Alex 's Reviews > Братья Карамазовы

Братья Карамазовы by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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Apr 19, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: russian, fiction
Read from April 19 to October 05, 2012

This is, perhaps, one of the toughest novels that I have ever read. It's also one of the most profound and rewarding. On the surface it's a philoosophical, theological, psychological whodunnit, and that's enough layered complexity for most novels. The real heart of the novel, though, is not found amongst its religious ramblings and pontifications but amongst the central relationships that are developed throughout; primarily between the three brothers Mitya, Ivan and Alyosha, but most significantly their relationship to their father and how his absence as a father figure has a profound impact on their lives,actions and personalities. The story works both on a human level and as an allegory for man's attempt to understand himself in a world in which God appears to be absent and the layers upon layers of guilt and self-loathing Dostoyevsky's central characters can be understood on a theological as well as humanistic one.

Yet, it's a profoundly optimistic, and very human novel. It wasn't until I reached the last chapter, a beautiful scene describing Alyosha's new relationship with a group of young boys, that I understood that Dostoyevsky was seeking to find a way forward that would take us past the recriminations, the guilt, the distrust and the competition and that we could do this by - whether or not we believe in God ourselves - acting in a loving, inclusive manner towards others. It's Alyosha who becomes a God-like figure, offering his hand to the young boys in order to protect and nurture them in a parental way, taking on the burden and responsibility of a society that has hitherto failed to understand the importance of social care.

It's impossible to begin talking about this novel without attempting to peel back layer upon layer of profound insight and, alas, it would take me weeks to conjure up some kind of interestingly written review (there's heaps of better Academic literature written about classic Russian writing, so....). Every thought I have regarding the narrative or an event within it points me to another episode or discussion in the book which illuminates the idea further. This is a complex, deep, wonderful book that's unlike anything else I've ever read and rewards any patience one might give it tenfold. It's a strikingly modern work, eschewing a strong driving narrative and stepping back to really scrape away and examine its characters, but never in a modernist or overtly personal twentieth century way.

The book is a series of episodes, mostly encounters that either end in recrimination or debate and it's unclear how they tie together until the final judicial sequence (Which itself is mostly psychological debate). I went into reading the novel expecting Crime and Punishment 2 and was quite surprised and wrongfooted to find that this book - except thematically - bears little resemblance to that masterpiece. Karamazov is literally, or literarily, in a world of its own and should most definitely be on everyone's shortlist of novels to read before they die. (although, it's not to be undertaken lightly ...)

Reading this book made me excited about reading literature again. I can't give it higher praise than that!
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Reading Progress

08/29/2012 page 150
15.0% "I've just struck the point where I've realised that this is going to be a brilliant novel (weld, duh). Old Fyodor doesn't hurry his hurry the pace and I'm now acquainted with the histories of about 15 characters that I've forgotten... but I'm intrigued by this drama of family rivalry and brilliant - sometimes hilarious - religious philosophy. Can't wait for the shit to hit the fan in later chapters."
09/20/2012 page 425
41.0% "These days the less I understand something the more I like it. This is not the book I expected to read and somehow that intrigues and interests me. Fyodr shifts styles from light to dense, philosophical to romantic at the drop of a hat all the while hinting at what's to come and teasing out the larger picture. A fucking difficult read. I'm hooked."
09/24/2012 page 550
54.0% "For Dostoyevsky all men are deeply flawed, selfish individuals. All women are whores with hearts of gold who offer the men redemption.

Well, he's 50% right."
10/03/2012 page 800
78.0% "i'm close to the finish. Will I ever make it? Stay tuned to find out. *Exciting*"
03/31/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Richard (new) - added it

Richard I started this and got only about halfway through. How are you managing?


Alex Oh, it's faultlessly brilliant but I didn't get very far because it was the wrong book at the wrong time... (long story!). Hopefully gonna give it another go in a month or two!


message 3: by Richard (new) - added it

Richard Alex wrote: "Oh, it's faultlessly brilliant but I didn't get very far because it was the wrong book at the wrong time... (long story!). Hopefully gonna give it another go in a month or two!"

I hope to finish it one day--but when? So many books, so little time!


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