Father Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov contain clear Swedenborgian teaching about the spiritual world, particularly that hell is always a voluntary spiritual state.
Reference: C Milosz, ‘Dostoevsky and Swedenborg’ in Testimony to the Invisible.