Tatiana's Reviews > The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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Jul 09, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: classics
Read in January, 1987

Rereading this one now, first time as a believer, and the whole story of the monk, Aloysha's friend and mentor, is riveting to me this time around. I've had a few times in my life when I felt the way it was described that the monk's brother felt before he died, that there's no need for any unhappiness ever, and life was meant to be a paradise, if only we saw it so. It was beautiful. Dostoyevsky's descriptions are more vivid than ever to me, and the feelings are more powerful. If other writers are 120VAC (with apologies to the Europeans) then Fyodor Mikailovich is 35kV. Everything is like waaaaay more intense. (I heard that sentence in Mitch Hedburg's voice.)

Vanya's story of the Grand Inquisitor is quite true and definitely sincere. I understand just why he doesn't believe. Yet the 19th century idea that if God doesn't exist then everything is permitted seems whacked to me. The atheists I know are all good people. Not a sensualist nor kin-murderer among them. Is Vanya thinking his dad's death would make the world a better place? He's kind of blocking out the whole thing Smerdyakov is hinting at, though it's perfectly clear to us. He may already be coming down with brain fever, encephalitis, which people in Russia ca. 1810 - 75 seem particularly prone to. His hallucinations later on (I'm not to that part yet this go round) definitely have the flavor of revelation, and I wonder how much madness has in common with prophecy.

Simultaneously, my son's reading Neitzsche and discussing his ideas with me. We're both listening to some Buddhist stuff too, and thinking through those things, beginning to practice meditation. On top of that, of course, my LDS teachings have yet another viewpoint entirely on mind-body duality (not so much), the nature of paradise (a lot like here), the relation of our Heavenly Parents (plural) to us, their children. Father Zosima is teaching me some very good stuff out of his Russian Orthodox tradition. My head's in a bit of a whirl from all this, yet together it all builds, somehow, something extremely durable and useful, (and even quite beautiful) in my spirit.

This is an amazing book. Each time I read it, I get worlds of new stuff out of it. I love Dostoyevsky. He's absolutely the best novelist I've ever read.

*****

A new thought I want to record. One thing I love about FMD is the way he shows clearly the very best feelings and thoughts that his characters have. Right now Aloysha has gone to Grushenka's and she's told him about her officer who wronged her who has come back and wants to see her. Her pure self is shining through, despite all her years of crying and raging and vowing to make him pay for wronging her, and now she's going to run back to him, because she loves him still. She's humiliated by that and also determined to do it, and she honestly shows all this to Aloysha because she perceives that he understands. For his part he's purified of his earlier desire to sin and do himself harm somehow because of his anguish over the disgrace of his beloved Elder Zosima's body rotting too fast when everyone thought his death would be attended with miracles and an extra measure of preservation because of his righteousness. Aloysha himself is so good just then, to see Grushenka's true spirit and not treat her like a nonperson, a sex object, as the other men all seem to do. Dostoyevsky by showing the best of humanity in all of us (even the characters who aren't so nice all the time) gives us permission to be our best selves. Despite his also seeing clearly the worst of people, his recognition of their true best, too, makes that seem simple and noble and most of all possible. I love that about him.

*****

Farther now, and Dmitri this time is striking me as a terribly unsympathetic character, though I remember liking him before. Maybe I was just too young to see that all that unrestrained passion and anger is simply destructive and abusive and wrong, and not really noble or pure or admirable. Sure, terrify people who are weak and vulnerable left and right, servants and women and so on. Sure, beat up a peasant who's passed out drunk just because you really need him to wake up and give you money to go see your girlfriend. Sure, jilt an honorable fiancee who loves you just because you feel a passion of lust for someone else. I think Grushenka is a fool to even consider you for a second!

Yes, he's young and had a terrible example in his father. And everyone who's human has done stupid, selfish things at times. But I think he does need to go to jail, just for all the assault and sexual harassment he goes around committing, even if he's innocent of his father's murder. Why did I ever like him? Ugh!
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Quotes Tatiana Liked

Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“Love all God’s creation, both the whole and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of light. Love the animals, love the plants, love each separate thing. If thou love each thing thou wilt perceive the mystery of God in all; and when once thou perceive this, thou wilt thenceforward grow every day to a fuller understanding of it: until thou come at last to love the whole world with a love that will then be all-embracing and universal.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
tags: love


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