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"The Karamazov Brothers"* is, like its successors "Life and Fate" and "The Fountainhead," a philosophical novel. To the psychologist, it is holy writ.
So, beware: here you'll find no historical sweep, communion with nature, or exuberance of language. Unlike Tolstoy, say, where you know where you are even in the midst of his most complex ideas, Dostoevsky's twisty, tricksy sentences leave you unmoored, sometimes until the very last word. The plot struggles, lurching from one character to the next like a cart on a rutted road. Of tirades, homilies. diatribes, expatiations, oh, plenty. Interrogation - "What did you do?" "Then what?" "Why?" - follows interrogation. But conversation?
Paradoxically, despite the never-ending talk of 'Karamazov sensuality,' the book does not appeal to the senses: no delight in touch, taste, hearing, or sight. It's all intellectualized.
Final score: Philosophy - 10, Novel - 1.
(As it happens, though, there exists on YouTube a marvelous novelistic adaptation in 12 parts. With sensitive acting, period costumes, and limpid photography, it beautifully recaptures the time and setting. Produced for Russian TV in 2007, only the first part, alas, has English subtitles.)
*In Russian, the title - Brát'ya Karamázovy - is the ordinary and normal order in that language. In English, though, the normal order is the reverse: we say "The Marx Brothers," not "The Brothers Marx." "Warner Brothers" not "The Brothers Warner." The customary translation of the title into English therefore makes Dostoevsky sound pretentious and affected, which he emphatically is not.
This book is a must read for anyone interested in a deep analysis of the question of why, if God does exist, does He allow mankind to suffer. It is as contemporary in its importance as anything written today, and this drama is breathtakingly perfect in its ability to explore with the reader probably the greatest of all philosophical questions. Do yourself a favor and eschew the shallow debates that proliferate our YouTube and cable news culture and devour this novel, written by the greatest novelist of all time.
Another long dramatic Russian classic.. it's a REAL haul to finish this book and I am not sure it's worth the eye strain with the smaller than average print. In the end I didn't care what happened and forced myself to finish the book.
'The Brothers Karamazov' is a masterpiece, considered one of the best novels of all time. Many of humanity's greatest minds hail this book as the most important literary work. I enjoyed it very much and recommend it to anyone with a good attention span and the ability to get out of one's comfort zone. Yes, there are some dark themes, it is hard work, full of long soliloquies, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Of course, expertly written and a classic for a reason. I would say go slowly and use a reader's guide for the characters if need be because there are many, and the pet names in Russian can be confusing. That said, Dostoyevsky consistently writes about human nature in a fascinating and thought provoking way that stays with you. Love his novels.
Some will take the Grand Inquisitor segment as encouragement to interrogation, even to do so on their own relatives. These people, had they not left Germany in the '40s and 30s, would have worked for Stasi, in East Germany, and their families would have been proud. These people could have read Orwell's 1984, and not gotten the point, but would have identified with the character O'Brien in his quest to get the main character, Winston Smith, to recant his resistance to the state. // The decent short story, by William Carlos Williams, THE USE OF FORCE, would have been read straight by these people, and possibly would have motivated them in their pseudo-doctor ways. // The phrase BIG BROTHER LOVES YOU, would not have made them blink, or broken their stride on the way to the garbage can outside the fish fast food joint, where they fished out an uneaten, thrown away, salmon sandwich, went to the counter to ask for a fresh new bag, put the sandwich in it, and then jovially handed it to their impoverished brother who had been suggested ( told) to wait, on a park bench. " Alyosha emerged from his father's house in a humour that was even more jaded and depressed than it had been earlier, when he had gone in. " " Alyosha related everything that had happened to him right from the moment he had gone into Katerina Ivanovna's housee. He talked for some ten minutes, and though it could not be said that he did so flowingly or well, he managed none the less to give a clear account, catching the principal words and actions and vividly communicating, often by means of a single detail, his own feelings."
What can I say about this book that hasn't already been said? It was written over 100 years ago, and is still relevant. Unless, of course, you are some teenage edge-lord who is too cool to have a soul. Then I pity you, and you should go back to watching Disney movies about about billionaires in flying armor.
The writing is grand, and the insight into humanity is simply impressive. The internal dialogue of his characters are well written and profound. They shed a light into the human condition that many today are incapable of understanding.
The book is long, yes, but Dostoevsky has a way of working in little vignettes and mini-stories within the main story. Every chapter is like a short story unto itself, and I find myself engrossed in the whole affair. It took me almost 3 months to finish this book, because I found myself reading and re-reading certain passages to reflect on their meaning.
Oh, and there is a story within a story called "The Grand Inquisitor". Mind = blown.
Dostoyevsky's masterwork is not an easy book to read. The paragraphs go on for pages, quotations go on for pages, and the main reason for the book - a murder - doesn't happen until past page 500; the rest is prologue with extended discussions about religion and philosophy. That being said, it's a book that's hard to put down, although in my case it took about three and a half weeks to go through. One never knows for sure truly whodunit until near the very end. More than a mystery novel, this is a book that belongs on every bookshelf ... though I was a bit confused by the translator's explanation (for the version I read, the Penguin Classics edition) as to why the English version is actually longer than the original Russian.
There are not too many books that transcend time. It is difficult for a story to stay relevant hundreds of years later, not just because of changing times but due to changing life styles, personal interactions and issues that tend to bother people of different eras. Karamazov is a rare exception.
Dostoyevsky's first big triumph is his ability to weave a highly complex intrigue in the simplest of fashion. His characters play mind games that are difficult to further evolve for writers a century later with all the modern day machinations and progress in writing styles based on experiences of generations of authors that have come before. Unlike most other classics of the nineteenth century or before, Karamazov characters are as vile, crafty, intelligent or thoughtful as any created by the best of present time novelists.
The second triumph is in clearly portraying so many characters in their own unique, non-compromising ways. Few of his characters are completely good or bad. Almost no interactions between them are predictable. The story moves as unpredictably as real life, even if one was to be aware of its eventual end through spoilers or copycat reproductions by others in the following 130 years.
What Russian young men were doing in the 19th century, instead of building railroads and improving agriculture. They were writing poetry, agitating for and against their overwhelming, authoritarian society, spending thousands of rubles on "creatures" and, to a greater extent than most will believe, worrying about their souls. There is a thin excuse for a plot, but endless, magnificent talk. TBK is more like a series of connected plays than a book, specifically the plays of George Bernard Shaw. Needless to say, this is not a book to read as an introduction to Russian literature, or even to Dostoevsky. It would also help to know some Russian history, and to understand how their culture is very different to that of western Europe, despite sharing a continent and a skin colour. But if you're a person who wrestles with great moral questions, or wants to understand the heart of our Russian neighbours, The Brothers Karamazov is the book to read.
The translation I read is the one from "Great Books of the Western World" series, but since this catalog entry is the one that has comments attached to it, I'll just copy my post to this thread:
There were bits and pieces of the book that I found very touching and inspirational but I had trouble grasping the story as a whole. That may be because it took me about six months to read, so by the time I was finished I may have lost connection to things that had happened earlier in the story. If I had read the book at a more even pace, I may have been able to think more critically from what I was reading and figure out how the various themes of the story fit together.
As one reader wrote, the book is too heavily padded with words which made for a boring read. I got to about page 400 (out of 1000+) and gave up before the father was murdered because I just didn't care why or which son did it. Dostoevsky's struggle with his faith or lack of, isn't as interesting or relevant any more as it must have been in the late 1800's.
Yes, a classic, a work of genius, etc., etc. but also overlong and very heavily padded (Dostoyevsky, like Dickens and other "greats," wrote for serialization and for money, making lengthy exposition, dramatic cliffhangers, overwrought scenes, etc. necessary for business). You know you're in trouble when entire long segments have titles like "The Preliminary Investigation." But those are the drawbacks. The timeless pluses that transcend Dostoyevsky himself are in his exploration of the mind, heart and soul of man as represented by the three brothers. There is also his fine sardonic humor (which I, at least, am convinced I see in everything he wrote). And then there is this novel's glorious conclusion - that rare example of an extreme sentimentality that works. Not so much read as skimmed through by generations worldwide, be sure to look for the best parts of this book while you do.
Maybe I shouldn't write a review if I haven't even finished the book yet.
It's rather an overwhelming amount of words to read, in my defense. In fact, everything about this book is overwhelming - the characters, the dialogue, the amount of religion and theology, most of which just goes over my head anyway. But, read it. It's good so far (I'm more than half-way) and I can sense greatness, which is why it is a classic I suppose.
Considered one of the Top 10 classic novels (my #7) of the western world. The best of five major novels in the Top 200 by this major Russian author. See my GerryD Lists for other great novels.
I think you may have to be Christian to consider this a masterpiece. The parts in between the long, rambling philisophical bits were very good.
As someone who has read over a thousand books of literarure ranging from the time of Homer, to Shakespeare, to Kafka, to Steinbeck, I can honestly say that 'The Brothers Karamazov' is arguably the greatest work of fiction ever produced. This book is Dostoevsky at his best. He said that if he had written this book, then he would have fully expressed himself. Well he did, and he did a magnificent work. This book is worth reading from start to finish (don't just watch the movie! It sucks!). From the moment you read about the perculiar character that is Fyodor Karamazov, you instantly want to know more about this story of murder, betrayel, love and intrigue. In this book you will find find romance, suspence, horror, philosophy, theology, and so many allussions to other artistic works that you will feel proud to recognize such references. If you have not already, give this book a chance, I swear that you will not regret it. And if you haven't read this book, then you are not a reader.
First thing I read after graduating from the UW. So, so good. Did not want it to end.
Amazing book, with interesting characters. The length and scope of the book can make it a challenge to get through, but it is worth it.