Title: Brothers Karamazov
Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky
Published: 1880 Pages: 776
Genre: Literature, Classic, Russian
Brothers Karamazov is the story of three brothers, Dmitri, Ivan, and Alexi. And a couple of girls. And a lusty, drunkard father. A murder mystery and a whole lot of religious babble.
Reason I read it: Someone somewhere sometime said Brothers Karamazov is a must read book. I don’t remember who, but if I ever do remember…! So I suggested a readalong and Jill kindly took the reins and though many signed up, only Jill, Jenners, and I prevailed. I will take full blame and responsibility for the disaster that was the Brothers Karamazov Cedilh.
Thoughts: I’m afraid that I didn’t really understand Brothers Karamazov, which was a great source of my frustration throughout my reading experience. I tried. I tried and tried, but I just didn’t get it. The majority of the book was heavily entrenched in religious themes—mainly through the discussions and dreams of Aloysha and Ivan—but they disagreed with one another and I had a tough time discerning what Dostoevsky was trying to tell us about heaven and hell and God and the Devil and what makes a man a sinner and can a man really achieve redemption, etc etc. I do have to say that reading this book made me want to learn more about Dostoevsky’s life and philosophies, but I’m kind of a lazy reader.
Brothers Karamazov is a book that is probably best read in a literature course with a professor that requires the students read secondary sources and research Dostoevsky’s life and beliefs, but most importantly a professor who could facilitate the type discussion that would tease out some of the tricky themes to get to the meat. I never got to the meat. I don’t even think I tasted the spices on the meat. Sometimes I couldn’t even smell said meat or spices. I started off using Sparknotes but quickly abandoned them when I realized the story I was reading was a lot different than the one I was reading about in Sparknotes! Like any book, a reader will choose to focus on certain things over others [or in my case, I needed way better glasses to focus].
Religion aside, this book was a fairly simple one. Which is the biggest understatement I’ve ever made in my entire life. But what I mean by that is when you strip away all of the religion and philosophizing, this book is a murder mystery complete with a trial by jury and sentencing. Throw in a bit of love/lust and family drama and you have the makings of a very basic story. Which is why this book is probably a classic (though I’m sure Dostoevsky’s ramblings has something to do with it as well). The crux of the story, it turns out, is what makes a good father and if it’s worse to murder your father than a regular joe shmo. Fyodor Karamazov was a really lousy father, but does that make it any more OK to murder him? As I typed that sentence I realized how insane it sounded, but that’s what Dostoevsky discusses!
In terms of writing—I never know how to go about discussing writing in a book that is translated. I read the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation of the book, which I’ve heard is supposed to be very good, but I wonder what my experience would have been like if I read another translation. Better? Or, gasp, worse? Two things, though, that transcend translation are humor and conversation. And surprisingly there was quite a bit of both of these things in Brothers Karamazov. Sure a lot of times it was lost amongst the philosophizing, but it still there regardless. I would have preferred to do a lot more laughing than sighing or eyerolling, but the parts where there was dialogue were almost enjoyable to me. Honestly, I don’t know what else to talk about in this post and mostly I just want to get it finished with…so…
Bottom line: Proceed with extreme caution. I’m sure for more intelligent readers this is an enlightening read. For me…unfortunately it wasn’t worth the time and effort. But, you want to hear something really sick? This one’s going back on the shelf for another day when I might just understand it better. Ha!
Have you ever shelved a book you kind of disliked because you think/hope you might like it better the next time you pick it up?