The moment Rassoul lifts the axe to bring it down on the old woman’s head, he thinks of Crime and Punishment.
He is thunderstruck. His arms shake; his legs tremble. And the axe slips from his hands. It splits open the old woman’s head, and sinks into her skull. She collapses without a sound on the red and black rug. Her apple-blossom patterned headscarf floats in the air before landing on her fat, flabby body. She convulses. Another breath, perhaps two. Her staring eyes fix on Rassoul standing in the middle of the room, not breathing, whiter than a corpse. His patou
falls from his bony shoulders. His terrified gaze is lost in the pool of blood, blood that streams from the old woman’s skull, merges with the red of the rug obscuring its black pattern, then trickles toward the woman’s fleshy hand, which still grips a wad of notes. The money will be bloodstained.
Move, Rassoul, move!
What’s the matter with him? What is he thinking about? Crime and Punishment.
That’s right—Raskolnikov, and what became of him.
But didn’t he think of that before, when he was planning the crime?
Or perhaps it was that story, buried deep within, which incited him to murder.
Or perhaps…Or perhaps…what? Is this really the time to consider it? Now that he’s killed the old woman, he must take her money and jewels, and run.
He doesn’t move. He just stands there. Rooted to the spot, like a tree. A dead tree, planted in the flagstones of the house. Still staring at the trickle of blood that has almost reached the woman’s hand.
Excerpted from A Curse on Dostoevsky by Atiq Rahimi. Copyright © 2014 by Atiq Rahimi. Excerpted by permission of Other Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.