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The Brothers Karamazov
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Past Group Reads > The Brothers Karamazov: Book II

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Jenn | 407 comments Mod
Please discuss Book 2: An Unfortunate Gathering.


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Neens Bea (neens_bea) | 27 comments I can't believe how much easier it is for me to read Dostoevsky as compared to Tolstoy. I don't know if it is down to the authors' or translators' writing style, but whereas I really struggled to get through Anna Karenina (Volokhonsky/Pevear translation), I am finding The Brothers Karamazov (Garnett translation) absolutely unputdownable so far. I started reading the book yesterday and am already on Book III. The only section that dragged on a little was the discussion about the ecclesiastical courts, but it didn't get to the point where I decided to just skip it, as I occasionally did with Anna Karenina. I am not familiar with the story, so the separate discussion threads for each book are great for avoiding spoilers. I can't wait to see what will happen next!


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Brian (myersb68) | 62 comments Neens wrote: "I can't believe how much easier it is for me to read Dostoevsky as compared to Tolstoy. I don't know if it is down to the authors' or translators' writing style, but whereas I really struggled to g..."

I'm in the early part of Book 2, and I agree re Dostoyevsky vs Tolstoy, big time. Another point you allude to, but don't really MAKE, I want to emphasize: Pevear and Volokhonsky do translations in modern colloquial parlance. If you really love classics, you are probably going to enjoy earlier translations more, and this is a good case in point, as I am also reading the Garnett and just loving it. Re Tolstoy, well... I find him boring in any translation. I might as well just read the original Russian, and no, I do not speak Russian.


Danielle | 55 comments Re: translations

I have Avsey as my translator (OUP edition 1994) and he makes a statement in his introduction about translating for style more than word-for-word authenticity. He specifically mentions writing the title normally: The Karamazov Brothers instead of The Brothers Karamazov. He does this, he says, because creating English grammatical patterns creates the same normal reading style and experience as a Russian speaker reading the original Russian. Why maintain word order from the original language when it only serves to make the translation feel strange, less immersive?

So, who has which title and do you think it matters?

(I got a very thorough classical liberal arts degree where to be an English major meant you needed four semesters of another language. I was then bound to read only original English works and works in my second language. But I never mastered my second language, so I am 'approved' for study of only British and American. So, I'm still heistant about what it means to read a translation.)


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Brian (myersb68) | 62 comments Danielle wrote: "Re: translations

I have Avsey as my translator (OUP edition 1994) and he makes a statement in his introduction about translating for style more than word-for-word authenticity. He specifically me..."


I prefer The Brothers Karamazov because it's unique and how I have always known the title. But no, of course it doesn't really matter, IMO anyway.


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Chahrazad | 49 comments "Your reverence," he cried, with sudden pathos, "you behold before you a buffoon in earnest! I introduce myself as such"
Fyodor Pavlovitch is crawling on me!


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Chahrazad | 49 comments the Elder Zossima, what to make of him?! any thoughts?


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Brian (myersb68) | 62 comments I gotta admit, I'm finding the religious discussions in Book 2 more than a little tedious, and I find myself skimming. No doubt this was reflective of popular social discourse at the time, but it seems to me Book 2 could largely be removed.


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Chahrazad | 49 comments Brian wrote: "I gotta admit, I'm finding the religious discussions in Book 2 more than a little tedious, and I find myself skimming. No doubt this was reflective of popular social discourse at the time, but it ..."

I didn't finish all of Book 2, and I have the same impression you do. I'm waiting to see if this discourse is going to tell me more about Alyosha in relation with Zossima especially that I find the latter quite intreguing. If however, it is "only" a reflective of popular social discourse, then it would be more than tedious indeed since it could have been said in definitely less words!


message 10: by Gabriel (last edited Dec 08, 2012 03:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gabriel (pierrotz) | 7 comments My POV about Zosima: he makes the connections between goodness and morals to help us to understand the characters and the story that we gonna see ahead. (Note how everyone, even Alyosha, seem so humane and imperfect in comparison to him.)

So, considering that the book is (mostly) centered Alyosha, Zosima's utterance is creating some kind of opposition between the mind of a dishonest person 'unable to distinguish truth from falsehood' (Fyodor Pavlovitch) in opposition to Alyosha’s faith.
Second, in being the basically the basis of Alyosha's moral, Zosima (and his teachings) influences some very important actions in the novel through the young Karamazov, I think would be not a good decision to erase this influence from the book.

And even though the philosophical discussion at first really seems out of place, I find very compelling that Dostoevsky makes cases for two sides of an argument, and through the example of the characters’ behavior, indicates the outcomes of such concepts through the novel.


Gabriel (pierrotz) | 7 comments but it seems to me Book 2 could largely be removed.

I sympathize that sometimes a book would be better without some parts, I really do (though not in this case), but unfortunately, this is a work of futility. First, you (obviously) can 'alter' a book, you have to accept the way it is; second, you can't read everything expecting to be 'entertained' or 'lead by a great history' all the time, it's very unhelpful to the habit of reading.

The one thing you can do, however, is to try to find out what in God's name the author means with this chapter, to what purpose he wrote all that? If it's there, then it probably have a reason for so, if you grasp that reason, you will inevitably reach new insights about the work.


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Brian (myersb68) | 62 comments Gabriel wrote: "but it seems to me Book 2 could largely be removed.

I sympathize that sometimes a book would be better without some parts, I really do (though not in this case), but unfortunately, this is a work ..."


I just can't accept all this garbage about the state becoming the church etc etc, the idea that there should be no separation of church and state. These are all old, disproven ideas, and borderline offensive to my intellect.

Still I didn't mean history should alter the book, just that I feel big chunks of this part of it can be skimmed or skipped without losing anything. In this case, I'll take your advice and continue slogging thru it, because it seems obvious you've read the whole thing before. Tx for the input, this is one of the reasons I love the idea of this book club.


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Gabriel (pierrotz) | 7 comments But those ideas didn't came in a vacuum on the book, try to remember what characters said that and what were their intentions, did they act the way they believe? What impact did those beliefs had in their lives? Etc.

Try not to think about your own intellect a little bit.


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Chahrazad | 49 comments Gabriel wrote: "But those ideas didn't came in a vacuum on the book, try to remember what characters said that and what were their intentions, did they act the way they believe? What impact did those beliefs had i..."

I found the whole discussion about church and State highly insightful. it said a lot about Ivan and the way he thinks and behaves with those around him... the narrator kept describing the tone of his voice and his manners when talking to Zossima, and the way that made Alyosha feel about his brother... noting that Ivan and Alyosha were not really close.

I may not agree with the whole content of the discussion but its presence in the narration was a valuable addition.

Thank you Gabriel for sharing your opinion about Zossima and what he stands for in the story... you helped me seeing him in a different light!


Cynthia Dunn Brian wrote: "Gabriel wrote: "but it seems to me Book 2 could largely be removed.

I sympathize that sometimes a book would be better without some parts, I really do (though not in this case), but unfortunately,..."


Yes, that part annoyed me as well, no separation of church and state. I really had to read slowly to understand what they were saying. I never think that parts of a book should be left out. I don't skim but I don't enjoy them.
I love reading other's opinions. It helps me so much and makes the reading of the book richer.


message 16: by Phil (last edited Dec 07, 2012 02:53PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Phil (Lanark) I didn't find the church vs state discussion particularly difficult (nor interesting either), but I do wonder about this Russian fetish about spending dozens of pages discussing the latest "social problem" (like in the "what is to be done about the Russian Farming problem" in Anna Karenina). I can't imagine that everyone sat down and talked like this across Russia in the mid-19th century.

What I did find interesting is that Ivan doesn't even agree with the position that he took in his own article. He wrote that he believed that the church needs to become the state, because for the church to take up a small position in society allowed by the state goes against the church's aims and teachings (and makes it subservient to the state), but he's a self-avowed atheist, so he's just making these arguments for mischief's sake - he's an intellectual version of his father.

Again, however, I found my self laughing like a drain at Fyodor's deliberate goading of Pyotr. When he told the story of being a buffoon and saying at a dinner party that the mayor's wife was a ticklish woman - and the mayor replying by asking in a rage if he'd been tickling his wife, actually made me laugh out loud.

I still find all three brothers insufferable bores in comparison to their father.


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Phil (Lanark) Questions I have are: a) who is the narrator and is his position going to affect the storyline? and b) what the hell is that actual storyline going to be, because there's no indication so far what's going on.


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Chahrazad | 49 comments Phil wrote: "Questions I have are: a) who is the narrator and is his position going to affect the storyline? and b) what the hell is that actual storyline going to be, because there's no indication so far what'..."

You have voiced my thoughts exactly... I mean the narrator talks to the reader with an air of familiarity. he seems for one to not know a lot since he says that many of the things he's telling are rumors and he doesn't have the full version of the events, and on the other hand he is able to get into the characters' thoughts. it's like he's present and absent at the same time and that teaches me not to trust him!

Phil wrote: "What I did find interesting is that Ivan doesn't even agree with the position that he took in his own article. He wrote that he believed that the church needs to become the state, because for the church to take up a small position in society allowed by the state goes against the church's aims and teachings (and makes it subservient to the state), but he's a self-avowed atheist, so he's just making these arguments for mischief's sake - he's an intellectual version of his father."

This is interesting because until now I find the brothers so different from their father.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 615 comments Phil wrote: "I didn't find the church vs state discussion particularly difficult (nor interesting either), but I do wonder about this Russian fetish about spending dozens of pages discussing the latest "social ..."

I've been reading the Spark Notes, especially for these longer sections on religion and philosophy, because they get awfully tedious after awhile, even when it might be a topic that in general I might find interesting. It's the language that makes it difficult. Reading the footnotes I'm realizing how many events and biblical/catholic references are being made to enhance the story that we as modern or nonRussian readers might not make the connection with, and therefore makes our eyes glaze over a bit.

The point the Spark Notes made about the church/state conversation is primarily that Ivan does not believe the very thing he is advocating, he is merely stating it from a purely logical point of view, with no reference or belief behind it. He looks at social issues as a whole and Zosima sees the individuals working toward the whole.

The third difference between Zosima’s and Ivan’s arguments is their level of sincerity. Zosima wholeheartedly believes what he says, whereas Ivan argues from a detached, academic standpoint. Ivan does believe that powerful ecclesiastical courts would improve society. But he does not believe in God, making his desire for a religious society seem perplexingly out of line with his real beliefs. Nonetheless, Ivan thinks that religious courts would be most effective in controlling the masses, even if religion itself is false. The fact that Zosima is able to see Ivan’s religious doubt even as Ivan argues for increased religious authority shows Zosima’s penetrating understanding of human nature.

These chapters represent the conflict between faith and doubt as a struggle between simple love for humanity and complicated theorizing about humanity. Zosima and Ivan both argue convincingly for their ideas, but Zosima’s simple faith is more impressive than Ivan’s highly complex doubt. Dostoevsky’s treatment of philosophical concepts in this chapter is similar to his treatment of them in the rest of the novel. Dostoevsky frequently makes compelling abstract cases for two sides of an argument, and then, through the example of the characters’ behavior, indicates the superiority of love, faith, and goodness.


In any case, this section was much more difficult for me to get through than the first, and I'm hoping we don't continue in such a directly philosophical vein, because even though I enjoyed Anna Karenina, I don't want to read a repeat of that novel.


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Phil (Lanark) Alana wrote: "In any case, this section was much more difficult for me to get through than the first, and I'm hoping we don't continue in such a directly philosophical vein, because even though I enjoyed Anna Karenina, I don't want to read a repeat of that novel. "

Me too. I'm finding it frustrating that so far I have no idea what the story is actually about. Is it just a rambling history of the family? Or is there going to be a central happening? So far, I have no idea.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 615 comments Book III is getting more interesting, but so far, it too has been rambling, about people that aren't even in the family. Don't know how the ending is going to go. In some ways,though, it's nice not to have a preconceived notion of how the book is going to go. Makes the plot more confusing but more challenging.

I'm very curious about the narrator, as well.


Danielle | 55 comments Alana wrote: "Phil wrote: "I didn't find the church vs state discussion particularly difficult (nor interesting either), but I do wonder about this Russian fetish about spending dozens of pages discussing the la..."

I thought this part was so funny. I was able to figure out from the start that Ivan was just saying all these extremist things so that when the other characters agree with him, they look foolish for being extremists. Very funny.


Danielle | 55 comments Phil wrote: "Questions I have are: a) who is the narrator and is his position going to affect the storyline? and b) what the hell is that actual storyline going to be, because there's no indication so far what'..."

Plot, well,

" 'Just a moment,' Dmitry Fyodorovich burst out suddenly and unexpectedly. 'If I heard you correctly: "Crime must not only be permitted, it must be recognized as the most neccessary and most intelligent way out of the situation in which every non-believer finds himself." Is that what you actually said?'

'Quite right,' said Father Paisy.

'I'll remember that.'

With those words, Dmitry Fyodorovich fell silent just as abruptly as he had interrupted the conversation. Everyone looked at him with curiosity."

From book 2, chapter 6. I'm watching Mitya.


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Brian (myersb68) | 62 comments From book 2, chapter 6. I'm watching Mitya.

I think you may have hit on something very cleverly, Danielle.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 615 comments Mitya is Dmitri, correct? That doesn't seem to be a logical nickname, so I have a hard time keeping track of that one, among others.

Interesting thought, though, Danielle


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Kylie | 37 comments I don't know what to think about this book yet. I struggled through this part of the book. I felt that so many parts were random and unnecessary. I am still getting really mixed up on everyone's name!

I did really like that we are getting to know the brothers and father more. I'm really glad to see that I was not the only person to burst out laughing at some of Fyodor's statements! I hope the book starts picking up soon, starting to feel an AK repeat ("UGH move on already!) moment coming on.....


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Kylie | 37 comments Phil wrote: "Questions I have are: a) who is the narrator and is his position going to affect the storyline? and b) what the hell is that actual storyline going to be, because there's no indication so far what'..."

HAHAHA YES! Exactly! I could not have said it better myself! Regarding your comment right before the one I replied to, I also flashed back to the farming issues in AK! Their philosophical conversation in this book more entertaining though. At least it was an interesting insight into the personalities. It still went on far too long though.


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Lynn Chamberlin (Beagledoc) | 1 comments I was intrigued by Zosima's actions in chapter 7, when he got up and knelt before mitya. What's up with that? I definitely think there is some foreshadowing going on here. Is he forgiving him? Any thoughts?


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Chahrazad | 49 comments Lynn wrote: "I was intrigued by Zosima's actions in chapter 7, when he got up and knelt before mitya. What's up with that? I definitely think there is some foreshadowing going on here. Is he forgiving him? ..."

I'm expecting something to happen since Alyosha too didn't understand it and meant to ask the Elder but changed his mind.
Maybe Zossima sensed that Mitya is about to do something irrational so he begged him to think twice??

Danielle here recalled the scene:

Danielle wrote:" 'Just a moment,' Dmitry Fyodorovich burst out suddenly and unexpectedly. 'If I heard you correctly: "Crime must not only be permitted, it must be recognized as the most neccessary and most intelligent way out of the situation in which every non-believer finds himself." Is that what you actually said?'

'Quite right,' said Father Paisy.

'I'll remember that.'

With those words, Dmitry Fyodorovich fell silent just as abruptly as he had interrupted the conversation. Everyone looked at him with curiosity."

From book 2, chapter 6. I'm watching Mitya.



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Katrina (katrinasreads) I also struggled a lot more with this section, not in terms of what was being said but keeping track of who is saying what and then thinking about what this might imply.

I can't believe the amount of AK haters on here, I'm rereading AK in January with another goodreads group. Having read Tolstoy and also Victor Hugo I wonder if the philosophical viewpoints are a part of the time period and not just a Russian trait.

I'm starting part 3 later tonight, once we get to Friday my pace of reading should pick up as I have 17 days off of work. I've not thought of using sparknotes but may have a look.

I read the first paragragh of the sparknotes overview for the novel and it sounds like things will start to heat up with disputes.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 615 comments A warning with SparkNotes... on this particular book, they do contain spoilers, I found out to my dismay. Most of the writers are good about not doing that, but some write like you've read the book before, so if you don't want to know key plot points, be careful reading them section by section (although in the heavily philosophical ones I found it very difficult not to, and those don't tend to give anything away).


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I'm through this book now, and am finding I less and less like the father. I have read something of what happens and I'm half crossing my fingers it happens soon...


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Phil (Lanark) You see, I'm the opposite, Helen. I find Fyodor the only interesting character in the book so far.


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Kyleen Stevenson-braxton | 6 comments So I found myself, after reading several pages of the discussion of church vs. state, remembering nothing probably because I found the discussion dry. I was surprised to see one comment that its meant to be extremes and funny- totally missed that.


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Kyleen Stevenson-braxton | 6 comments "Zossima's approach to religion is to suggest ways that the individual can act to do good, while Ivan’s is to suggest ways that religion can prevent the individual from doing evil." I liked this simply put analysis of the difference between the contrasting world views of Zossima and Ivan from Spark Notes.


Scott | 2 comments After the huge fight between Dmitri and Fyodor, Father Zossima bows down in front of Dmitri in a moving gesture. Afterwards, Fyodor asked if the action was symbolic and asked what it meant. That is my question-what is the meaning? Did he give Dmitri forgiveness? Did he give him the praise that he wanted from his father?


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Kyleen Stevenson-braxton | 6 comments Scot, I wondered the same thing. I almost got the impression that Zossima's humility somehow brought about shame in Dimitri. Also, why does Miusov hate Ivan? “Miusov looked with hatred at Ivan.”

Excerpt From: Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky. “The Brothers Karamazov.” Feedbooks, 1880. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.


Kelsi | 68 comments Scott wrote: "After the huge fight between Dmitri and Fyodor, Father Zossima bows down in front of Dmitri in a moving gesture. Afterwards, Fyodor asked if the action was symbolic and asked what it meant. That ..."

Yeah. I'm questioning this too. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who didn't understand what kneeling down symbolized. Is this foreshadowing of an event yet to come?

Narrator issues are seriously happening with me in this book. Consistency please!


Scott | 2 comments Out of book II, chapter 5 is my favorite piece. The social progressive Muisov's debate with Father Paissy and Ivan led to the defense of the former's points by Father Zossima.

"If it were not for the Church of Christ there would be nothing to restrain the criminal from evil-doing, no real chastisement for it afterwards; none, that is, bt the mechanical punishment spoken of just now, which in the majority of cases only embitters the heart; and not the real punishment, the only effectual one, the only deterrent and softening one, which lies in the recognition of sin by conscience"

This is a great example of how an arcane debate about ecclesiastical authority between characters leads to a greater point to the reader on the part of the author.


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