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The Brothers Karamazov: Optimized for ebook. Illustrated

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The master piece of Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The Brothers Karamazov is considered one of the best books ever written. This book is recommended to all readers. This edition was specially formatted for Kindle and allows a much easier reading. There are multiple illustrations along the book that allow the reader to understand the personality and the context of Fyodor Dostoyevsky.


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The master piece of Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The Brothers Karamazov is considered one of the best books ever written. This book is recommended to all readers. This edition was specially formatted for Kindle and allows a much easier reading. There are multiple illustrations along the book that allow the reader to understand the personality and the context of Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

30 review for The Brothers Karamazov: Optimized for ebook. Illustrated

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rawley

    If there was still any doubt, let me confirm that this actually is the greatest book ever written. But be warned that you need to set aside a solid month to get through it. And it's not light reading--this is a dense work of philosophy disguised as a simple murder mystery. But it's well worth the effort. It tackles the fundamental question of human existence--how best to live one's life--in a truly engaging way. Dostoevsky created 3 brothers (Ivan, Alexei, and Dmitri) with opposite answers to th If there was still any doubt, let me confirm that this actually is the greatest book ever written. But be warned that you need to set aside a solid month to get through it. And it's not light reading--this is a dense work of philosophy disguised as a simple murder mystery. But it's well worth the effort. It tackles the fundamental question of human existence--how best to live one's life--in a truly engaging way. Dostoevsky created 3 brothers (Ivan, Alexei, and Dmitri) with opposite answers to this fundamental question, and set them loose in the world to see what would happen. A testament to Dostoevsky's genius is he didn't know how the book would evolve when he started writing. As a consequence, the book really isn't about the plot at all, but about how these brothers evolve and deal with their struggles based on their differing world views. Dostoevsky articulates, better than anyone, how human beings really are what I would call "walking contradictions". Perhaps all of our struggles in life boil down to the reality that we desire contradictory things, simultaneously. If you like your novels with good character development, this is the masterwork. Dostoevsky's characters are more real, more human, than any other. At different points along the way, you will identify with them, sympathize with them, curse them, agonize over them, celebrate them. You will be moved. Reading this book was a deeply personal experience for me, because I saw myself in one of the characters, and I didn't like what I saw. My worldview, in fact my entire direction in life, shifted as a result of this experience. I can't guarantee the same results for you, but you owe it to yourself to set aside the time, someday, for the Brothers Karamazov. Be sure to read the Pevear Volokhonsky translation.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    If you like your books to move in a linear fashion this book is not for you. It hops around and attention must be paid or you will find yourself flipping back a few pages to reestablish the thread of the story. I took this on a plane flight, crazy right? Not exactly the normal "light" reading I take on flights. It was a stroke of genius. I absolutely fell under the thrall of Dostoyevky's prose. (Thank you to my fellow travelers who didn't feel the need to chat with the guy who obviously is so If you like your books to move in a linear fashion this book is not for you. It hops around and attention must be paid or you will find yourself flipping back a few pages to reestablish the thread of the story. I took this on a plane flight, crazy right? Not exactly the normal "light" reading I take on flights. It was a stroke of genius. I absolutely fell under the thrall of Dostoyevky's prose. (Thank you to my fellow travelers who didn't feel the need to chat with the guy who obviously is so frilling bored he has resorted to reading a Russian novel.) I zipped through three hundred pages like it was butter and found myself absolutely captivated by the evolving drama of the Brothers Karamazov, the women that drive them crazy, and the father that brings to mind the words justifiable homicide. I have to give a plug to these Everyman's Library editions. A 776 page novel that feels like a 300 page novel. Despite the smaller size, the print size is still easily readable. I will certainly be picking up more of these editions especially the Russian novels that are translated by the magical duo of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Translators Volokhonsky and Pevear One of my complaints, when I was in college, and liked to torture myself with the largest most incomprehensible Russian books I could find, was that the nicknames and diminutives of various Russian names increased my frustration level and decreased my ability to comprehend the plots. I certainly spent too much time scratching my head and reading feverishly to see if I could figure out from the interactions of the characters if Vanky was actually Ivan or Boris or Uncle Vashy. I did not have that issue with this book. Despite a plot that skipped around I did not experience the confusion that has marred my memories of other Russian novels. This is the story of the Karamazov family. The father Fyodor and his four sons. There are three legitimate sons Dmitri, Ivan and Alyosha, but I believe that Smerdyakov is also an illegitimate son, though not confirmed by the author given the tendencies of Fyodor to hop on anything in a skirt I would say chances are pretty good that the boy is a Karamazov. The recklessness at which Fyodor lived his life is really the basis of the plot. The motivations of the other characters all revolve around reactions to the careless and insensitive behavior of the father. Dostoyevsky wrote a description of Fyodor that still gives me a shiver every time I read it. "Fyodor's physiognomy by that time presented something that testified acutely to the characteristics and essence of his whole life. Besides the long, fleshy bags under his eternally insolent, suspicious, and leering little eyes, besides the multitude of deep wrinkles on his fat little face, a big Adam's apple, fleshy and oblong like a purse, hung below his sharp chin, giving him a sort of repulsively sensual appearance. Add to that a long, carnivorous mouth with plump lips, behind which could be seen the little stumps of black, almost decayed teeth. He sprayed saliva whenever he spoke." Fyodor is a skirt chaser and since he is rich he can afford to throw these opulent parties that evolve/devolve into orgies with the local women. Given the description above I can only speculate that gallons and gallons of good vodka must be in play to achieve this end. Problems mount as he falls in love/lust with a young beauty of dubious morals named Grushenka. His oldest son Dmitri is also in love with this young woman and as they both vie for her hand the tension between the Karamazov's ratchets up to dangerous levels. Dmitri while pursuing this dangerous siren throws over Katerina, a girl that he owes 3,000 rubles. After Fyodor is murdered (It was similar to waiting around for someone to kill J.R.)those same rubles become central to the subsequent trial to convict Dmitri of the murder. The murderer is revealed to the reader and as the trial advances the tension increases as we begin to wonder just how the truth will be revealed. There are subplots with Father Zosima and his life before becoming a monk. Alyosha, the youngest son, was studying to be a monk under Zosima's tutelage, but becomes embroiled in the power struggles of the family and leaves the monastery to seek a life in the real world. Alyosha also becomes involved with the care of a dying child named, Ilyusha who is in the book to illustrate the heavy burden that the seemingly inconsequential actions of people can leave on others. The book explores that theme extensively. It was fascinating to watch the ripple effects of each character's actions as the chapters advance. Every time I picked this book up I had to read large chunks because it simply would not let me go. The reactions and high drama created by the smallest spark of contention in the characters kept the pages turning and as new information snapped into place I found my pulse quickening as my brain sprang ahead trying to guess where Dostoyevsky was taking me next. I worked with a young woman years ago that said that I reminded her of one of the Karamazov brothers. Because of the diverse personalities of the brothers, and the fact that I can see a little of myself in each brother I'm still left with the grand mystery as to which brother she was referring too. It serves me right for waiting so long to read this beautiful book. If you wish to see all my most recent book and movie reviews check out http://www.jeffreykeeten.com

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I'm writing this review as I read. Frankly, I'm astounded by how good this is and how compelling I'm finding it. Astounded? Why should that be? This is a classic, after all. True, but it breaks just about every "rule" of fiction. The plot so far is virtually nonexistent: three brothers get together with their wastrel father and all sorts of dysfunction, including an odd love triangle involving the father and the eldest son, are revealed. The brothers aren't particular close to each other, and re I'm writing this review as I read. Frankly, I'm astounded by how good this is and how compelling I'm finding it. Astounded? Why should that be? This is a classic, after all. True, but it breaks just about every "rule" of fiction. The plot so far is virtually nonexistent: three brothers get together with their wastrel father and all sorts of dysfunction, including an odd love triangle involving the father and the eldest son, are revealed. The brothers aren't particular close to each other, and really not much happens except that they meet at a monastery, where the youngest son lives, for an audience with a holy man who's dying, and then they go their separate ways, except that they have kind of random meetings with each other and with the woman involved in the love triangle, and there's a vague sense of foreboding that something will happen to the father. And the characters? Not really the kinds of characters we're used to in contemporary fiction. These are characters who struggle with all kinds of philosophical issues and enjoy nothing more than debating them at length with each other. Sounds boring? Well, it's not. Not at all. By the way, I'm reading the Ignet Avsey translation based on Kris's recommendation, and it's wonderful so far! *** One of the things I find so fascinating about this book is how it can be both one of the most dark and cynical works I've read, and one of the most overtly spiritual and soulful. This is a true testament to Dostoyevsky's range, to how effortlessly he "contains multitudes" in this masterful work. *** [Alert: Some Spoilers to Follow] One of the most cynical passages I've read so far is about how, following the holy man's death, his fellow monks are all shocked when his corpse begins to smell. Because of course if he'd been a true holy man, they figured, his corpse wouldn't have smelled at all, so the fact that it started smelling makes them all begin to question whether he'd really been what they'd imagined. Soon several of them begin to remember times when he'd been shockingly and suspiciously less-than-holy, and then the pile-on really begins, as the monks begin competing to disavow him the most, with only a couple of his friends holding onto his good memory, but even they are cowed into silence by the general gleeful animosity. Oh, this Dostoyevsky really knows how to plumb all that's dark and pathetic about human nature. *** After about page 500, the plot really picks up. We have murder, a mad dash to a woman, heavy drinking, protestations of love, and the police moving in. After the languid plotting of the opening sections, I'm almost breathless! *** The use of the narrator here is so interesting. We have a nameless figure who lives in the place where the events take place recounting the story almost as if recounting a legend. At the same time, we get the characters' most intimate thoughts and long speeches that the narrator could not possibly have known first-hand. It all adds to the notion that this may be more the narrator's own tall tale than any faithful recitation of history--which of course is true, because it's a novel, but the way the artificial nature of the story gets highlighted makes me think it's another example of Dostroyevsky's cynicism at work. *** All signs point to Dmitry as the perpetrator, but the way he protests his innocence just makes you want to believe him! He's having a hard time of it, though. The prosecutor and magistrate conduct a long interview of him, and the evidence is damning. Interestingly, after Dmitry is taken away, the scene shifts radically, revisiting the young boys we'd briefly met earlier. What is Dostroyevsky doing here? In the figure of Kolya, a 13 year-old prankster wunderkind, he seems to be pointing out the limits of rationalism, the way it can be abused to wow those with slightly less knowledge and how it can ultimately come off as a big joke. *** Now things have become complicated. Who's really guilty of this crime? We know who "did it" because he tells Ivan, but then he blames Ivan himself for his athiesm--for influencing him by the notion that nothing we do matters anyway. *** At the beginning of the trial, we see Dostoyevsky's biting and cynical nature reassert itself, as he describes the spectacle that the event has become--the people who've traveled from far away to witness it, drawn by their desire to see the two female rivals for Dmitry and Dmitry himself, who's especially attractive to the ladies because of his reputation as a "ladies' man." The proceedings themselves seem secondary to the spectacle and the sport. *** The trial itself is a fascinating deconstruction of Dmitry's character--how that character can be everything the prosecutor says, and yet at the same time, it's everything his defense counsel says too. We're given to long speeches about the character that are fascinating psychological studies (the lawyers themselves debate about this newfangled science of psychology--how plastic it is, how it can be used to justify and explain anything). You can see Dostoyevsky working on multiple levels here, showing multiple sides of his character that don't quite cohere, and that's exactly the point, that people are complex and inconsistent and constantly at war with themselves, so what does "character" mean? What does "a" character mean in a novel? And just when it looks like the defense will carry the day.... *** The coda is a plan for escape and the funeral of a young boy, and yet it end on a curiously uplifting note, a statement of faith and everlasting remembrance--and a change, for the better, in many of the other young boys, united as they are in love of the lost boy, who thus becomes an almost Christian martyr, the one whose death brings love to all his friends. And so Dostoyevsky brings to a close his massive masterpiece, and so I end these little scribbles.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    837. Bratia Karamazovy = The Karamazov brothers,Fyodor Dostoevsky Abstract: The Brothers Karamazov is a passionate philosophical novel set in 19th century of Russia that enters deeply into the ethical debates of God, free will, and morality. It is a spiritual drama of moral struggles concerning faith, doubt, and reason, set against a modernizing Russia. Characters: Dmitri Fyodorovich Karamazov, Ivan Fyodorovich Karamazov, Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov, Pavel Smerdyakov, Agrafena Alexandrovna Svetl 837. Bratia Karamazovy = The Karamazov brothers‬,Fyodor Dostoevsky Abstract: The Brothers Karamazov is a passionate philosophical novel set in 19th century of Russia that enters deeply into the ethical debates of God, free will, and morality. It is a spiritual drama of moral struggles concerning faith, doubt, and reason, set against a modernizing Russia. Characters: Dmitri Fyodorovich Karamazov, Ivan Fyodorovich Karamazov, Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov, Pavel Smerdyakov, Agrafena Alexandrovna Svetlova, Katerina Ivanovna Verkhovtseva, Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, Father Zosima, the Elder, Ilyusha, Nikolai Krassotkin. برادران کارامازوف - فئودور داستایوسکی (ناهید) ادبیات روسیه، تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و پنجم ماه سپتامبر سال 2002 میلادی عنوان یک: برادران کارامازوف، ترجمه: مشفق‌همدانی، نشر: تهران، صفی علیشاه، امیرکبیر، 1335، در 2 جلد، تعداد صفحات: نامعلوم عنوان دو: برادران کارامازوف، ترجمه: صالح حسینی، نشر: تهران، نیلوفر، 1367؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، ناهید، چاپ هشتم 1376، در 2 جلد، تعداد صفحات: نامعلوم، شابک: دوره 96462050701، 9646205062؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان روسیه - سده 19 م عنوان سه: برادران کارامازوف، ترجمه: رامین مستقیم، نشر: تهران، نگارستان کتاب، چاپ نخست 1390، در 2 جلد، تعداد صفحات: نامعلوم، شابک: دوره 9786001900532، جلد1: 9786001900518، جلد2: 9786001900525 عنوان چهار: برادران کارامازوف، ترجمه: اسماعیل قهرمانی­پور(شمس خوی)، نشر: تهران، سمیر، چاپ نخست 1391، در 2 جلد، تعداد صفحات: نامعلوم، شابک: جلد۱: 9789642201860، جلد2: 9789642201874 عنوان پنج: برادران کارامازوف کوتاه شده، ترجمه: حسن زمانی، نشر: تهران، همشهری، چاپ نخست 1391، تعداد صفحات: 61 ص، شابک: 9789642412013 این داستان که مشهورترین اثر «داستایوسکی» ست، برای نخستین بار، بصورت پاورقی، در سال‌های 1879 میلادی تا سال 1880 میلادی، در نشریه ی «پیام‌ آور روسی» منتشر شد؛ گویا قرار بوده، یک مجموعه سه گانه باشد، اما چهار ماه پس از چاپ کتاب، نویسنده از در این سرای زمین، به آسمانها رفتند، و به آن سرای دیگر شتافتند. «فئودور کارامازوف»؛ پیرمردی فاسد، و پولدار است، با سه پسر خویش؛ به نامهای: «میتیا»، «ایوان» و «آلیوشا»، و پسر نامشروع اش به نام: «اسمردیاکوف». کتاب هماره شگفتی اندیشمندان، و بزرگواران را برانگیخته، و آنها را به کف زدن، و آفرین گویی واداشته است. نویسنده خود نیز، یکی از شخصیتهای همین داستان است، و گاه نقش راوی داستان را، میپذیرند. هر چهار پسر، از پدر خویش بیزار هستند؛ «میتیا» افسر است و زودرنج؛ «ایوان» تحصیلکرده و بدبین و سرد مزاج، و «آلیوشا» قهرمان داستان است و در صومعه، زیر نظر «پدر زوسیما»، با باورهای «اورتودکس» پرورش یافته، و شخصیتی دوستداشتنی دارد؛ و «اسمردیاکوف»، نوکر خانه، و فاسد و بدقلب است. ماجرای همزیستی این چهار برادر با هم است. ... ا. شربیانی

  5. 4 out of 5

    Conrad

    Contrary to widespread rumor, this is a far from bleak book. While every character has his or her own misery, and it all takes place in a place called something like "cattle-roundup-ville", the moments of religious ecstasy and moral clarity are heartbreaking in their frequency - it's hard not to wish that one had such bizarre events going on around one in order to prompt such lofty oratory. The story involves Ivan, Dmitri, Alyosha, and Smerdyakov, four brothers with a rich but notoriously lechero Contrary to widespread rumor, this is a far from bleak book. While every character has his or her own misery, and it all takes place in a place called something like "cattle-roundup-ville", the moments of religious ecstasy and moral clarity are heartbreaking in their frequency - it's hard not to wish that one had such bizarre events going on around one in order to prompt such lofty oratory. The story involves Ivan, Dmitri, Alyosha, and Smerdyakov, four brothers with a rich but notoriously lecherous father, Fyodor. All four brothers were raised by others, Fyodor having essentially ignored them until others removed them from his care. In the beginning of the book, Alyosha is in the monastery, studying under a famous elder name Father Zosima; Dmitri has just left the army and stolen a large sum of money from a government official's daughter, who he has also apparently seduced, all while pursuing a lawsuit against Fyodor for his inheritance and canoodling with his own father's intended, the local seductress Grushenka; Ivan, the intellectual in the family, has just returned from (I think) Petersburg. Dmitri is violent and impulsive, referring to himself as an "insect," and gets into fistfights with Fyodor several times. Smerdyakov works for Fyodor as a lackey, having gone to France to learn to cook at some point in the past. It's unimaginably more complicated and digressive than all this, and just trying to follow this crucial sum of three thousand rubles through the story is almost impossible. But anyway, Fyodor is killed and much of the book hinges on which brother killed him and why. When I first read this book in high school, my teacher (who was a devout Catholic, a red-faced drunk who wore sunglasses to class, and the most enthusiastic reader of Russian literature imaginable) asked everyone who their favorite brother was. Was it Ivan, the tortured skeptic? Dmitri, the "scoundrel" who tortures himself for every wrong he commits but can't help committing more? Or Alyosha, the saintly one who always knows the right thing to say? (Certainly Smerdyakov is no one's favorite.) At the time I went with Ivan - I was in high school, after all, and his atheism and pessimism were revolutionary to me. But now Ivan seems rather selfish and callow, and I can't help siding with Dmitri, the one Dostoevsky uses almost as a case history of conscience. Like Shakespeare, Dostoevsky gives his characters all the space to talk like gods, clearing pages upon pages for their reasoning and dialog. Dmitri fumbles with Voltaire and is clearly not overly literate, but in some ways that's apropos, because his main problem is the constant internal conflict between his desires and his ethics which is only partly resolved when he chooses to become responsible for not only what he does, but also what he wants. The most famous passage in the book, Ivan's tale of the Grand Inquisitor, is, to me, far less interesting than Zosima's meditations on the conflict between justice and the collective good. The elder Zosima is a kind of Christian socialist who grapples with the typical mid-19th century Russian issues of how to build a equitable society without the extremes of coercion that the Tsar used to turn to, while also ensuring public morality and avoiding the kind of massacres that characterized the French Revolution (an event that seems to have been even more traumatizing for Russians than it was to the French due to the enormous cultural influence France had there at the time.) Zosima's answer is unworkable and in some ways naiive, but the discussion is well worth it, moreso than Ivan's somewhat simplistic dualism of Christ vs. the Inquisitor. Dostoevsky was a cultural conservative in the sense that he was constantly renewing his commitment to the obligations imposed on Russians by the Orthodox Church. At the same time, he was committed to the pursuit of joy through kindness and community and a kind of interpersonal fair dealing in a way that transcends his political concerns and is inspiring to see articulated in the lives of people who are as confused as the rest of us. It's a huge, messy book, but so worth the effort. It took me about three months to read carefully, though my reading has been flagging lately, as well. I read this while listening to Hubert Dreyfus's accompanying lectures at Stanford on existentialism and this book which are available on iTunes U, and even when I felt his readings overreached, it was a good way to reread a tough and subtle work like this.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    “Hurrah for Karamazov!” Those are the concluding words of this bombastic brick of a book. I am more than willing to chime in, to cheer for the brothers Karamazov who finally, finally made me give in to the genius of Dostoevsky fully, without anger, without resentment and fight, after a year of grappling with his earlier novels. This is doubtless his magnum opus, the shining lead star in a brilliant cosmos. There are many similarities to his earlier novels, and his characters fight with the same i “Hurrah for Karamazov!” Those are the concluding words of this bombastic brick of a book. I am more than willing to chime in, to cheer for the brothers Karamazov who finally, finally made me give in to the genius of Dostoevsky fully, without anger, without resentment and fight, after a year of grappling with his earlier novels. This is doubtless his magnum opus, the shining lead star in a brilliant cosmos. There are many similarities to his earlier novels, and his characters fight with the same inner demons as the predecessors. And yet, there is something milder, more soothing in the Brothers Karamazov, there is mature perfection in this novel. Yes, Smerdyakov is an underprivileged, hateful sufferer, but he is not lost to compassion and care in the same way as the nihilistic man writing his Notes from Underground. And Dimitri is rash and bold and full of contradictions, but he is not as confused as Raskolnikov, he does not impose the dogma of suffering in the sense of Crime and Punishment on his family and community. He has a plan for living, not for suffering. Ivan is a brooding intellectual, but he is not stone-cold like Stavrogin in Devils. His conflicted heart and intellect are connected to the world. Alyosha, thank goodness, is a sweet and innocent character, but nothing like the awful Christlike idiot Myshkin from The Idiot. He knows how to live and interact, and he is willing to step away from rigid prejudices and principles to comfort the ones he loves. What about the women? Grushenka is not destroyed by the love of several men like Nastasya, and even Katerina Ivanovna is given a complex, divided soul, not just a shallow platform for men to use at their convenience and throw away when they have made their point. She has her own points to make. Why do the Brothers Karamazov work so well? I believe Dostoyevsky made the decision to paint a family just like it is, with all the contradictory emotions and actions, and all the mood swings and difficult situations. He had already established his religious and political ideas in earlier works, and he could afford to let the characters be what they naturally were, without judging them from the standpoint of history and society. Thus he could be the storyteller he naturally was, without any agenda but love for the story he told. The plot is both simple and complex: Be careful what you wish for, it might come true! As the three (or four) brothers and the women they love in different ways and fashions face the murder of the old patriarchal buffoon, all of them have to come to terms with the painful reality of loving and hating at the same time. A bad parent is still a parent, and a dead parent still has power over the lives of his offspring. The “Karamazov character”, much cited throughout the novel, becomes a synonym for any human being in his or her dealings with that complicated microcosm called family: “And why? Because he was of the broad Karamazov character - that’s just what I am leading up to - capable of combining the most incongruous contradictions, and capable of the greatest heights and of the greatest depths.” Because Dostoyevsky dares to let go of his mission to prove that Russian nationalism and Christian orthodoxie are at the centre of the meaning of life, he actually makes a case for both in a much more convincing way than he ever could with his more concept- and idea-driven earlier works. The humour in the unforgettable scenes with the “unspeakable conduct” of the stinking Father Zossima are so much better than the pseudo-Christian rants of Myshkin, and the intellectual understanding of the dangers of community worship in the story of the Grand Inquisitor is as true now as it was back then, showing the way to the core of both religious and political extremism: “This craving for community of worship is the chief misery of every man individually and of all humanity from the beginning of time. For the sake of common worship they’ve slain each other with the sword. They have set up gods and challenged one another: Put away your gods and come and worship ours, or we will kill you and your gods.” And so it will be to the end of the world, even when gods disappear from the earth; they will fall down before idols just the same.” So what is the redeeming feature of the Karamazovs then? Why do I feel like shouting, over and over: “Hurrah for Karamazov!” They love each other. They really do, in a crooked, angry way, in a distorted, strange way. But they do. They love each other despite being completely different in their approach to life, and they support each other’s right to life, love and happiness. In the end, they help each other make the best of a muddle (and that is the best any family can do: help each other deal with the blows that families tend to inflict on themselves!). Exile in a place worse than Siberia (Oh, America, what a delightful irony Dimitri’s words are!) is manageable if you make peace with your loved ones. And the final pages leave me bowing to the beauty of the insight that man and woman can love each other in so many different ways, and that love is not exclusive, but inclusive. Dostoyevsky! You wrote the perfect novel. Hurrah!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Florencia

    Above all, avoid lies, all lies, especially the lie to yourself. Keep watch on your own lie and examine it every hour, every minute. And avoid contempt, both of others and of yourself: what seems bad to you in yourself is purified by the very fact that you have noticed it in yourself. And avoid fear, though fear is simply the consequence of every lie. (57) Family. You cannot pick. You are either happy to be around them or you are stuck with them. You can choose your friends, a pet, you can choos Above all, avoid lies, all lies, especially the lie to yourself. Keep watch on your own lie and examine it every hour, every minute. And avoid contempt, both of others and of yourself: what seems bad to you in yourself is purified by the very fact that you have noticed it in yourself. And avoid fear, though fear is simply the consequence of every lie. (57) Family. You cannot pick. You are either happy to be around them or you are stuck with them. You can choose your friends, a pet, you can choose between a blueberry muffin and a chocolate chip one, but you cannot choose your family. The combination of genetics and the social environment is simply fascinating. For example, take this ordinary Russian family. An ambitious, lascivious, ridiculous father who enjoyed alcohol in any form; a son who, at first, seemed to be the image of his father; a second son, vain and intellectual with even more questionable moral reactions; the youngest son with the kindness of a saint and the troubled soul of a common man and another weak, disturbing young man who never counted as a son. This book contains the story of every family in the world. Their struggles, their fears, their doubts, the decisions that reflect the highest and most degrading aspects of human nature. “There is a force that will endure everything,” said Ivan, this time with a cold smirk. “What force?” “The Karamazov force ... the force of the Karamazov baseness.” “To drown in depravity, to stifle your soul with corruption, is that it?” (210) This book contains centuries of human history. It is a major treatise on philosophy and religion. And yes, there is a lot of religion here, but even me, a person who is struggling with a lack of faith and a deep ocean of doubts and fear, can still be interested and dazzled by all this. (Unless we are talking about the "monk book". There were a couple of good things but, in general, it was the only part of the book that made me want to take a really long nap. I must admit it, in the spirit of full disclosure. And my previous naive defense about how “even” me could be interested? Yes, forget it, I know I am haunted by uncertainty and, therefore, obsessed with knowledge, no matter how limited I can be.) “Can it be that you really hold this conviction about the consequences of the exhaustion of men’s faith in the immortality of their souls?” the elder suddenly asked Ivan Fyodorovich. “Yes, it was my contention. There is no virtue if there is no immortality.” “You are blessed if you believe so, or else most unhappy!” ... “Maybe you’re right... ! But still, I wasn't quite joking either ... ,” Ivan Fyodorovich suddenly and strangely confessed—by the way, with a quick blush. “You weren't quite joking, that is true. This idea is not yet resolved in your heart and torments it. But a martyr, too, sometimes likes to toy with his despair, also from despair, as it were. For the time being you, too, are toying, out of despair, with your magazine articles and drawing-room discussions, without believing in your own dialectics and smirking at them with your heart aching inside you ... The question is not resolved in you, and there lies your great grief, for it urgently demands resolution...” (66) A sharp observation written using such an exquisite language. You should become accustomed to that. Once you reach Book V, you will found yourself overwhelmed by the author's mesmerizing erudition. If you're expecting an explosive plot with lots of things going on at the same time, weird twists and vampires, fights and dragons, magic and flying dogs, then this book is not for you. There is a plot, of course, but the excellence of this book lies on the writing. Dostoyevsky's trademark is his gifted ability to describe human nature using the most poignantly elegant prose known to man. His insightful points of view on almost every subject that affects all humanity are written with admirable lyricism and precision. Reading this particular writer can be rather demanding. You have to be prepared. You have to become habituated to the idea that your soul might absorb the despairing and sometimes playful beauty of his writing. And once that happens, you won't be able to forget him. Dostoyevsky has the power to defeat oblivion. He personifies an unwelcome light that illuminates every dark nook of our minds. He makes us think about what we like to see in ourselves and what we choose to hide. Jealousy! “Othello is not jealous, he is trustful”... A truly jealous man is not like that. It is impossible to imagine all the shame and moral degradation a jealous man can tolerate without the least remorse. And it is not that they are all trite and dirty souls. On the contrary, it is possible to have a lofty heart, to love purely, to be full of self-sacrifice, and at the same time to hide under tables, to bribe the meanest people, and live with the nastiest filth of spying and eavesdropping... And one may ask what is the good of a love that must constantly be spied on, and what is the worth of a love that needs to be guarded so intensely? (293) Besides briefly discussing the plot, I can only add I don't have favorite characters. They all annoyed me or disgusted me in the same contradictory way. But I do understand them, most of the times. I loved the dialogues—the amazing reflections while they are deciding to act against everything that is good; they know what they are about to do is wrong but they can't help it; it's in their blood—the profound remarks of our narrator and the fact that Dostoyevsky, one more time, allowed me to enter inside his characters' minds. He shares the complexity of all of them. And I'm enchanted by this man's ability to make everything beautiful, even while describing the darkest aspects of humanity, which leads me to another point. I love reading other people's thoughts on the books I like. A certain opinion I read a while ago was about how Dostoyevsky seems to be a vicious misogynist because of the way he wrote about Smerdyakov's mother, “Stinking Lizaveta.” I try not to make out of every word written by the author, a reflection of the person he or she really is. Crime writers don't usually murder every human they find. Mystery writers don't always think that somebody's butler is up to something. In that sense, an author who writes about how a woman is mistreated by a certain part of society doesn't necessarily mean he's a vicious misogynist. He was being honest, he was displaying truth. Poor women and men were often treated like less than a human - that hasn't changed that much. Dostoyevsky described it too vividly.* ...people speak sometimes about the ‘animal’ cruelty of man, but that is terribly unjust and offensive to animals, no animal could ever be so cruel as a man, so artfully, so artistically cruel. (193) In conclusion, as I said before, this book contains the history of the world. A deluge of misery and wisdom waiting for the reader. The way of representing the Russian soul is the way all souls should be represented; it transcends any geographical boundary, any limitation of time. We all have many sides of the Karamazovs' nature in us. We all have demons tormenting our good judgment. We all know what we should do and, sometimes, we simply can't do it. I can't justify everything but we are humans. I want to understand, I need to. We are susceptible to failure. To negligence. To vileness, dishonesty and many other abhorrent things. Once mistakes are made, only the most fortunate ones are able to find a path toward redemption. In this book, in this Russia which portrays the world of all times, some did. And some had to endure the bitter punishments that the choices in their lives have brought upon them. ‘I love mankind,’ he said, ‘but I am amazed at myself: the more I love mankind in general, the less I love people in particular, that is, individually, as separate persons... (56) Too human. We all hear the sounds of a ravenous solitude echoing in the dark depths of our beings; they often make us act by instinct, forgetting that we have been blessed—or doomed—with reason. Moreover, they make us forget to feel love. And that, indeed, is a faithful depiction of what hell must feel like. A hell to which we will soon arrive by repeating to ourselves: everything is permitted . May 05, 14-Update June 17, 19 *Just another reader's opinion. ** Also on my blog.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Seemita

    I finished reading this book at precisely 0205 hours today. The night still lay majestically over the impending dawn, and in its blackened stillness, swayed the echoes of this imperious book. The walls of my room, at once, turned into a fortress for Dostoevsky’s army of thoughts, and I, right in the middle of it, found myself besieged with its diverse, haphazard but mighty blizzard. I am no stranger to this rambling Russian’s precocious visions and forbearance and yet, and yet, this work, swells I finished reading this book at precisely 0205 hours today. The night still lay majestically over the impending dawn, and in its blackened stillness, swayed the echoes of this imperious book. The walls of my room, at once, turned into a fortress for Dostoevsky’s army of thoughts, and I, right in the middle of it, found myself besieged with its diverse, haphazard but mighty blizzard. I am no stranger to this rambling Russian’s precocious visions and forbearance and yet, and yet, this work, swells much beyond even his own creator and spills over…. well, almost, everything. A maniacal land-owner is murdered and one of his three sons is the prime suspect. Thus, ensues a murder trial and in its fold, fall hopelessly and completely, the lives of all the three brothers – the brothers Karamazov. A life, when spans a trajectory both long and substantial, ends up writing a will that is both personal and universal. A notebook of reflections, a source of knowledge, an oasis of love and a mirror of perpetuity. And may I dare say that for D, this might well be a biography, which he, in his quintessential mercurial satire, chose to write himself, under the garb of fiction. Dmitri, Ivan and Alyosha present the very tenets on which life gets lived, or even more, passed on. The impulsive and emotional Dmitri, the calculative and intelligent Ivan and the naïve and spiritual Alyosha represent the microcosm of a society which wagers war on the name of religion, status, power, values and ideals. And D takes each of these causes and drills, and drills, and drills even more, their various interpretations. Religion, and church, take centre stage for a good 350 pages of this work. Amid homilies and confessions, monasteries and surrender, is pushed disturbing ideals that can rock one’s faith. If you are surrounded by spiteful and callous people who do not want to listen to you, fall down before them and ask for their forgiveness, for the guilt is yours too, that they do not want to listen to you. And if you cannot speak with the embittered, serve them silently and in humility, never losing hope. And if everyone abandons you and drives you out by force, then, when, you are left alone fall down on the earth and kiss it and water it with your tears, and the earth will bring forth fruit from your tears, even though no one has seen or heard you in your solitude. Aye, aye, I hear you, D and while some of it makes so much sense to my theist heart, some of it look outright suicidal. But why again, am I tempted to always, measure the righteousness, even lesser, the likeability, of my action from the perspective of my audience? Why make an ideal on a bed that doesn’t smell of my skin? I go to the board and think. Philosophising, as he does with such ease and amiability, isn’t without unleashing a thundering dose of dichotomies. He steals the mirror from my room and turns it towards me: 'Oh, so you believe in the good? How nice! But, well, then, how come the devil lurks in the dark corners of your room? No? You don’t agree with me? Oh where does all the cursing and ill-will spring from that you aim, with such precise ferocity, towards the people you don’t quite find to your liking? From where does all the impiety and malice, that you secretly drink with panache, emerge from leaving you intoxicated for hours, if not days?' Sheepishly, I dig the chalk a little deeper into the board, and think. And while I grope to find answers to his questions, I cheat and fall back on his treatise for hints, and insights. You know, Lise, it’s terribly difficult for an offended man when everyone suddenly starts looking like his benefactor. Why might a fallen man, a beggar, still keep a flame of dignity burning in his heart? Why might a harangued father, drive away his heirs from money, while spending his whole life hoarding for them? Why might a pauper, throw away his last penny on trifles, despite carrying a clear picture of his imminent doom in his eyes? Why might a pure heart, deliberately dirty his soul with pungent secrets, knowing there were no ways to erase them? Because deep down, what bind us, irrespective of our backgrounds, are the same threads: love, jealousy, ambition, hatred, revenge, repentance. In various forms, they dwell in us, and drive us, to give their formless matter, shape in different people, in different ways, at different places and in different times. I write a few words on the board and pause to ponder. But, make no mistake; D turns the mirror on himself too and takes digs on his own character, because, after all, what life have we lived if we didn’t learn to laugh at ourselves? Laugh, yes; ah yes! There is plenty of humor ingrained, albeit surreptitiously, in this dense text and works like a lovely whiff of cardamom wafting over a cup of strong tea. Ivan Fyodorovich, my most respectful son, allow me to order you to follow me! There, I made a smiley on the board. I dropped the chalk and wondered: what created so much debate (and furore perhaps) when this book was first published in the 19th century? And then, I realized – even without my knowledge, my fingers had imparted two horns to the smiley’s rotund face. Yes, now that image surely needs to be questioned. But do ask these questions. Do take the plunge into this deep sea of psychology and philosophy. Do feel the thuds of paradoxes and dualities on your soul. Do allow the unknown elements of orthodoxy and modernism to pucker your skin. Do allow some blood to trickle. Do allow some scars to heal. Because No, gentlemen of the jury, they have their Hamlets, but so far we have only Karamazovs!” That’s what! --- Also on my blog.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    On Romancing The Devil Warning: This review might contain spoilers even outside the hidden 'spoiler alert' regions. I honestly am not capable of discriminating. The book is not about the murder or about who did it, those things were very apparent before half the book was completed - the narrator taking special pains to spoil all suspense for his readers at the very beginning (harkening back to the days of greek drama and Euripides - according to whom, the effect of a story, even a whodunnit, was On Romancing The Devil Warning: This review might contain spoilers even outside the hidden 'spoiler alert' regions. I honestly am not capable of discriminating. The book is not about the murder or about who did it, those things were very apparent before half the book was completed - the narrator taking special pains to spoil all suspense for his readers at the very beginning (harkening back to the days of greek drama and Euripides - according to whom, the effect of a story, even a whodunnit, was not in epic suspense about what was going to happen next, but in those great scenes of lyrical rhetorics in which the passion and dialectic of the protagonists reached heights of eloquence. Everything was to portend pathos, not action, which was always there only as a container for the pathos, to give it form). This was probably done so that the typical clue-seeking aspects of a mystery does not detract his reader from addressing the real, the painful questions littered all across his treatise, almost with indecent abandon. (view spoiler)[After all, we were shown by Dostoevsky varying degrees of foreshadowings of every event that eventually became turning points in the plot - starting with the numerous leading comments of the narrator including the one in the opening paragraph, Zosima's prediction of suffering for and apology to Dimitri and Smerdyakov's not so subtle clues to Ivan among many others. And do not forget that Dostoyevsky even gave us the alternate route that Mitya could have taken in the Zosima narrative - the parallels in that story are too numerous to list out here. (hide spoiler)] No, this story is not about the murder, or about the murderer, or about his motivations, or around the suspense surrounding his final fate. The story is about the reaction - it was all about the jury. Many theories abound about how the Karamazov family represents Russia/humanity/all characters but the reality is that they represent individualities; while it is that terrible faceless jury, always addressed to and never addressed by, that represents humanity. The job of the country, the society, of the whole human race is to judge, to determine the fate of individuals based on the stories that they construct, literally out of thin air, out of the small pieces of a life that they can only ever observe. The best character sketches, fictional or otherwise can only ever be the minutest portion of a real character - but from that tiniest of slivers we build this ambiguous thing called ‘character’, as if such a thing can possibly exist for a creature as fickle-minded and forgetful of himself as man. Character of a man is the greatest myth, propagated best by novelists, as no story can proceed without a ‘constant’ man who behave with some level of predictability or with predictable unpredictability, but real life is the result of adding a minimum of three more ‘unpredictable’ as adjectives to that earlier description, to come close to describing even the simplest and most boring idiot alive. But yet we construct stories, to understand, to predict, to know how to behave, we even make up stories about ourselves so that we may have an illusion of control over who we are - so that we do not melt into the amorphous protean mass that is the rest of humanity - my story separates me from all of them. I construct, therefore I am. These are the romances that Dostoevsky wields his best work against and the trial is a trial of reason, of reality pitted against the overwhelming circumstantial evidence in favor of romance, of the myth of character, of individuality, of cause and effect, of there being anything predictable when such a wild variable as a human mind is part of the equation, how can such an equation be anything but ‘indeterminate’ (to borrow Dostoevsky’s own expression)? That was the grand trial, the inquisition of reason. But how can the defense stand up in favor of reality without explaining to the jury (to humanity) why they see things not as they are, that they have made up a story that is perfect but is never real as no story can ever be - as no cause can really cause a definite effect when human beings are involved? You have to tell a story to convince the jury. You have to tell a story to defend the fact that stories do not exist. A story now, about stories. Or multiple stories to show how all stories are false if only one can be allowed to be true. The only other option is that all are true, simultaneously. By proving which you include your own story in that ‘self-consuming’ super-set and doom your own argument. There is the irresolvable conflict of the trial, of the story, of the novel, of life. You cannot discredit the myth of the story without the help of a story as the jury that judges cannot understand, cannot comprehend any reality outside of a story, human beings cannot think outside their romances. They will continue to exist as prisoners to their own stories. That is why it is a comedy and not a tragedy, as no one died and no one killed and it remains akin to a sphinx setting us a riddle which he cannot solve himself. But, judgment had to be passed as the story was told. One story among many. -------- An expanded review might follow and will try to address some of the big themes of the book, enumerated below: 1) On Fatherhood - The second big theme of the book. Possibly the real theme, the above only being my own story... 2) On Crime & the Efficacy of Punishment - On how men will always rise to be worthy of their punishment/mercy; On suffering and salvation and on how no judgement can be stronger, more effective or more damning/redemptive than moral self-judgement; On how Ivan’s ecclesiastical courts eventually would have behaved - would they have behaved as predicted by him in his prose poem and let christ go, unlike the real court? So, in the end his alternate vision of Satan’s court is what was really shown by the current judicial apparitions? But in the fable who was it that really forgave the inquisitor or the inquisitee? And in the overall story too, who forgives whom in the end? Christ or Humanity, Satan or Church, Dimitri or Russia? 3) On Collateral Damage - inflicted by the main story on side stories, on how the small side stories are over shadowed, no murdered by the main one and without any risk of conviction. 4) On the Institution of Religion- On morality and the question of the necessity of religion; On the basis for faith; On the implications of faith/lack of faith to the story one tells about oneself; On how Philip Pullman took the easy way out by expanding Dostoevsky’s story for his widely acclaimed novel; On the enormous burden of free will; On the dependence of men on the security of miracles that is the source of all hell and of all action. 5) On the Characters - On how Dostoevsky took the cream of his best-conceived characters from the universe of his creation, from across all his best works to populate his magnum opus, his story about stories, to trace out their path with the ultimate illusion of realism, with the ultimate ambition and to show/realize how it should always, always fall apart; On how he reflected the whole universe in a small lake and created a novel about all novels, disproving and affirming them simultaneously, murdering its own parents in its own fulfillment; On how they might have their Hamlets, but we have our Karamazov's. 6) On Hope & Redemption - On how ultimately Zosima's world view trumps the cynical aspects that dominated the book; On how Zosima predicted it all at the very beginning and apologized to Dimitri on behalf of all mankind - ‘taking everyone’s sin upon himself”, thus creating an inverted reflection of the christ figure, its image playing on both Dimitri and on Zosima for that split second and then passing on to Alyosha until finally projected back to Dimitri, in the ultimate paradox, where he becomes at last a christ figure and a buddha figure, exemplifying self-knowledge and enlightenment through true suffering; On how even the Karamazov name can be inspiring and be cause for cheers even though it represents the worst (best?) of humanity; On The Sermon at the Stone. 7) On Nihilism - On the absurdity of life and trying to explain it. But oh wait, this is what I talked of in paragraph length already.     PS. By the way, when you read this, keep your ears tuned towards the end - for somewhere in the distance you might hear the laugh of the Grand Inquisitor echoing faintly.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    “The Brothers Karamazov” has intrigued me for years. I have always been aware of the fact that it is one of the greatest novels ever written so I know I have to read it eventually. Finally, after reading it, I think I get why this is considered great literature-- and though I can't exactly say that I loved it, I admit that I don’t regret reading it. The plot revolves around the murder of perhaps one of the most despicable characters ever created, Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, the father of the Kar “The Brothers Karamazov” has intrigued me for years. I have always been aware of the fact that it is one of the greatest novels ever written so I know I have to read it eventually. Finally, after reading it, I think I get why this is considered great literature-- and though I can't exactly say that I loved it, I admit that I don’t regret reading it. The plot revolves around the murder of perhaps one of the most despicable characters ever created, Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, the father of the Karamazov brothers. This detail about the book only skims the surface because this only serves as the basic architecture for Dostoevsky's philosophy. This novel isn't so much a story as: a lengthy dissertation on human nature; the issues of Dostoyevsky's day; detailed personality profiles; and digressions on every subject the author wanted to pursue, including free will, the existence of God, moral responsibility, and truth. It's a high-minded novel full of weighty intellectual themes and Dostoevsky’s skill is unquestionable. “The Grand Inquisitor” is a supremely strange chapter , and one of the most unique things I’ve read in literature. The courtroom drama at the end of the novel, would be very hard to match in modern fiction. (view spoiler)[ In particular, the defense attorney’s closing argument is remarkable for its command of human psychology, as the hired gun from St. Petersburg shows that all the supposedly incriminating circumstances of the case can be understood. (hide spoiler)] And of the family—what a family! Each figure in this household (?) embodies conflicting phases of the author’s great ideas: Fyodor Karamazov, the father, is a sensualist of the lowest type imaginable; Dmitri inherits his father’s passions but is tempered by periods of misgiving; Ivan is a materialist and a cynic. He changes his mind after a severe illness, and his materialistic belief is replaced by intense spiritual curiosity; Alyosha is an idealist, lovable and loving. Dostoevsky’s discordant elements are effectively conveyed in his human characterizations. That said, “The Brothers Karamazov” still didn’t impress me as much as I expected it to. The story started out painfully slow. In my opinion, a great novel shouldn't require readers to force themselves to stay awake for more than 1/4 of the book in order to become acquainted with initially uninteresting characters. As with the rest of the book, there were many points where Dostoevsky seemed to descend into meaningless details that, to me, did nothing to advance the plot, atmosphere, or characterization. I feel that the author is disconnected from his audience, and he doesn't seem to care. This comes to a point where I think Dostoevsky frequently loses himself in the meshes of his own word spinning. The book goes off too many tangents and is densely verbose. I found pages of extraordinary depth and poignancy but they are few and far in between. I find it hard to connect with any of the characters since their personalities are diluted by the manic and morbidly intense verbal flow. Half the book was one of the Karamazovs talking on and on, uninterrupted to an audience as silent and passive as the reader. I frequently spaced out and have to backtrack. I eventually found myself reading this book in a grim desire to finish it and be done, rather than out of a sense of enjoyment. I admired author's insights into human nature, but all too often, he seemed to make grand proclamations arbitrarily that have little evidence behind them. As if by declaring them with confidence he somehow made them true beyond question. And for whatever unaccountable reason, his preoccupations landed like a relic in my own life. My feelings can be aptly described by Rosewater’s words in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five”: “There is one other book, that can teach you everything you need to know about life... it's The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, but that's not enough anymore.” I still think it’s worth the read, and there is always something to be earned from reading the books of great authors who influenced other great authors. And besides, no matter what my opinion is, Ol’ Dusty is still going strong!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Warwick

    Sometimes I feel like modern covers have gone too far.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Samra Yusuf

    Russian novels always get better of me, I am left battered both body and mind. But the exhaustion is like the exhaustion of sex (can’t find more fitting analogy) breathless and full of life at the same. Like the traveler who was long gone on a journey and on his return, bathes for a long good hour, taking good care of every little pore of body, soaping himself as he sinks in tub very slowly, and as water pours over him he shuts his eyes and with numbing senses recalls everything in an episodic m Russian novels always get better of me, I am left battered both body and mind. But the exhaustion is like the exhaustion of sex (can’t find more fitting analogy) breathless and full of life at the same. Like the traveler who was long gone on a journey and on his return, bathes for a long good hour, taking good care of every little pore of body, soaping himself as he sinks in tub very slowly, and as water pours over him he shuts his eyes and with numbing senses recalls everything in an episodic manner, the tiniest details of his journey, and that’s the magic of Dostoyevsky, his reader is exasperated by the far off tours but at the end, is exalted nonetheless! The hell we create through our thoughts for ourselves, is never been better visited by any other but D.the endless war we are in with ourselves, the fluctuations of our mind, the contradictions of our ideas and creation of ideals, the conflict of God or no God, the choice of being sinner or saint, is all in us, within us, and Dostoyevsky leaves nothing unsaid in telling the tale of who we are, and what we choose to hide, the characteristic quality of his prose is directness, he sometimes, undoubtedly descends to the elegant, but his element is great. He occasionally invests himself to an extent, but his natural port is human psychology. “Je pense, donc je suis, I know that for a fact, all the rest, all these worlds, God and even Satan—all that is not proved, to my mind. Does all that exist of itself, or is it only an emanation of myself, a logical development of my ego which alone has existed forever?” (p. 781) Brother Karamazov is not the tale to be taken as a chronicle of one family and parricide only, the murder is not a mystery here, neither is the murderer, it’s all known at the instant murder takes place, or even before, the plethora of themes and thoughts runs deep in the waters of this gigantic ocean that the volume is! We have in detail, the characters donned into garbs of confused expressions about other characters and on the brink of self-assessment and self-denial. And as the novel proceeds, there are peculiar ideas, echoing into the minds of characters, ideas get doubled or split into multiple strings as the tale follows, Dostoyevsky makes his characters suffer by their own doomed states, their own beings are their torture cells, no one escapes this suffering, no one! The question of individual identity mounts many a time in the story, as the devil visits Ivan or so he fancies; the boundaries of one soul and the influence of wishes thought to be unvoiced are questioned throughout the novel, the suppressed/unidentified wishes of one character are accomplished by the other, For instance, the relationship between Ivan and Smerdyakov, with Ivan apparently the stronger and more intelligent, and Smerdyakov the instrument of his will. Ivan’s unconscious wishes for his father’s death direct Smerdyakov, who communicates with the unconscious directly; Smerdyakov is, then, the master, the controller of fate simply because he is able to penetrate the barrier of consciousness that must conventionally deny evil impulses. We are quite restrained to admit the bastard smerdykov shrewder than Iven, he is cleverer and is more strategic with his nihilistic views, and the self-centered epileptic is astonishingly strongest of the characters, he proves through actions that “all the things are lawful” Ah! How cold he is to lay us stark naked before us, we’ve long known his brother Karamazov, we are them, if not wholly, but in parts, the impulsive, goodhearted Dimitri is recognizable to us like a closed kin,we know Ivan, the skeptic genius and we’ve been him too in our hearts, haunted by uncertainty, tormented by conscience.... “Do you understand why this infamy must be and is permitted? Without it, I am told, man could not have existed on earth, for he could not have known good and evil. Why should he know that diabolical good and evil when it costs so much? Why, the whole world of knowledge is not worth that child’s prayer to ‘dear, kind God’!” (p. 287)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    Someone: Helloooo… yoo-hoo…. Fucktard, you there? Ben: Yes, I'm here... I finished The Brothers Karamazov the other night and I'm a bit blown away. Emotionally exhausted. Right now, it has me sitting here thinking about it, feeling all kinds of things, thinking complex, important thoughts.... Someone: The great Fyodor Dostoevsky should do that to you. He's a literary Giant; one of the all time greats. But you see, knowing you, shitfuck, I'm not surprised you gave it five stars. You give everythi Someone: Helloooo… yoo-hoo…. Fucktard, you there? Ben: Yes, I'm here... I finished The Brothers Karamazov the other night and I'm a bit blown away. Emotionally exhausted. Right now, it has me sitting here thinking about it, feeling all kinds of things, thinking complex, important thoughts.... Someone: The great Fyodor Dostoevsky should do that to you. He's a literary Giant; one of the all time greats. But you see, knowing you, shitfuck, I'm not surprised you gave it five stars. You give everything five stars, do you not? I mean, God -- and I mean "God" in a purely metaphorical sense, as he is simply an opiate for the weak masses -- you even gave The Wind-up Bird Chronicle five stars, which was more disturbing than Grace Jones chasing me on horseback. You see, most of Murakami's narrators sound as if they just disembarked the short bus. Not lyrical so much as the product of blunt-force trauma to the head, I think. But sometimes the two are in fact interchangeable. And don't even get me started on your review of The End of the Affair. A bit self serving, wasn't it? I mean, goodreads isn't your goddamn therapy group. Just about every review you've written is a sap-fest. So what kind of personalized, kitschy, life changing moment are you gonna compare this book to? Just face it, fucktard, you're one of those easily excitable star whores. You throw these five stars out left and right like you’re a John for one of my leprous herpes-infected Argentinean -- or (Westside) South Bend -- hookers.... ...... You aren't going to tell anyone, are you? Ben: heh. Someone: What is that supposed to mean? Ben: Well, I do plan on sharing this conversation with others, although I can edit out the hooker part, if you'd like. I want to share it because I really want people to know how great this book is, and I know you love this book as well. I hope the fact that it has your full seal of approval will encourage them to read it. Someone: Look, fucktard, usually I'd be happy to be the idol in any person's religion, but I've learned that it's just too much pressure. I reserve my right to be surly and malevolent. And you get my point, right? You're changing over there, and it's obvious. Toughen up cowgirl. Before you know it you'll be a priest or something. Ben: Actually, Someone, I'm quite cautious about the number of stars I award. My average rating is 3.09, which is far below just about anyone else's I've seen. And in regards to giving out 5 stars like one of your Johns, it actually takes quite an experience for me to award five stars. I've literally only given 5% of all my rated books 5 stars. Although I should add that I did give a good rating to one of your homeboys recently: I gave Nine Stories four stars. I know you like- Someone: That pissed me off fucktard. That's a five star book if there ever was one. Salinger- Ben: I know, I know: you want to have passionate sex with him and all the rest. You don't need to go into details. Someone: Don't patronize me, Haruki-hag. Stand up, wipe the sand out of your vagina. Who do you think you are, that innocent little Alyosha or something? Ben: I guess that's better than "jewhole". And Alyosha is one of my top 5 literary characters of all time. So intuitive, insightful and empathetic -- yet a great leader who stands up for what he believes in. Ivan makes my top five as well. He's- Someone: Ivan! He's subject to various interpretations, and at a surface level, some of his thoughts appear contradictory. Then again, I am not a huge fan of systematic philosophies. He and I are kindred spirits of sorts -- without kindred mustaches, however. We both veer toward iconoclasm and (endearing?) arrogance, we both hate Hegel, and we both have few qualms about embracing a horse. Wait a second... that's Nietzsche.. Ben: Yes, Nietzsche. But Ivan was absolutely brilliant and interesting, wasn't he? So intellectual, cerebral and logical, yet passionate and moral. Of course he's not as "perfect" per se, as Alyosha. Like most of Dostoevsky’s characters, he's complex, human, and real. Really, the personalities of all the characters are extreme -- almost ridiculously so. Yet somehow Dostoevsky gets you absorbed inside their heads and hearts, and makes them so realistic that you feel like you really know them, and God do you care for them. And their thoughts, ideas, and philosophies -- they span everything, and when his characters interact with each other -- in what is nearly perfect dialogue -- you see the thin line between being brilliant and crazy, and how superb it is when they intermingle, as they often do -- and the magic of life itself opens up: you feel the full rush of all the varying natures within; your heart beats HARD, your senses are on high alert -- shit man, you're feelin' the same way those crazy characters are. Someone: The storyline is brilliant as well, fucktard. Ben: Yes! The unmatched talent and the outpouring of heart that Dostoevsky puts into this can change your life. Through this novel you can come to your own conclusions about important, existential philosophies: you can even use this book to better yourself in concrete ways by comparing yourself to the different brothers, learning from their mistakes, and taking the good aspects from each. Someone: There you go with your idealistic, finding yourself, magic bullshit. Look, Penis Wrinkle, I'll let you get away with it, since this novel is-- Ben: It's fucking great! It's one of the best books of all time, dammit. I haven't read as much as you, and I'm not as smart as you, but it’s GOT TO BE. Right? Someone: Yes, yes, you're right. This is one of only 21 books in my literary Valhalla, otherwise known as my “pants-crapping-awesome” bookshelf. This novel is-- Ben: YES! The great ranges in our emotions, the soaring capabilities of our passions, the depths of our intellect and souls. This book hits the full spectrum of just about everything. It seems to hit just about every side of just about every important existential issue; it spans all that’s important in life: love, family, faith and doubt, friendship, money, revenge— everything. It's such a full and complete spectrum that reading this book is like devouring life itself. And it does so in real and fascinating ways. It has to be one of the greatest novels of all time. It has to be. This novel is a literary grand slam. You have to read it to understand. Nobody should live without reading this book. That's all I can say. I'll never be able to do this beautiful, deep, mesmerizing, brilliant, masterpiece of a book the justice it deserves. All I can really say is-- Someone: Read it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    The Brothers Karamazov is the greatest novel… The Brothers Karamazov is the greatest grotesque novel. And I’m afraid my interpretations of it will hardly be popular. What is God? What is man? And what are their relationships? “You see, I close my eyes and think: if everyone has faith, where does it come from? And then they say that it all came originally from fear of the awesome phenomena of nature, and that there is nothing to it at all. What? I think, all my life I’ve believed, then I die, and s The Brothers Karamazov is the greatest novel… The Brothers Karamazov is the greatest grotesque novel. And I’m afraid my interpretations of it will hardly be popular. What is God? What is man? And what are their relationships? “You see, I close my eyes and think: if everyone has faith, where does it come from? And then they say that it all came originally from fear of the awesome phenomena of nature, and that there is nothing to it at all. What? I think, all my life I’ve believed, then I die, and suddenly there’s nothing, and only ‘burdock will grow on my grave,’ as I read in one writer? It’s terrible! What, what will give me back my faith?” In his deepest novel Fyodor Dostoyevsky created the whole gallery of human types – both male and female – that later T.S. Eliot will define as ‘The Hollow Men’ “Vanity! Ivan does not have God. He has his idea. Not on my scale. But he’s silent. I think he’s a freemason. I asked him – he’s silent. I hoped to drink from the waters of his source – he’s silent. Only once did he say something.” “What did he say?” Alyosha picked up hastily. “I said to him: ‘Then everything is permitted, in that case?’ He frowned: ‘Fyodor Pavlovich, our papa, was a little pig,’ he said, ‘but his thinking was right.’ That’s what he came back with.” Fyodor Karamazov, the father was a swine, a hungry greedy hog that would devour everything and everybody on its way and nothing, bar death, would stop him. “Oh, we love to live among people and to inform these people at once of everything, even our most infernal and dangerous ideas; we like sharing with people, and, who knows why, we demand immediately, on the spot, that these people respond to us at once with the fullest sympathy, enter into all our cares and concerns, nod in agreement with us, and never cross our humor.” Dmitri Karamazov is a parrot, a popinjay – the poseur who admires nothing but his own reflection. “But Ivan loves nobody, Ivan is not one of us; people like Ivan are not our people, my friend, they’re a puff of dust… The wind blows, and the dust is gone…” Ivan Karamazov is a peacock proud of his iridescent tail – he cares about nothing but his empty and fruitless ideas. His heart trembled as he entered the elder’s cell: Why, why had he left? Why had the elder sent him “into the world”? Here was quiet, here was holiness, and there – confusion, and a darkness in which one immediately got lost and went astray… Alyosha Karamazov is a frightened calf, a cat’s paw – an infantile whipping boy created to serve the others and to be used. …while the sun, moon, and stars might be an interesting subject, for Smerdyakov it was of completely third-rate importance, and that he was after something quite different. Be it one way or the other, in any event a boundless vanity began to appear and betray itself, an injured vanity besides. Smerdyakov is a rat – he hides in darkness but he hates the entire world and he is capable of any meanness. Man is one’s own enemy… By living one unavoidably destroys oneself and the others.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I will generally finish a novel no matter what...but I could not push through this one. I have tried twice, so I suppose this is going to be a novel that doesn't ever make it to my "read" list. UPDATE: It took me three starts and an unusual amount of determination to finish this novel. I was inches away from abandoning it for good and all. I am glad I didn’t, but believe me when I say I hope I never encounter a book this hard to endure again in my reading lifetime. The themes Dostoevsky tackles al I will generally finish a novel no matter what...but I could not push through this one. I have tried twice, so I suppose this is going to be a novel that doesn't ever make it to my "read" list. UPDATE: It took me three starts and an unusual amount of determination to finish this novel. I was inches away from abandoning it for good and all. I am glad I didn’t, but believe me when I say I hope I never encounter a book this hard to endure again in my reading lifetime. The themes Dostoevsky tackles along the way are significant and weighty. Just when he begins to move the story forward, he always seems to stop and write a few chapters of political or religious philosophy, and the reader is required to stop with him, digest what the arguments mean, and weigh in personally on which side of the debate truth lies. The book inspires soul searching, but requires almost inhuman concentration. The brothers themselves are atypical characters, volatile and impassioned, unpredictable and complicated. Nothing they do seems to be logical. Even Alyosha, who is easily understood to be the “good” brother, behaves sometimes in a way that is puzzling to my non-Russian mind. The father is a buffoon, and so crude and cruel that he garners no sympathy from me at all. Over half way in, I feel that I do not care what happens to a single character here and that at least 90% of what has occurred makes no real sense. Then, things begin to gel, the story begins to move, I find myself caring about what happens to these men, particularly Dmitri (Mitya) and to the two women with whom he is involved. I know I will make it through this time. I understand why this is considered an important work and a classic piece of literature. It addresses many important issues that have universal implications. What happens if you remove God from the equation? What purpose does faith serve in life? Does suffering lead to self-awareness and can it change a man for the better? To what extent are we morally responsible for others? If you wish a murder, if you fail to stop one, are you equally guilty with the man who commits the deed? I suspect I will be pondering The Brothers Karamazov for a long while. I did not enjoy this read, but it will mean something to me. Perhaps, like Mitya, I needed to suffer to attain appreciation. At the very least, I have come away with a sense of accomplishment. Now for something very, very, very light.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Once a upon a time there were three brothers (view spoiler)[actually there aren't, but that's a spoiler (hide spoiler)] , Dmitri, Ivan and Alexei, who went forth into the world each bearing a legacy from their parents. Along their way they each use the gifts they have to deal with the problems that lie in their path. First Dmitri, the eldest brother who is strong and powerful, falls by the wayside and then Ivan, the middle brother who is clever and educated falls by the wayside, but Alexei, littl Once a upon a time there were three brothers (view spoiler)[actually there aren't, but that's a spoiler (hide spoiler)] , Dmitri, Ivan and Alexei, who went forth into the world each bearing a legacy from their parents. Along their way they each use the gifts they have to deal with the problems that lie in their path. First Dmitri, the eldest brother who is strong and powerful, falls by the wayside and then Ivan, the middle brother who is clever and educated falls by the wayside, but Alexei, little Alyosha, the youngest brother who is humble and faithful, finds a true path to live happily ever after. The Brothers Karamazov was Dostoevesky's last work. Like all his major novels it was written and published in instalments in so-called 'thick' or 'fat' journals. Dostoevsky was an epileptic, while writing the novel section by section to a monthly deadline, he had severe fits which left him weak and stopped him from writing for months at a time. Shortly after completing the novel he died. Once upon a time there were three brothers. The eldest brother, Dmitri, had been an army officer, his strength and exuberant vitality seem to represent a pagan, pre-Christian world. The middle brother Ivan, shows the cold, atheistic, rational learning of the Western world. Only the youngest brother, little Alyosha, portrays the simplicity and humility of the best of Russian Orthodox spirituality(from Doestoevsky's point of view), and it is this that answers the question posed by Gogol in Dead Souls when he asks where the galloping Troika is heading to. Once upon a time I wrote out long hand in pencil and then typed with four and a half fingers an undergraduate dissertation on The Brothers Karamazov. My ambition was amusing because this is, well I don't want to frighten anybody away from reading it, but if you want to get under the surface of this book and start there is an awful lot to explore. At the same time though it is a relatively simple story. It's like a folktale, once upon a time there were three brothers who set out on a quest. The quest turns out to be about the nature and salvation of Russia, but don't let that put you off, social criticism lies at the heart of many a Dickens novel too but you don't have to be learned at law to enjoy Bleak House. Anyway the downside of having studied something like this a little is that you have a vague awareness, like the child who has picked up one pebble off the beach, of just how much you don't know and how much there potentially is to explore. Once upon a time there were three brothers. One place to start is Vladimir Propp's Morphology of the Folktale. There's a type of Russian folktale with three brothers. The eldest is the strongest, the middle brother is the cleverest while the youngest is the most humble, straightforward and helpful. They each set off in turn on a journey. The strength of the eldest gets him into trouble, the middle one is brought down through his own cleverness, and so it's the youngest one who with humility, by being nice and winning friends who not only reaches the destination but saves his brothers. This is essentially what we get here, but in the 'realist' form of a nineteenth century novel. Some types of stories are so ubiquitous or deep-rooted that it probably isn't possible to escape their influence, but if the folktale structure was a deliberate choice then really that only enhances the ways in which the story is about Russia, what Russia is about and what it's fate should be. Dostoevsky's story is set in a town modelled on Staraya Lagoda. Staraya Lagoda according to the oldest Russian chronicle was the town taken over by Rurik to be his capital when he and his Viking kin were 'invited in' to bring 'order' to the Russian lands. Rurik was one of three brothers. One of the roots of the Brothers Karamazov then is sunk deep into the origin myth of the country and its own sense of identity. The question of what Russia is, an eastern or a western country, is of course a deeply stupid and meaningless question. Perhaps it is a tendency of profoundly ridiculous questions to get under the skin and trouble people in a particularly tenacious manner. The issue is a trope in nineteenth century Russian literature. Apart from the Gogol, one can think of Oblomov with his oriental gown contrasted with his old friend the 'German' Stolz (ie Pride), Westernisers and Slavophiles in Turgenev or the rejection of 'Western' agriculture in Anna Karenina and the triumphing of the instinctual 'Russianness' of Natasha in War and Peace. Here in addition to Dostoevsky showing how he dislikes the new western style court system with jury trials (pointedly convicting an innocent man) he shows the insufficiency of Dmitri and Ivan, model western military man and western intellectual respectively. Instead we see the success of Alexei, who begins the novel in a monastery intending to become an Orthodox monk. If Dostoevsky was just a nationalistic author he wouldn't be so interesting to non-Russian patriots, he is also a writer concerned with everything to do with spiritual life. Alexei is not just a monk but is devoted to the starets (or Elder) Father Zosima. This was an informal position in Orthodox monasticism that re-emerged in the nineteenth century. The starets was a charismatic figure, in a monastery, but outside the formal hierarchy, believed to have a special, personal relationship with the divine, possibly having miraculous powers as a result - we see a fair bit of this in the novel. (It was a Starets that Tolstoy went to see when he ran away from home at the age of 82). The practise was a throwback to late medieval Byzantine monasticism. Another throwback to the Byzantine religious world is the holy fool. An idea typified by Saint Andrew of Constantinople, who was your scabrous, beaten and broken down, homeless, unwashed, stank so bad that even the dogs wouldn't go near him type of a holy man. However just as Emily loved Bagpuss so too did God and his Mum love Saint Andrew giving him a vision of the Virgin Mary protecting Constantinople with her veil and saving it from conquest in the year 911. I'll digress a little further, the figure of the Holy Fool was popular in Russia, one of my lecturers at university ran into one in the church in the artist's village that Soviet Union had outside Moscow this was probably in the 80s. The Holy Fool was famed for speaking truth to power. There is a moment in Mussorgsky's opera Boris Godunov when the eponymous Tsar asks a Holy Fool to pray for him only to be told "Bugger off you child murdering Tyrant, I can't pray for you, what kind of fool do you take me for!", actually he doesn't sing that he sings Nel'zia, Boris, nel'zia ("Impossible, Boris, impossible"). My longer version is just implied, honest...if you are extremely unorthodox in your translation. Well the relevance of all this is that mother of Ivan and Alexei is meant to be something of this type and the tendency towards an extreme self-abasing humility runs strong in Alexei. The point of the holy foolishness and the Starets is that it is non-institutional, based on a personal relationship to the Divine and is free to oppose and run counter to Earthly law, order and expectations. This is a complicating element in Dostoevsky. Yes he is ultra conservative, hyper-nationalistic and thoroughly Orthodox, but he is also happy to reject the given political and social order. There is a spirit, not quite revolutionary, maybe not radical but ready at any moment to throw over the apple cart in a moment of carnival - and here, I best mention it, that if you are going to study Dostoevsky then Mikhail Bakhtin is inescapable, (a modern work of secondary literature on Dostoevsky that doesn't mention Bakhtin in its bibliography is probably not worth reading). Another root of the The Brothers Karamazov is Schiller's Die Räuber. Father Karamazov is particularly taken by the parallels between himself, Dmitri, Ivan and the Old Moor and his sons in the Schiller play. Once upon a time there were two brothers, Dostoevsky by adding a third son (view spoiler)[and then a fourth (hide spoiler)] was translating the dynamic of ideas in the earlier play into the cultural context of later nineteenth century Russia. Cold Rationality and the honour culture receive the addition of an Orthodox spirituality that stands outside of conventional authority, but also a particular, diseased take on rationalism that pushes it to a destructive conclusion. The novel then is a laboratory of ideas. Three concepts are taken and stress tested until only one is left standing, offering a hope of salvation, possibly only personal but maybe a salvation that is available to a broader community of the faithful. Admittedly the salvation on offer is probably not available to the unorthodox, but one has to accept the integrity of the author's world vision, in just the same way that you have to accept that one must become an American, at least in spirit, to be eligible for the American dream. The fun for me as a non-Orthodox, non-Russian reader is the power and skill of the writing not the message. Dickens presents Australia as the only conceivable chance to achieve a reasonable life for Mr Micawber and family, but I don't toss David Copperfield aside for trumpeting colonialism as the answer to Britain's own social problems (actually, that is really pessimistic now I come to think of it, particularly in those grim days before the invention of factor 50 sun block). Authors, even great ones, are allowed to be just as flawed and limited in their outlooks and thinking as the rest of us. The business of salvation is summed up in Grushenka's story about a miserly old woman whose one good act was to give a half rotten onion to a beggar. As it turns out the onion wasn't strong enough to save her but in principle salvation doesn't require saintly levels of virtue, or rather the level required is calibrated to the individual. The story seems to be an inversion of a tale that Dostoevsky tells in Notes from the House of the Dead. During his imprisonment in Siberia Dosteovesky heard tell of Robber captain who asks one of his men what he managed to steal one day: Well, says the robber, a peasant came by but all he had on him was an onion, so I let him go. Fool! Said his captain. You should have killed him and taken the onion. Once you had two onions you could have sold them for a penny down the market. Salvation and damnation in Dostoevsky can be triggered by the simplest kindness or brutality. I've said this is also a simple book, albeit one with a lot going on under the surface if you want to look for that. So, once upon a time there were three brothers. Dmitri in particular has a tumultuous relationship with their old and really pretty unpleasant father. The father is murdered and it appears blatantly obvious that Dmitri was the murderer. He is arrested and put on trial. In the meantime Ivan has a series of conversations including one in which he tells Alyosha his story of the Grand Inquisitor, (a charming tale of God, man, sin, order, truth, meaning and divine love) which culminate in his mental breakdown. With two brothers down it is up to Alexei to save the day by being simple and holy. There is a film version of The Brothers Karamazov starring Yul Brynner as Dmitri. I've never seen it. However I've read the novel at least three times. The first time my sympathies were with Alexei, but I was young then. The second time I identified more with the rational spirit of Ivan. When it came round to my third reading I realised that I was deeply in tune with Dmitri. If you've read it yourself you can guess why I might be reluctant to read it a fourth time. My sense of association with Dmitri leaves me unhappy and dissatisfied with elements of the ending of the novel, but this is counter balanced by knowing that I am not too in thrall to Dostoevsky's world view. It has been said, I can't remember by who, that Dostoevsky was always rewriting the same novel. The same types of characters and relationships recur. The Underground Man is a prototype Ivan, the Idiot something of an Alyosha. The Dmitri - Grushenka relationship of damaged people stuck in a dynamic of hurting each other is replayed often enough and seems to echo Doestoevsky's relationship with Apollinaria Suslova. The Brothers Karamazov is not perhaps the best starting point for reading Dostoevsky. Crime and Punishment is probably more accessible, if more intense. If that is too long then perhaps the short story The Dream of a Ridiculous Man will do the trick. Once upon a time there were three brothers. It is a common experience reading the Brothers Karamazov to feel a particular closeness to one of the brothers. When I first read it I felt closest to Alexei. Later, I found Ivan was more compelling. Now I know I am in direct relationship to Dmitri and I suspect that one day I'll wake up as Fyodor Karamazov, capable of being the father of all of them however disparate their characters seem. The apple doesn't fall so far from the tree.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gillian

    i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book. i will finish this book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kenny

    “Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” Fyodor Dostoevsky ~~ The Brothers Karamazov This was my introduction to Russian Literature at the age of 14. I remember buying this at a flea market one weekend feeling very adult since I would be reading a "Russian Novel." Dostoyevsk “Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” Fyodor Dostoevsky ~~ The Brothers Karamazov This was my introduction to Russian Literature at the age of 14. I remember buying this at a flea market one weekend feeling very adult since I would be reading a "Russian Novel." Dostoyevsky started a love affair with Russian literature that exists to this day. Oh, and as for the novel, it's brilliant.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dolors

    Dark abysses in moonless skies will engulf the titillating brightness of stars and ghastly winters will obliterate the warmth of the earth until justice has been done. Recline comfortably in your velvety chaise longue and concentrate on the spectacle that is about to begin, for the so much awaited day of the trial has arrived and the Karamazov family will be submitted to relentless interrogation, psychological scrutiny and the righteous proof of circumstantial evidence. There is humor, melodrama Dark abysses in moonless skies will engulf the titillating brightness of stars and ghastly winters will obliterate the warmth of the earth until justice has been done. Recline comfortably in your velvety chaise longue and concentrate on the spectacle that is about to begin, for the so much awaited day of the trial has arrived and the Karamazov family will be submitted to relentless interrogation, psychological scrutiny and the righteous proof of circumstantial evidence. There is humor, melodrama and suspense to be expected. The peasants in the jury rub their hands greedily in anticipation because it is a widely known fact that the Karamazov brothers are evil creatures, doomed wretches and witless idealists, cursed with inherent vice and rotten spirit. Murder is not the real crime but only a succulent appetizer to the real feast. Prejudice doesn’t exist when the morality of Mother Russia has been challenged, defiance is the biggest offense and adequate punishment needs to be inflicted. Let the trial begin, let the accused condemn themselves. Prosecutor Ippolit Kirillovitch knows the Karamazov well. Fyodor, the murdered head of the family, an appalling father and a worse Christian is a man of excesses drawn by hedonistic pleasures, whose debauchery and petty buffoonery put his name to shame. Malignant cynicism is his moral code and sarcasm his only religion. When Grushenka, the quintessential femme fatale, crosses Fyodor’s path he is irredeemably attracted to her like a moth to a bulb light. She becomes his obsession and ultimate perdition. “I am an inveterate buffoon, and have been from birth up, your reverence, it’s as though it were a craze in me. I dare say it’s the devil within me. But only a little one.” Book II, chapter one (41). Mitya, a man of wild passions and destructive jealousy seeks for absolution but his love for Grushenka eclipses his commitment to his betrothed Katya. Ashamed of his weaknesses he struggles against himself in constant contradiction. Good and evil, a scoundrel but not a thief, a deceitful swine but of noble heart, a squanderer but a man of honest generosity, a sentenced murderer but a redeemed victim, he suffers to purge his corrupt spirit. “In thousand of agonies – I exist. I’m tormented on the rack – but I exist! Though I sit alone on a pillar – I exist! I see the sun, and if I don’t see the sun, I know it’s there. And there’s a whole life in that, in knowing that the sun is there.” Book XI, chapter 4 (665). Ivan, the rebellious atheist of sharp intellect and faster tongue who, in spite of proving God’s non-existence through the intrinsic cruelty of mankind, admits receiving nightly visits from the devil. Ivan’s strategist and scheming mind rejects the idea of mercy and his Grand Inquisitor makes him refuse his own humanity. “I don’t want harmony. For love of humanity I don’t want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation.” Book V, chapter 4 (268). Aloysha, the bright star whose light nurtures, guides and absolves those rotating in his Solar System of forgiveness and gentleness. He spreads Father Zossima’s belief in the goodness of people with innocent idealism, never faltering faith and a modest heart that pumps unselfish love through mankind’s veins. “If you are penitent, you love. And if you love you are of God. All things are atoned for, all things are saved by love. If I, a sinner even as you are, am tender with you and have pity on you, how much more will God have pity upon you. Love is such a priceless treasure that you can redeem the whole world by it, and cleanse not only your own sins but the sins of others.” . Book II, chapter 3 (53). Smerdyakov, Fyodor’s pitiful bastard and valet, neglected creature and cursed with epilepsy hides his vile temperament behind a mask of groveling servitude. His nihilist tendencies find solace in Ivan’s calculating logic and cold rationalism. “That was quite right what you taught me, for you talked a lot to me about that. For if there’s no everlasting God, there’s no such thing as virtue, and there’s no need of it.” Book XI, chapter 8 (710). Guilty, guilty, guilty. Three times guilty villains! One after another, all the members of the Karamazov family succumb to temptation and become plagued by doubt. Lust, envy, greediness, wrath and arrogance are only a few of their countless sins. There is neither verbose nor pompous enough speech the defense attorney could articulate to convince the jury of their blamelessness. Conscience is the sterner judge of all and these sensualists have condemned themselves. The prosecutor basks in his victory but wears a distorted smile on his pallid and emaciated face because the price to pay for the irrefutable proof of guilt might be too dear. For aren’t we all blameworthy? “Nothing is more seductive for a man than his freedom of conscience, but nothing is greater cause of suffering.” Book V, chapter 5 (279). Nothing is what it seems and fictional actors in the most grotesque of stages can transcend the borders of realism and become myths to decide the fate of a nation or the destiny of mankind’s soul. Russia is on trial. The fraternal, ambiguous and chauvinistic troika represented by Fyodor and Mitya, the mystical mother earth embodied in Alyosha’s untainted belief in the worthiness of its people and Ivan’s intellectual realism and detached views on European Enlightenment are presented as diverging instruments to save the fate of Russia. Traditional conservatism, religious idealism or disruptive modernity? The true nature of humanity is being dissected, probed and mercilessly judged while the Karamazov brothers emerge as allegorical symbols of incongruous contradiction coexisting in their intrinsic need for spiritual redemption. It is only human to strive for salvation. Even The Grand Inquisitor, the emblem of unsatisfied indignation and logical argumentation feels his heart beating with relief when a kiss of forgiveness has blessed his right cheek, or when he has given an onion and performed a good deed. Step aside, Mr.Kirillovitch. The real judgment of the Karamazov brothers’ soul can’t possibly take place in a courtroom, neither of human nor even of divine nature. Nothing can supplant the judgment of one’s own conscience. The onion needs to be peeled of its pungent layers to get to its tender core. It is a painful task to perform but once the tears have washed away the itchiness, a bright light remains which will illuminate the shadowy paths to redemption. The Karamazov Brothers have fought their own demons, admitted their own flaws and achieved spiritual transformation. They have been absolved. And so has been this humble reader. There will be hope as long as there is love. “Hurrah for Karamazov!” Epilogue, chapter 3 (870). “"What is hell?" I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.” Book VI, chapter 3 (356).

  20. 5 out of 5

    Piyangie

    First of all, I found this book to be one of the most challenging books to review. And if I consider myself capable of such a venture, it will still take pages to write a proper review that would do justice to the book; so my attempt here is just to pen how I felt about the book. I have heard that The Karamazov Brothers is the best work of Dostoyevsky. While it may be premature for me to comment on such a theory having only read one other short book of his, I do understand why it is thus praised First of all, I found this book to be one of the most challenging books to review. And if I consider myself capable of such a venture, it will still take pages to write a proper review that would do justice to the book; so my attempt here is just to pen how I felt about the book. I have heard that The Karamazov Brothers is the best work of Dostoyevsky. While it may be premature for me to comment on such a theory having only read one other short book of his, I do understand why it is thus praised. It is a book complete in every aspect: in writing; in story telling; in character development; and in the plot line. Being a book with over 1000 pages, I was a little apprehensive at the beginning. But his easy writing style put me at ease from the very first chapter. The book is both a crime story and a philosophical debate. Both parts were brilliantly done and extremely interesting. But what really connected me with this brilliant work is its character development. Almost all the major characters of the book are taken through a rough journey which tests their strengths and weaknesses and help them come to understand who they really are, and their faith and beliefs. Alyosha is said to be the hero of the story by the author himself; but I found an equal hero in that of Ivan. I loved both of them; the two contrasting characters - one is a believer and other is a non-believer (atheist). Their contrasting views added colour and intrigue to the story. All the characters had their own virtues and faults which made them real and believable. Throughout the read I felt as a part of their community which was really amazing. Dostoyevsky's masterful writing certainly keeps you ensnared in his well composed plot. Karamazov Brothers is sort of the book that will become part of yourself and live and age with you. That is the true quality of a masterpiece. I feel so privileged to have read it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    I have read this book three or four times in both English and French translations. In English, grab the Volonhovsky one. I cannot even being to describe how awesome this book is. If for no other reason than Ivan's two chapters and especially for the Grand Inquisitor, this book is clearly in the upper reaches of the greatest literature ever written in any language. The range of personalities, emotions, and reactions of the various characters - all so fully developed and realistic in that specific I have read this book three or four times in both English and French translations. In English, grab the Volonhovsky one. I cannot even being to describe how awesome this book is. If for no other reason than Ivan's two chapters and especially for the Grand Inquisitor, this book is clearly in the upper reaches of the greatest literature ever written in any language. The range of personalities, emotions, and reactions of the various characters - all so fully developed and realistic in that specific Dostoyevsky way - makes the plot move along so very quickly. One's sympathies shift as we vilify Fyodor and idolise Aliosha at first but then we start to feel a bit sorry for Fyodor and resent Aliosha's naïveté as we learn about Misha and Ivan... There is just so much in this novel to love. This is one of those desert island books without which the human race would be poorer. Also highly recommended is Joseph Frank's excellent biography of Dostoyevski if you wish to understand why this book was his last and his greatest. Ivan's chapters about unbaptized children and The Grand Inquisitor are among the greatest chapters I have ever read, absolutely spell-binding and critical for today's world of "alternative facts" and disdain of objectivity.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    “I am big; it’s the pictures that got small” In Considering the Lobster, David Foster Wallace observes that the “thing about Dostoevsky’s characters is that they are alive" (264). They are, in fact, larger than life, and Wallace goes on to bemoan the fact that so many “of the novelists of our own place and time look so thematically shallow and lightweight…in comparison to Gogol or Dostoevsky” (271). Like Norma Desmond, who feels the pictures have gotten small, Wallace sees contemporary novels lac “I am big; it’s the pictures that got small” In Considering the Lobster, David Foster Wallace observes that the “thing about Dostoevsky’s characters is that they are alive" (264). They are, in fact, larger than life, and Wallace goes on to bemoan the fact that so many “of the novelists of our own place and time look so thematically shallow and lightweight…in comparison to Gogol or Dostoevsky” (271). Like Norma Desmond, who feels the pictures have gotten small, Wallace sees contemporary novels lacking the heft of the classics, but he doesn’t seem to see a way out. Wallace can’t imagine a novelist today writing the way Dostoevsky does. I understand his point – we’ve been taught that intrusive narrators are unsophisticated and that characters should be understated. Wallace comments that the writer of Serious Novels today “would be (and this is our own age’s truest vision of hell) laughed out of town" (273). I wonder if this true. At present, novelists experiment with any number of genres. Is there really a divide a novelist can’t cross without being deemed ridiculous? What is true about so many of the Serious Novels, and especially true of The Brothers Karamazov is, as Wallace states, the characters are alive, and better yet, these novels are driven by character rather than plot. The core plot of the Brothers K is not particularly complicated. The book is motored instead by characters who “live inside of us forever” (Wallace 264), and we don’t need to guess who’s speaking in the novel as each of these characters—Fyodor and his four sons: Alyosha, Dimitri, Ivan, and Smerdyakov, in addition to several other major characters--has been fully drawn and realized. Where are characters like these in contemporary fiction? A writer now would probably feel s/he could only present characters like those of Dostoevsky ironically. While there's plenty of humor and ironic moments in the Brothers K, it is not an ironic novel. Dostoevsky presents this material seriously. For instance, Dostoevsky doesn't ironize the goodness of Alyosha or Zosima, two characters who especially interested me, and Zosima's life story - one of the set pieces in the novel - is gripping. His death and rapidly stinking corpse, which confounds expectations (he's thought of as a saint, and--as such--his body would not undergo normal decay) is one of Dostoevsky's ironic touches. But its significance is profoundly serious. Does Zosima's corpse, which causes consternation and confusion, lessen his holiness? But, for all the narrative intrusion, we are not told. Dostoevky's narrator might offer lengthy introductions, but he does not judge. I don't like everything about the novel. Despite my interest in religion and spirituality, I found the Grand Inquisitor section long, and this may have been due to my desire to get back to the characters. In a lesser novel, the section might have prompted more interest. I'm also still pondering the need for the Ilyusha subplot and its function in the novel. Yet, quibbles aside, Dostoevsky bares his soul in this novel. He doesn't hide behind irony, which allows an author the ability to maintain distance and ambiguity. And perhaps it is irony that separates the great novels of the past from the many contemporary novels that lack equivalent passion, honesty, and heft. Irrelevant aside: Although I had three (three!!) copies of this novel they were all paperbacks with yellowed paper and about a size 8 font. I wound up reading this novel - all 900 pages or so - on my computer. You've got to really like a novel to do that.

  23. 5 out of 5

    William2

    Second reading inspired by (1) Albert Camus's The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt, wherein the patricidal justifications of Ivan Fyodorovich Karamazov are considered at length; and (2) the Mount Athos Journal, which closes out The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos, the last volume of Patrick Leigh Fermor's Danube Trilogy. The journal recounts PLF's visits to the many Greek Orthodox monasteries on the peninsula in Jan-Feb 1935.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Ask me what book has now transformed my thought about what literature can do and I will name this book. Ask me about a book whose characters I will reference for years—not because they were so relatable or lovable but because they were replacements of philosophical thought—and I will name Alyosha, Ivan, and Mitya. Ask me about an author whose works I won’t mind reading and rereading, and I will name Fyodor Dostoevsky. To think, before reading this, I didn’t even know how to properly pronounce the Ask me what book has now transformed my thought about what literature can do and I will name this book. Ask me about a book whose characters I will reference for years—not because they were so relatable or lovable but because they were replacements of philosophical thought—and I will name Alyosha, Ivan, and Mitya. Ask me about an author whose works I won’t mind reading and rereading, and I will name Fyodor Dostoevsky. To think, before reading this, I didn’t even know how to properly pronounce the author’s name. First thing I did was look up the proper pronunciation. Now it slides off my tongue: duh-stuh-yef-skyee. When I started my personal challenge to read more Russian literature, I had no idea that I would discover the language and nuance that I have. I had no idea that I would even like a Dostoevsky piece. But thanks to my Goodreads friends who started the Fyodor Dostoevsky Group, I’ve become acclimated to the wordy intricacy of the Dostoevsky novel. I can earnestly say that after a couple months of courtship, where I had to get familiar with the storytelling structure and the interchangeable names of characters (by the way I learned that the middle names are patronymics, derived from the first names of the father, like Alexey Fyodorovitch Karamazov), I can now say that I am in love and on a nickname basis. Three brothers, The Brothers Karamazov, each standing in for the profoundness that is the human condition: one representing the reckless way of living and thinking; another, selfishness and intellectual arrogance; and the third, timidity and religious belief. At the novel’s core is a contemptuous father, the absence of motherhood, and brothers who travel different courses in life, only to reunite as adults. There is love, betrayal, poverty, riches, death, murder, shame, good, bad, evil—you name it, the things we seek in novels because we come across them in life. Yet narrowing things down a bit in this multi-layered novel, I would say that it is about belief and loyalty: after harsh childhoods, do these brothers believe in themselves; do they believe each other; do they believe in something greater than themselves? Fragments of thoughts floated through his soul, flashed like stars and went out again at once, to be succeeded by others. But yet there was reigning in his soul a sense of the wholeness of things—something steadfast and comforting. There is one other book which has philosophically penetrated me like this one has: The Bible. When I was a little girl I lived in a wartime shelter and foster home of a church in Liberia, separated from my parents. I loved reading but there were not a lot of books because they were either burned or left behind as people ran for their lives. But there were Bibles everywhere. So I turned to the great storytelling of the Bible: Jacob and Esau, the brothers at war with each other; the story of Joseph and the striped cloak and how he was sold into slavery by his own brothers, and more. To date, I still think The Bible has the most beautiful stories and poetry (i.e.: The Book of Psalms). Reading The Brothers Karamazov, I was again reminded of those stories of brotherhood and betrayal and their underlying themes and lessons. It is hard to believe that Dostoevsky was said to have been an atheist at some point, having endured some personal struggle with belief and nonbelief, especially since there are moments in his novel when he adds the type of posturing ( “Deep calls to deep” and “If I forget thee Jerusalem …)” whose true meanings are only gathered from knowledge of biblical text. Yet his characters deal with this same struggle with moral and religious belief and this makes for an alluring read. But just like the psychoanalysis of Greek tragedy (think Oedipus Rex) this is not a novel about someone or some belief being triumphant over the other, for it is about the passionate struggle that each character endures and their individual transformations in the end. You are a lie, you are my illness, you are a phantom. It’s only that I don’t know how to destroy you and I see I must suffer for a time. You are my hallucination. You are the incarnation of myself, but only of one side of me…of my thoughts and feelings, but only the nastiest and stupidest of them.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    This is a review both of the book and the translation. See my review of Crime and Punishment for an explanation of why I don't entirely like this translation -- the authors sacrifice clarity and readability for technical accuracy in a way that tends to obscure the meaning. That said, though, it's a very good one, and I'd give it a four out of five. My pet peeve in most translations is the choice of the word "meek" instead of "gentle". These have utterly different connotations in modern English, This is a review both of the book and the translation. See my review of Crime and Punishment for an explanation of why I don't entirely like this translation -- the authors sacrifice clarity and readability for technical accuracy in a way that tends to obscure the meaning. That said, though, it's a very good one, and I'd give it a four out of five. My pet peeve in most translations is the choice of the word "meek" instead of "gentle". These have utterly different connotations in modern English, and describing a man as having "meek eyes" totally misses the point Dostoevsky was trying to make, which was that the person was serene and handled someone else gently. Argh. Anyway, this is the best book ever written. Every time I read it, I discover new truths about life, and find myself reading passages out loud to anyone within range. Different plot lines and passages stand out to me every time I read it, in different parts of my life. It has profoundly affected my outlook on the world, and is very nearly the equivalent of a bible. (Think Moby Dick in Heathers. :) ) Nominally, it is the story of three sons of a lecherous, nasty old man. The oldest is Dmitri, a passionate, sensual man who hates his father for cheating him out of his money. The next is Ivan, an intellectual and enlightened man, who hates his father for abandoning him and for just being a reprehensible person. The third brother is Alexei (called Alyosha by most) -- a quiet, gentle (but not meek!!) mostly innocent boy who (when the book opens) is living in a monastery, and doesn't hate anyone. There is also a possible fourth brother, the illegitimate child of the father and a town fool he raped. The first half of the book culminates in the murder of the father, the second half is spent discovering who did it and why. To be honest, the first few times I read the book I didn't even remember who actually ended up doing it -- so much more is going on in the book that it turns out to be the least important thing. Any of them could have done it, certainly. But in the course of the book, Dostoevsky uses these characters (and a bunch more) to examine the nature of humanity, religion, faith, good and evil, love, hate, and just about everything that matters in life. He's not like modern authors who gloss over everything -- his characters all do terrible things at various times. There are very few purely good or evil people in his books; he is obsessed with examining all aspects of people, and who they are within themselves and through society. There is an interlude, The Grand Inquisitor, which is a story Ivan tells to explain what he hates about organized religion, that is frequently used as a short story in itself by literature and religion classes around the world. On a deeper level, Dostoevsky uses the book to express the conflicting parts of himself. He names the father Fyodor, his own name, and splits the sons into caricatures of himself; a passionate side, an intellectual side, and a pure side that is striving for goodness (which last, it must be noted, is named for his son Alexei, who died at three years old.) He has the parts argue with each other and themselves, and tries to work out how they complement each other and what it all means, with the help of other characters who bring out those parts of him. The fourth brother represents the nasty parts of himself that he's mostly unwilling to acknowledge (thus the unacknowledged son), but oddly enough, he gives the fourth brother epilepsy, a problem Dostoevsky himself had. I could go on for pages, but I'll stop now. Read this book! I mean it! But go for the Constance Garnett translation if you can find it. Or check out several translations, and pick the one that appeals to you the most.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Paula W

    When I started this book a month ago, my initial thought was that the characters were fantastic. Then things got slow, and then they got slower. Still, I trudged on. This was my Moby Dick; this was my War and Peace. Almost 900 pages? I was determined to get through it. All of a sudden, things started making sense at about the halfway point. Allow me to explain. I have for many years thought that I must be an adopted child. You guys, my family is crazy. I don't mean the fun kind of hahaha crazy, e When I started this book a month ago, my initial thought was that the characters were fantastic. Then things got slow, and then they got slower. Still, I trudged on. This was my Moby Dick; this was my War and Peace. Almost 900 pages? I was determined to get through it. All of a sudden, things started making sense at about the halfway point. Allow me to explain. I have for many years thought that I must be an adopted child. You guys, my family is crazy. I don't mean the fun kind of hahaha crazy, either. I mean that raw chicken has been thrown at people in anger during family gatherings. In my 5 person family, there are all degrees of religious beliefs, all degrees of political beliefs, several different degrees of sexuality, income levels that range from poverty to upper middle class, major differences in education, and one person who thinks cilantro tastes like soap. Family gatherings are always stressful and someone inevitably ends up in tears. How can I be related to these people? This novel made me realize that, though my family members are all very different, we have something in common: we are very passionate about things that are important to us. We are the Karamazovs. I won't pick apart the plot, because that's been done. What I will write is that there are so many interesting things to think about in this story. Wisdom, faith, religion, justice, suffering, guilt, redemption, and free will are all shown.... along with the exact opposite of all those things. Without being preachy and without ever telling the reader which is the right way to go, this story follows a family of people who experience all extremes imaginable and deal with the consequences. I learned from The Idiot that this author is a master of doing a slow character build through the first half and then hooking you in for the rest of the book. During the second half, all that stuff I thought was fluff in the first half became clear. There is no fluff in this book, and I was extremely satisfied at the end. But a fair warning for everyone who reads this novel to the end: don't read the last chapter without a tissue in your hand. I was in public and unprepared. It was almost like when my older sister slipped the cilantro into the salsa thinking my younger sister wouldn't notice, but better. Much better.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chris_P

    Wait a sec... Fuck the five stars! ★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ It actually hurts to give it only five. Need I say that this book must be considered one of the wonders of mankind? Would it be necessary to talk about Dostoyevsky's extraordinary ability to create such interesting and realistic characters, or the fact that he was a master of the human psyche? This, of course, is an understatement. Check Ivan Karamazov's encounter with the devil if you don't believe me. In fact, the whole Wait a sec... Fuck the five stars! ★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ It actually hurts to give it only five. Need I say that this book must be considered one of the wonders of mankind? Would it be necessary to talk about Dostoyevsky's extraordinary ability to create such interesting and realistic characters, or the fact that he was a master of the human psyche? This, of course, is an understatement. Check Ivan Karamazov's encounter with the devil if you don't believe me. In fact, the whole novel is a unique proof of this statement. From the first, introductory pages to the redemptive finale, this novel is a pure masterpiece. I honestly think that books like The Brothers Karamazov defined literature the way bands like The Beatles defined music. Enough said.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Brothers Karamazov is an exceptionally tricky and intricate book. It's also an exceptional pain in the ass. I might have to create a new shelf for it called "I'd Have To Read It Again To Get It But I'd Rather Just Not Get It." Tristram Shandy can join it there. The first problem is when a speech is so long that it reminds you of Atlas Shrugged. The second problem is that when I finished it just now, the words that unconsciously escaped my mouth were, "Well, fuck you Karamazov." Here's a game I ma Brothers Karamazov is an exceptionally tricky and intricate book. It's also an exceptional pain in the ass. I might have to create a new shelf for it called "I'd Have To Read It Again To Get It But I'd Rather Just Not Get It." Tristram Shandy can join it there. The first problem is when a speech is so long that it reminds you of Atlas Shrugged. The second problem is that when I finished it just now, the words that unconsciously escaped my mouth were, "Well, fuck you Karamazov." Here's a game I made up during the interminable ramblings of Elder Zosima: Zosima or Baz? Guess whether each boring platitude below is from the Elder Zosima or Baz Luhrmann's 1998 novelty hit, "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)": a. Don't be reckless with other peoples' hearts; don't put up with people who are reckless with yours. b. Keep company with yourself and look to yourself every day and hour, every minute. c. Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. d. Cherish your ecstasy, however senseless it may seem. e. Love children especially. Answers at end of review Okay, I almost never had a good time reading this book. Why'd I give it four stars? One reason: cowardice. Listen, I know this book's smarter than me. Its inventiveness is impressive. Watch how careful Dostoevsky is with words: how each character, including the narrator, uses and misuses them, repeats them, throws them to each other. Check out how the stories - Ilyusha and Dmitri, Katya and Grushenka - intertwine. Feel how the word "Karamazovian" implants itself in you: you wouldn't be able to say what it means, maybe, I probably can't, but you'll know it when you see it from now on. Debate whether the whole thing is a comedy or a tragedy. Before I read them, I used to think Tolstoy and Dostoevsky were probably more or less the same, y'know? Like, old Russian guys who wrote crazy long books, how different can they be? But they're not the same at all. Tolstoy is exceptionally controlled. Dostoevsky is pure virtuosity. I don't mean to say he doesn't know what he's doing; actually, Karamazov is more tightly structured than War & Peace is. But the energy behind it is more or less insane. Four stars because I know this book is good; if I give it two stars, it would be like admitting that I let a brilliant masterpiece escape me for the prosaic reason that it's incredibly fucking boring. Y'know? Four stars, dude. A brilliant masterpiece. Introduction note: You can and should read the first section of Pevear & Volokhonsky's intro, up to p. xiv. It gives you great background. Get out quick after that though - right after "transforming them finally into a universal human drama" - 'cause they're gonna blow the whole plot in the next paragraph. I forget which brother is which Liz M. said this and it's perfect: "Alyosha = superego or soul (youngest brother) Ivan = ego or head (middle brother) Dimitri = id or heart (eldest brother) " If you haven't read Dostoevsky before: Start with Crime and Punishment. It's a better read. Quiz Answers: Fuck you, Karamazov.

  29. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    Note: This review was written on Nov 18th 2007, a week after my twenty-first birthday. Excuse the youthful clumsiness of my style. Matters of Life and Death Often I used stop people in the streets, shake them frantically on the shoulders and slap them on the face, shouting again and again: “Is there a God? Is there a God? For God’s sake, just tell me if there’s a God!” You would be surprised at the results I gathered from this. One or two of them confirmed that there is indeed a God, and that his n Note: This review was written on Nov 18th 2007, a week after my twenty-first birthday. Excuse the youthful clumsiness of my style. Matters of Life and Death Often I used stop people in the streets, shake them frantically on the shoulders and slap them on the face, shouting again and again: “Is there a God? Is there a God? For God’s sake, just tell me if there’s a God!” You would be surprised at the results I gathered from this. One or two of them confirmed that there is indeed a God, and that his name is Jack Daniels, whereas the others fought me off and beat me to a pulp (which I interpreted as an emphatic no). This marked the beginning of my long period of agnosticism. I was fed up of the bruises, quite frankly. In The Brothers Karamazov, one of thee Great Russian novels, I found characters who shared my plight. For within this Herculean tome, I found discourses in which the author wrestles with notions of the hereafter, the supposed everlastingness of God, and the point of it all. It tackles the most impossible philosophical arguments that will visit each and every mortal on this earth at some stage, and offers the most incredible arguments for them all, proving universal to all types of being on this earth. All in a succinct and accessible 974 pages of literary delight. Historical Facts Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote this book at a time when he had been lionised in Russia as one of the most important writers in the motherland. Not necessarily from a critical standpoint—his books were still unpopular among the status quo—but within the academic and greater reading public, he was tantamount to an emperor. He should have been a megastar within his lifetime, in this reviewer’s opinion, but no one was ever going to warm to an author as uncompromising and academically volatile as he was. Except perhaps his stenographer. In 1880, after this (his final book) was released, he made a speech to mark the erection of a monument to Aleksander Pushkin, celebrating a milestone in the progression of Russian literature. One year later, he passed on at the solid age of 60, leaving a canon of work more sensational than one-hundred free trips to Glasgow’s Water World. His swansong novel was quite a note to bow out on. An often quoted but scarcely read masterwork, it made the biggest impact of all his novels on the world at large, and pushed him into the echelons of literary immortality with 19th century contemporaries Dickens, Balzac and Tolstoy. On top of this, Sigmund Freud was his biggest fan. Not bad, eh? That nefarious little wench Susan Sontag also likes him. Which is less impressive in comparison. Themes & Plot For those unfamiliar with this work, it is an accessible and none too unmanageable text to read. The conceit is that the Karamazov brothers, Dmitri, Ivan and Alyosha are all to some extent dependent on their grudging old scrote of a father in the small village of Skotoprigonyevsk. These three brothers are used to symbolise the tripartite nature of man: body, mind and spirit. Each also harbour opposing teleological views which puts them at odds with one another throughout the entire duration of the text. When Dmitri, a hedonistic wastrel (representing sensual pleasures of the body) asks his father for three-thousand roubles with which to support himself, he is refused and is unable to find another benefactor. Here we have the setup. What transpires is a murder mystery yarn, the crux of the plot to the novel, where Dmitri is incorrectly arrested for the murder of his father following a dark night of carousing. The action in The Brothers Karamazov takes place over four days, and is centred (for the most part) around the interactions of these brothers and additional characters, most of whom sink to various levels of despair, confusion, helplessness and sorrow over the course of this short time. The continual themes of deceit, abandonment, torture and suffering are never far from the narrative, and the dialogue is very much in the melodramatic tradition of the era. Central to this basic narrative are the discourses around God and the Devil, whose presences cast a continual shadow over the narrative. In this desolate and rather awful village in North Russia, the characters wander through their miserable lives with uncertainty, seeking examples of God’s existence and to prove their individual theories of life just so they can understand the absurdity of the world around them. It is a place of petty tortures and brutal co-dependence, where the follies of man are shown for what the stupidities they are, and the sad desperation of life is rendered almost transcendent. Characters One suspects, given Dostoevsky’s own faith, that he intended Alyosha (the spiritual and naive brother) to be the real centre of this piece. It was easier for me to empathise more with this character, one of the few gracious, forgiving and angelic presences in the novel, and without his voice the book would lack a hopeful presence. He is taken on a journey that tests his faith in a proper John Bunyan idiom, forced to contemplate the idea that the monk Starets Zosima was not as pure and divine as he trusted him to be. We are also shown the extent of his knowledge and wisdom with an exceptional sub-narrative revolving around a precocious child and a group of troublemaking schoolchildren. The brothers Dmitri and Ivan are destructive and irascible characters, seldom likeable and halted in their lives through their mutual dislike of both their father and one another. We are forced to watch these brothers scold one another and fester in hatred, and for their views and desires to drive them apart. The Father Fyodor (while he is still alive) is also intolerable, and it is only through religious voices such as Starets Zosima whom we can take some kind of solace. The object of the feuding brothers’ affections is the more well-to-do “lady” of the village Katerina Ivanovna whom is torn between her hateful relationship with Dmitri and her uncertain affections for Ivan. Grushenka is the “local Jezebel” of the village with whom the brothers are also besotted. It is clear that part of their mutual downfall has to do with the indecision, torment and deceit these women place upon the brothers, but this is more in relation to the untrustworthiness they have placed upon them. Alyosha expresses affection for Lise, a secondary character who also occupies the one home in which these women reside. He is unsure of his affections in the novel, however, and his love goes unresolved within the narrative. The purpose of these characters is to torment one another. It is rare that a character within this text is not breaking down into a hysterical outburst at one moment or another. Barely five pages have past before a Karamazov is tearing someone apart in a moment of feverish excitement. The shame of asking for money (for grovelling and sacrificing dignity) seems to hang over the brothers at all times (especially Dmitri), and there are procession of niggling villagers such as Miusov, the bothersome theology student Rakitin and the dangerous epileptic Smerdyakov (who is roundly abused throughout the novel) to fester their lives. Style & Length The Brothers Karamazov does require a few weeks of consistent reading and demands those who undertake it to be prepared for all manner of devious arguments pertaining to the existence of God. The author was a devout believer in He Above (meaning there are Bible quotes aplenty to be found) but presents the opposing arguments in a lucid and accessible manner through Ivan’s own atheism and Dmitri’s agnosticism. Given how the two non-believers are forced to confront their own demons to an extreme degree, and to follow through on their godless decisions in times of great strife, it would seem the sensible people are those on the side of God in Dostoevsky’s opinion. Ivan is forced to confront the Devil towards the end of the book, and in contemplation of a life without love, he is driven to delirium. Critics often liken the long-windedness in the text to the structural principals Dostoevsky derived from music. It is thought that the development of the novel thrives on the extended use of subordinate themes and variations of these themes. Victor E. Amend argued that, similar to the dialogue between piano and orchestra in Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, the development is accomplished by the alternate presentation of the themes until the dominant one prevails. While his style is an oral, often freewheeling and “unedited” it is a very readable and thoroughly accessible style. Some might quibble about the extended time spent dwelling on inappropriate scenes, such as when the schoolchildren gather around Alyosha or the 70-odd pages spent on legal speeches towards the end, but these all contribute to this musical “theme and variation” style that makes Dostoevsky such a fulfilling author. To trim material as psychologically prodigious and insightful as this would be akin to chopping out the last ten minutes of a Beethoven Concerto or losing that extended guitar solo in Stairway To Heaven. It must remain as it stands. However, I should confess for the sake of honesty that I did find myself restless towards the end. This does not diminish the flow and brilliance of his style, in fact—it seemed appropriate to bring such a mighty work to its conclusion. Translation & Other Works The finest version of this book is the translation from Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, who also did a stellar job on Crime & Punishment. It is available in Penguin Paperback. This version, alas, was an Oxford World Classics print, translated by Ignat Avsey. This Latvian louse converted a great deal of the text into Present Day English, incorporating phrases that seem inappropriate to the time period of the novel. He also had the audacity to change the title to The Karamazov Brothers instead of the original title on the proviso we don’t say “The Brothers Marx” when referring to a brethren. Pah! His introduction is also littered with erroneous observations (such as that the town name of the text is said once – it is in fact said twice in the text). His translation is to be avoided at all costs. The oeuvre of this great Russian author is to me vitally important. What I take from his novels is this profound sense of redemptive catharsis; that there is nothing so awful from which a person can never return. His novels, in all their unrelenting gloom and Russian thickness, present a vision often of a world in squalor-filled chaos, but from this chaos he shows us that the solution for all our problems lies in our own collective freedom as individuals. This makes him timeless and cherished in the eyes of this reviewer, and I have yet to find a novel to match the incredible Crime & Punishment or a novella to equal Notes From Underground. Both are also recommended to those unversed in his canon. Conclusion The Brothers Karmazov achieves that rare feat in 19th century literature in that it remains infinitely readable, gripping and vital to readers to this very day. Even those intimidated by its considerable size will be surprised just how immersed in this magnificent masterwork they will become. As a rule, I avoid these mammoth doorstoppers when making book choices, but this one had me entranced from beginning to end—despite those indulgent moments of excessive erudition. I recommend this to all readers prepared to tackle its complex subject matter and who wish to put themselves at the hands of a master. The rewards are abounding.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Karina

    This book was a literary masterpiece. I cannot describe the book as I read it. I feel like I would not give it the justice it deserves. I would somehow ruin the the greatness of the characters and the whole meaning of the story. I will just give you a gist of what it is. It surrounds three brothers named Karamazov with the same father. It is read with each his own story and suddenly they collide in the wake of their despicable father's murder. It questions our deepest moral concerns. The origin This book was a literary masterpiece. I cannot describe the book as I read it. I feel like I would not give it the justice it deserves. I would somehow ruin the the greatness of the characters and the whole meaning of the story. I will just give you a gist of what it is. It surrounds three brothers named Karamazov with the same father. It is read with each his own story and suddenly they collide in the wake of their despicable father's murder. It questions our deepest moral concerns. The origin of evil and wrong but also good and truth, the true meaning of freedom, how much a human craves meaning, and the universal question of whether God exists or not. Did God create man or did man create God? Can loving all men and earth with unceasing, consuming love save us from cruelty and set an example to others? I feel like this book should be a high school literature requirement. It touches the soul and makes you question what kind of person you are and want to be. A sort of self reflection. It is definitely a hard read but it is worth the sacrifice. It was written in the 19th century but it is so relatable to life today. I can quote so many of the pages but I will do the one that caught me: And what follows from this right of multiplication of desires? In the rich, isolation and spiritual suicide; in the poor, envy and murder; for they have been given rights, but have not been shown the means of satisfying their wants... Interpreting freedom as the multiplication and rapid satisfaction of desires, men distort their own nature, for many senseless and foolish desires and habits and ridiculous fancies are fostered in them... They have succeeded in accumulating a greater mass of objects, but the joy in the world has grown less. (PAGE 296) I bought Dostoevsky's other works. I hope they will be as great and insightful as this one.

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