Method of Reading: Personally owned paperback novel, 870 pages
Dates of Reading: October 27, 2013-January 2, 2014
Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Publication Year: 1880
Recommended to: Crime and Punishment or Les Misérables fans.
"As a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naive and simple-hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are, too" (6).
"Love is such a priceless treasure that you can redeem the whole world by it, and expiate not only your own sins but the sins of others" (53).
"Dear little brother, I don't want to corrupt you or to turn you away from your stronghold, perhaps I want to be healed by you" (258).
"Why are you always in such a funk for your life?" (296).
"Life will bring you many misfortunes, but you will find your happiness in them, and will bless life and will make others bless it -- which is what matters most" (313).
"The thing is so simple that sometimes one is even afraid to put it into words, for fear of being laughed at, and yet how true it is!" (323).
"...act so that your servant may be freer in spirit than if he were not your servant" (351).
"...prayer is an education" (352).
"Always decide to use humble love (353).
"It was not men's grief, but their joy Christ visited" (401).
"One lajdak doesn't make a Poland" (494).
"I'm not very beautiful, so I had no right to consider him repulsive" (519).
"Ivan has no God. He has an idea" (665).
"I am as much" (696).
"I, too, shall walk my quadrillion" (728).
"He talks about some hymn.... But that man in prison is incapable of suffering" (851).
Movie: Several, but I'd only want a very high-quality, lengthy, well-produced new one.
Wikipedia Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Brothers_Karamazov
My View: From the introduction: "[Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Turgenev's] deep love of humanity and compassion for fellow-sufferers in the human condition led Oscar Wilde to exclaim, 'What makes their books so great is the pity they put into them'" (vii).
Wilde surely had difficulty distilling Dostoevsky & Co. into such a concise review, so I can't expect to do this brilliant work by Fyodor Dostoevsky justice in a short blog review. I could talk about the book for ages. I could mention Dostoevsky's views on modernization and the possibility of an übermensch, the easy flow of his writing even after translation. I could discuss the emptiness of each character filled only by Alyosha and the interesting interaction of God and man through prayer/action/calculation/rebellion discussed in this book. I would love to go on about Fyodor Pavlovitch's buffoonish behavior and the interplay of "modern" psychology and optimism about the human spirit, both seen by Zossima and explained partially in his piercing, entrancing, moving speeches contained here. I could go on about rehabilitations attempted, failed, fledging, and successful, of boundless forgiveness by man, God, and a society unsure of how to handle reprieve. I could quote Dostoevsky on beauty turned to ash by sin, hatred, and immoderation, or his views on accomplishment, inadequacy, and prideful desire. I could chip at the faith, the doubt, and the reasons supporting both and neither that provide the frame of this book. I could look at Dostoevsky's ideas of invention and tradition and comfort, all sensuously described in a recalling of what is good in the world (similar to passages in The Secret Life of Bees). I could joke of an incompetent but endearing German physician, or remember the young and old men he pronounces ill or worse. I could discuss contempt and compassion, suffering for oneself and others and the whole world and nothing at all; cruelty and care, interdependence, reliance, trust, and betrayal. I could talk for hours about the mysteries of this world and of God above that Dostoevsky harps on, or explain his ideas on service to one another, truth in reason and reality, aberration, disorder and a Higher Order, trust, and predictable stupidity. I'd like to comment on the anecdotes Dostoevsky stole from his own Crime and Punishment about lame horses being flogged. If I tried describing any of this though, I'd get bogged down trying to unravel the spiritual arguments that this book is woven of, all of which are way over my head but pull at my mind and heart and spur my body to action. The raptures of freedom, free will, dictation, rebellion, and choice at the heart of this book could (and probably have) fill(ed) volumes of philosophy books that I cannot distill with any skill here, especially since I don't know anyone else who has read this and therefore I don't have anyone to discuss it with.
I needed both SparkNotes and the introduction of this book (by ADP Briggs) to read it at all well. If you're not working with a think-tank book group or at least a class, I recommend using these types of resources extensively so you don't miss out on important thematic details. It is a true masterpiece and ought to be considered central to the Western canon: a book to really love amidst a lot of mediocrity. A book to move me and make me fall in love. Reading it is truly a religious experience and I think it would be so even for those who are not among the faithful. I find it very interesting that this work was completed near the very end of FD's life and was intended to be the start of a very long epic of novels, and can only imagine what else was in store for poor Alyosha, whose life was predicted time and again to bring joy through pain. I wish I could have read whatever it was he intended to write. I also wish I could have read it all in the original Russian, which must be really beautiful considering how pretty (although amazingly, astonishingly, painfully poorly edited) the mere translation is. A book for the ages.
- Doestoevsky, Fyodor. The Karamazov Brothers. Ware: Wordsworth, 2010. Print.