Riku Sayuj's Reviews > The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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Feb 16, 14

bookshelves: favorites, foriegn-lit, philosophy, r-r-rs, spiritual, translated, classics
Recommended to Riku by: english teacher in seventh grade!
Read from July 21 to 28, 2012 — I own a copy


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)

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.
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Reading Progress

07/22/2012 page 107
10.0% "A brazen face, and the conscience of a Karamazov!"
07/23/2012 page 256
24.0% "A comedy, perhaps, but not a tragedy."
07/23/2012 page 455
44.0% "Breathing in the stale, exhilarating air of the Karamazov world after a long look into that of a 'russian monk'. Relieved at getting back in the thick of the action, shuddering at what might be wound and ready to unroll explosively, but also wondering about the significance of the mild and pedantic detour at such a tense moment in the course of events." 4 comments
07/24/2012 page 705
67.0% "What 'Boys'? Seriously? I don't want some explanatory biographies now! vexing narrator, you...

...oh, I just realized that I was so in the tale that I have quite forgotten to make notes for the last 50 odd pages."
07/25/2012 page 827
79.0% "Apply breaks. Screeching halt. Because I do not want to know..." 1 comment

Comments (showing 1-29 of 29) (29 new)

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message 1: by Tanuj (new)

Tanuj Solanki Guys, really, I've this feeling of getting left out. What's happening, is it as good as they say!?


Riku Sayuj Tanuj wrote: "Guys, really, I've this feeling of getting left out. What's happening, is it as good as they say!?"

You bet it is :)


message 3: by Riku (last edited Jul 24, 2012 11:04PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Moonbutterfly wrote: "LOL. I know right. I think I'm around the same section as you.

I'm not receiving your status updates either."


I was too hasty... turns out the section was vital...


message 4: by Stephen M (new) - added it

Stephen M Epic review man. You really blew through this one.

Of course my penky panic rises as I know I have to get around to this one. A quick look across friend's review has an almost unanimous 5 star approval. I'll just make up a story about why I can't read this right away ;)


Jeffrey Keeten Wow! Great review Riku! Welcome to the five star BK club. I'm so glad you liked this book.


message 6: by Riku (last edited Jul 28, 2012 12:30PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Stephen M wrote: "Epic review man. You really blew through this one.

Of course my penky panic rises as I know I have to get around to this one. A quick look across friend's review has an almost unanimous 5 star ap..."


But why? Dostoevsky tries his best to make it easy for you. Or maybe that is only in the first reading. Maybe the sly devil has hidden things that I didn't even think to look for. Maybe? Ha, that was a joke. On me.


Riku Sayuj Jeffrey wrote: "Wow! Great review Riku! Welcome to the five star BK club. I'm so glad you liked this book."

Yay. There is a club? Where do we hang out?


message 8: by Stephen M (new) - added it

Stephen M Only because so much else is on deck right now. But I want to get around to this one soon. It sounds fairly readable from your one week takedown and other's comments.


Riku Sayuj Stephen M wrote: "Only because so much else is on deck right now. But I want to get around to this one soon. It sounds fairly readable from your one week takedown and other's comments."

Oh yes, it is. The trick is probably figuring out where to take a step back and reflect.


message 10: by ·Karen· (new) - added it

·Karen· Magnificent review, Riku. You almost make me want to go back again. Almost.


message 11: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Karen wrote: "Magnificent review, Riku. You almost make me want to go back again. Almost."

Thanks Karen. I plan to read this again in december. Will invite you then :)


message 12: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch The role of the jury is also relevant to the mechanism at the heart of "Lolita".


message 13: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Ian wrote: "The role of the jury is also relevant to the mechanism at the heart of "Lolita"."

Reji wrote: "Masterful review!"

I missed this comment somehow... Indeed it might be, now that I come to think of it! Let me chew on that.

Thanks Reji!


message 14: by Stephen M (new) - added it

Stephen M Hello friend. You write beautiful reviews that I absolutely love reading. I bet hearing them would make them even more amazing.

Come join us: http://www.goodreads.com/story/show/2...

We would all delight from hearing you read.


message 15: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Stephen M wrote: "Hello friend. You write beautiful reviews that I absolutely love reading. I bet hearing them would make them even more amazing..."

You pushed weed on kids in high school, didn't you Stephen?


message 16: by Stephen M (new) - added it

Stephen M All the time. You can't smoke weed by yourself, then you'd be like a pothead or something....


message 17: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj You asked too nicely. Now I will torture you. Maybe.


message 18: by Stephen M (new) - added it

Stephen M Do it!


Marnie Sandiego this is such a complex masterpiece. great review!


Aubrey Fantastic review. I really do need to reread this.


message 21: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Marnie wrote: "this is such a complex masterpiece. great review!"

Aubrey wrote: "Fantastic review. I really do need to reread this."

Thanks!


message 22: by Riku (last edited Jan 25, 2014 10:08PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Aubrey wrote: "Fantastic review. I really do need to reread this."

Aubrey, TWO STARS? Goodness! What happened there?


Amrit Chima Such a complete and sweeping analysis!


message 24: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Amrit wrote: "Such a complete and sweeping analysis!"

Thank you so much, Amrit!


Dolors What a well crafted review, magnificent for reference, I am bookmarking it.
Loved that postscript btw. I see you are in Ivan's team. That's good, we need to aim for the Aristotle's golden mean! :)
Fantastic job, Riku.


message 26: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Dolors wrote: "What a well crafted review, magnificent for reference, I am bookmarking it.
Loved that postscript btw. I see you are in Ivan's team. That's good, we need to aim for the Aristotle's golden mean! :)
..."


Thank you so much, Dolors! I really am not in Ivan's team at all - in my reading there are no teams. Let me quote from my review (the main review, not the themes set forth later) to illustrate:

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.

I know this runs a bit counter to your views of assigning roles to the characters on trial, but hey, Aristotle! :)


Himanshu What a thought provoking review, Riku. Specially the part where the difference between reality and fiction is lost in the stories that we make in our heads. Brilliant!


Garima Now that I have finally read the book, I'm going through all the reviews by my friends and seriously! yours is one of favorites. The story is about the reaction - it was all about the jury. Bingo! Thanks for this excellent review.


message 29: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Garima wrote: "Now that I have finally read the book, I'm going through all the reviews by my friends and seriously! yours is one of favorites. The story is about the reaction - it was all about the jury. Bingo! ..."

Himanshu wrote: "What a thought provoking review, Riku. Specially the part where the difference between reality and fiction is lost in the stories that we make in our heads. Brilliant!"

Thanks guys! It is a pleasure when someone digs up a review and enjoys it!


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