top of page
  • cliffstevensonart

Cover Story (Crime & Punishment)

This is the next stage in the process of a new work relating to Crime & Punishment (see original post here). I've now added the main images from each of the covers.

As previously explained, the project is a collaboration with the writer Joe Pierson who is working with the various different English translations of Dostoyevsky's Crime & Punishment.

The initial set of drawings is now complete and I'm excited to see where the project is going next. In terms of my side of the project, these are some of the ideas for next steps:

  1. I find that when I draw something I engage with it in a more intimate way than if I only look at it. Thus, the drawings of the text and images of the 36 covers has given me a new experience with the novel. However, it is a different experience than reading the actual novel. It really made me think about the role that covers play in approaching a book. Although it is commonly suggested not to judge a book by its cover, the cover is the first experience of a book when I pick it up to read it. Given the variety of different images that have been used, very different impressions of the book are given. I'm going to work more with the different images to explore what story they actually tell.

  2. The repetitive drawing of the different fonts used made me aware of differences in what the various fonts may be communicating. This gives a typological component to the work. Although a font does not reveal as much as an image, it feels like the typology is worth a little more exploration.

  3. I mentioned in the previous post that I'm feeling that there might be a film element to the work. The number of drawings is building up and I'm not sure of the best media to bring them together. I am definitely moving towards using film to further explore the images.

Joe started the project as a result of looking at the different English translations of the novel. In this way, studying the covers of the English translation potentially creates parallels with the work that Joe is doing. Of course, all the drawings I have done have come from the initial invitation from Joe. I remain open to the project taking a different turn according to the direction that Joe is taking as his work evolves.

There is something really interesting here about how difficult it is to produce a cover image that could do justice to the experience of reading Crime and Punishment. Some of the covers are such caricatures, or so literal, that they fall far short of representing what lies ahead in the book. Many of them are a poor 'translation' of what is to come in the book. However, I do feel that collectively, the drawings do something. How much it is related to the novel Crime & Punishment or not remains to be seen! But it is definitely worth further exploration.

An initial obvious comment is that a large number of the covers present an image of a person, presumably Rodion Raskolnikov, the protagonist of Crime & Punishment. I've been re-reading the first chapter of the book and I can certainly recognise some of Raskolnikov's characteristics as described by Dostoyevsky. Of course, I'm reading the Paver and Volokhonsky English translation of Raskolnikov's characteristics, which definitely makes a link between the images and Joe's work with the different translations.

Finally, I just wanted to observe that two of the books I have drawn have a picture of Dostoyevsky on the cover. These are based on the 1872 painting by Vasily Perov. It made me think that authors are rarely shown on the cover of a book. In fact, I'm not sure I can think of one example of this. At first I thought that this is a strange decision because, if you have seen the painting, it makes you think of Dostoyevsky rather than Raskolnikov. But is it strange? Perhaps this is communicating that there is an autobiographical element to the book and that Dostoyevsky based certain features of Raskolnikov on himself. It does show that the cover has some power because it raises this question whether Dostoyevsky intended or not.

11 views0 comments


bottom of page