Rawley's Reviews > The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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Sep 07, 2008

it was amazing
Read in February, 2000

If there was still any doubt, let me confirm that this actually is the greatest book ever written. But be warned that you need to set aside a solid month to get through it. And it's not light reading--this is a dense work of philosophy disguised as a simple murder mystery. But it's well worth the effort. It tackles the fundamental question of human existence--how best to live one's life--in a truly engaging way. Dostoevsky created 3 brothers (Ivan, Alexei, and Dmitri) with opposite answers to this fundamental question, and set them loose in the world to see what would happen. A testament to Dostoevsky's genius is he didn't know how the book would evolve when he started writing. As a consequence, the book really isn't about the plot at all, but about how these brothers evolve and deal with their struggles based on their differing world views.

Dostoevsky articulates, better than anyone, how human beings really are what I would call "walking contradictions". Perhaps all of our struggles in life boil down to the reality that we desire contradictory things, simultaneously. If you like your novels with good character development, this is the masterwork. Dostoevsky's characters are more real, more human, than any other. At different points along the way, you will identify with them, sympathize with them, curse them, agonize over them, celebrate them. You will be moved.

Reading this book was a deeply personal experience for me, because I saw myself in one of the characters, and I didn't like what I saw. My worldview, in fact my entire direction in life, shifted as a result of this experience. I can't guarantee the same results for you, but you owe it to yourself to set aside the time, someday, for the Brothers Karamazov.

Be sure to read the Pevear Volokhonsky translation.
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Comments (showing 1-22 of 22) (22 new)

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message 1: by Trevor (new)

Trevor Wow! Dostoevsky must have been brilliant to come up with THREE opposites to one issue, what an innovator! Haha, I think I know which brother you see yourself as (Ivan?), who do you think I identify with? Anyway I am out in the Rockies right now lifeguarding a 25 meter pool with no diving board and no one shows up, so I am getting a lot of reading done, and this slipped back into my repertoire. I picked up the Constance Garnett translation, which John says you say is the best. I have to say it seems more readable than the last translation that I only made 300 page headway like 6 years ago... ONLY 300 pages! The commentary here claims Fyodor planned on making 2 more parts to this epic piece (of what?) so that in reality this is only 1/3 of the story. It is a pretty good book yeah I'll admit it, but certainly wordy despite any claims to the contrary. My favorite character so far (on book The Forth) is Fyodor part deux, he's pretty lol. I'll let you know my final thoughts laters. Have a good time doing whatever it is you do! :D

Jay Jay The month it takes to get through the novel is fully worth it.

Don Incognito If you can read this book in only a month, you either are a speed-reader or have lots of free time. I expect to need six months. And I identify with Ivan too, regrettably. I see myself in him and wish I did not. I'd rather be Alyosha.

Glassj0 I just finished it for the 3rd time over the last 15 years and it finally made a full impact. The first couple of times I felt that certain moments were incredibly beautiful and inspiring and I got a little too caught up in the actual drama taking place. The third time I knew what was going to happen and so was finally able to fully absorb Alyosha's inner turmoil.

Amazing that a translation can strike so deeply in any language. Also strange that such a notoriously dark personality can make the anonymous reader feel so valued/loved.

Laikhuram Yes. "You owe it to yourself to set aside the time, someday, for the Brothers Karamazov."

message 6: by Emma (new) - added it

Emma I bought the constance garnett translation a few years ago, is it going to be such a big difference?

Kumar Tushar To see one-self in any of the characters apart from Ivan would have been an overwhelming and depressing experience indeed.

message 8: by Kumar (last edited Sep 09, 2011 11:58AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kumar Tushar Not to be confused as unwanted however. The book is pure brain damage and rebirth material.

Don Incognito Please explain.

message 10: by Kumar (last edited Sep 09, 2011 12:46PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kumar Tushar Well, i merely made the point that seeing oneself in Ivan, relating to him, reveling in his nausea, cherishing in his belief and then being able to relate the morbidity of his hallucination (i personally found Ivan ending up insane a bit of a wrong ending to his character), is what made the Brothers Karamazov, a masterpiece for me.
I would also go as far as saying that for a person seeing oneself in Dmitri, Fyodor, Smerdyakov, Katerina or Grushenka, one would simply find the novel very morbid, depressing and (for loss of a better word) abusive. Infact from that point of view, reading the novel one would be full of nothing but self reproach. However human their condition might be.
Seeing oneself in Alyosha (if that is possible) i cannot comprehend.
I would never want to be Alyosha. I say that from the same point of view from which i hold the belief that i would always strive to be sublime and at peace through the creative exertion of my intellect and talent, forming in my mind, my own view of reality, culminating the ego, than getting enlightened sitting and meditating. If Alyosha is a character made in the image of God, then he surely is not needed.
I would also say that I am still unsure of what the authors image of Alyosha was and have been unable to grasp fully yet (with the limitation of my own present frame of mind ) what he intends to portray there.

Don Incognito I see. You must have a completely different worldview from Dostoyevsky's.

Brian Personally, I saw myself in Ivan, Fyodor and Alyosha. Depending on circumstances I have noticed becoming similar to each of these characters. During times of solitary (Alyosha), times of inebriation (Fyodor) and times of serious discussion (Ivan). As the original poster wrote life is full of contradictions. I think Dostoevsky genious lies in his ablility articulate thoroughly many of the contradictory dispositions and personalities humans encompass.

Michael52176 I am reading the book and see myself in Alyosha. I have been reading it for two years and finally have gotten to where the trial is about to start. This is a very thought provoking novel about the philosophies of life. Parts of the book are very slow, but the story lines of the three brothers is very intriguing.

Stephan Mirzakhan I saw myself somewhere between Dmitri and Ivan, but a younger me (say, in my teens) would relate to Alyosha. It wasn't a depressing experience by any means, though. On the contrary, it was quite moving.

message 15: by Jgort (new)

Jgort Have read it probably 10 times in my life, I read it again when I need it. Didn't think I needed it, but read "the brothers Karamazov and its critics" by Wasiolek, and felt need to read it again. Which I am. Freud's analysis was um, freudian, but Camus, DH Lawrence, Rahv, Matlaw, and Wasiolek, eye-opening. Had to read it AGAIN! and doing so!

message 16: by Jgort (new)

Jgort (the novel is really about Ivan, btw. How can there be a god when there is suffering on earth? and if you knew that suffering was for a grand plan, would you accept it?)

Vishal Only took me 2 weeks :-) but then again I have a lot of free time these days and the book is intriguing to the point that I couldn't put it down! A book for all times....

Vishal Only took me 2 weeks :-) but then again I have a lot of free time these days and the book is intriguing to the point that I couldn't put it down! A book for all times....

message 19: by Rob (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rob a month! i envy your reading strength. this is my second year reading The Brothers Karamazov. so dense - complex. life. salutations...

message 20: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex James a bit long don't you think....just kidding, absurd how deep it is. What a work of art! Mind boggling really. Although I enjoyed The Idiot even more. The Brothers is not only a story, it is life. It is a stamp of literature I shall never forget. "You will behold great sorrow, and in this sorrow be happy."

message 21: by Saumya (new) - added it

Saumya Singh I just started reading this book,and I have a question. In the first book,chapter 4, the third son Alyosha: why does pavlovich say that "if there is no roof in hell there cannot be any hooks?" I believe it is not necessary to have a ceiling to have hooks..will someone please explain what does that all conversation about roofs and hooks?THank you :)

Mauricio Garcia Beautifully put Rawley!
Having read the book about some 8 years ago, your review made me want to read it again and see what has shifted in my perception of it.

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