Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Brothers Karamazov

After five lovely servings of salad, I found my plate heaped with kolbasa and boiled potatoes with sour cream. Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov certainly has a rightful reputation as one of the world's finest works of literature.  My only regret was that, in order to follow this year's parameters, I had to read it in a week. That was the equivalent of downing the aforementioned meat and potatoes in seven bites.

Dostoevsky is a philosophical author, and in this work he addresses reason, madness, law, justice, subjectivity, faith vs. doubt, free will, moral responsibility, love and redemption through suffering. Each of the brothers represents a different aspect of humanity: Smerdyakov is physical, Dmitri is emotional, Ivan is intellectual and Alyosha is spiritual. Throughout the course of the novel, the reader sees how these character types respond to and experience life. *MINOR SPOILER* As the four brothers face the reality of their father's murder, they each have a different perspective on where (or if) guilt lies and on how the guilty party should be treated. In a short blog post it is only possible to touch on the important themes of a novel on which theses have been written, but I certainly encourage any thoughtful reader to take up this book, allowing ample time to read, contemplate and, possibly, be changed.

protagonist: Alyosha Karamazov
antagonist/villain: that's subjective
Tiny Tim with a Russian ending: Ilyusha
wise elder: Father Zossima
semi-fallen woman: Grushenka
quotational window into Dostoevsky's mind: "Some good, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education."
there was a lot of: wandering and repetitive dialogue, tragedy, suffering, redemption
there should have been more: background...maybe. I would like to know more of what made these characters the way they are, but the novel was already of considerable length. Dostoevsky intended it to be the first of three but died before the others could be written, so perhaps more clarity would have been gained during the following two works.
this book makes you want to: ponder, refrain from judging other people
this book makes you glad you don't have to: try to talk sense to a drunk

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