[Source: “Fresh air for Dostoevsky,” Daily Iowan, Claire Dietz, 4 Oct 2016]
By Claire Dietz
This morning, the Book Festival opened with something truly fitting of a UNESCO City of Literature: a public, open-air reading of one of literature’s classic texts.
At 9 a.m. this morning, a group of readers — open to anyone — began making their way through Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment on the steps of the Old Capitol, with the aim of finishing it all in three days. The reading will go for 12 hours for the first two days, and on the final day, Thursday, the reading will last until the book is finished.
Anna Barker, a University of Iowa adjunct assistant professor of Russian, has held open-air readings since 2010, when she read Anna Karenina in order to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Tolstoy’s death.
2012, in particular, was a monumental year for Barker; she organized a reading of War and Peace, also on the steps of the Old Capitol, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.
In order to prepare for that reading, Barker spent two years conducting research on the book, some of which took her to Russia and Paris. In the end, the reading took 120 readers more than 53 hours over the course of four days to complete.
Barker is preparing to bring the tome back to the Old Capitol steps in 2019, the year that marks the 150th anniversary of the book’s publication.
“My life as a reader of books on street corners is assured,” Barker said. “For the next 10 years, the great Russian novels are celebrating anniversaries.”
Barker hopes the reading of Crime and Punishment will enable people to view the book in a new light, literally, in the open air.
“What happens in Iowa City is unique,” she said. “Because we are the only UNESCO City of Literature [in the United States], we can take [the book] out of its cultural context and give it a new viewing, a new airing, to create new meaning.”
Crime and Punishment Public Reading
When: Today and Wednesday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Thursday: 9 a.m. – noon, or until finished
Where: Old Capitol East Entrance