“On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge.”
Thus starts Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky in the rather sterile, but faithful, Constance Garnett translation. The names of the streets were ‘masked’ for the Russian censor but they would be immediately recognisable to any St Petersburg resident, especially since Dostoevsky himself lived in “S.Place” while he was writing the novel.
In the 1950s David Magarshak translated it explicitly: “On a very hot evening at the beginning of July a young man left his little room at the top of a house in Carpenter Lane, went out into the street, and, as though unable to make up his mind, walked slowly in the direction of Kokushkin bridge.”
And here they are:
Dostoevsky described St Petersburg with such detail that it is now possible to follow the footsteps of his characters and guess which buildings he described in his novels. Just off Kokushkin Bridge lay St Petersburg’s Skid Row, Sennaya Ploshchad or as it is translated, the Hay Market.
“Rag pickers and costermongers of all kinds were crowding round the taverns in the dirty and stinking courtyards of the Hay Market. Raskolnikov particularly liked this place and the neighbouring alleys, when he wandered aimlessly in the streets.”
Interestingly, today the Hay Market still keeps its low-brow character with a metro entrance, fast-food stands and penny arcades.
So where did Raskolnikoff live? It seems that his apartment block is a composite of #5 S-Place opposite Dostoevsky’s own block which has the requisite thirteen steps per floor (He rushed to the door, listened, caught up his hat and began to descend his thirteen steps cautiously, noiselessly, like a cat. ) and #9 that has a housecleaner’s lodge where he nicked the axe on his way out to kill the old lady moneylender.
Sonya Mermeladov lived by a canal, at a corner where prostitutes plied their wares. There is a place by the canal that fits these descriptions: #73 Griboedov embankment.
So, it should be possible to recreate Raskolnikoff’s walk just from the text..
From the porter’s room, two paces away from him, something shining under the bench to the right caught his eye…. He looked about him—nobody. He approached the room on tiptoe, went down two steps into it and in a faint voice called the porter. “Yes, not at home! Somewhere near though, in the yard, for the door is wide open.” He dashed to the axe (it was an axe) and pulled it out from under the bench, where it lay between two chunks of wood; at once, before going out, he made it fast in the noose, he thrust both hands into his pockets and went out of the room; no one had noticed him!
He walked along quietly and sedately, without hurry, to avoid awakening suspicion.
As he passed the Yusupov garden, he was deeply absorbed in considering the building of great fountains, and of their refreshing effect on the atmosphere in all the squares.
He had not far to go; he knew indeed how many steps it was from the gate of his lodging house: exactly seven hundred and thirty.
With a sinking heart and a nervous tremor, he went up to a huge house which on one side looked on to the canal, and on the other into the street. This house was let out in tiny tenements and was inhabited by working people of all kinds—tailors, locksmiths, cooks, Germans of sorts, girls picking up a living as best they could, petty clerks, etc.
And there was the fourth storey, here was the door, here was the flat opposite, the empty one.
Finally after the crime he returns to his garret the long way, by the Griboedov canal.
He remembered however, that on coming out on to the canal bank, he was alarmed at finding few people there [..]. Though he was almost falling from fatigue, he went a long way round so as to get home from quite a different direction.
So that’s it: I’ve recreated Raskolnikoff’s crime walk and if this ain’t geeky, I don’t know what is.
Maybe the fact that it’s 2.31 km in total?