Jared Logan's Reviews > The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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's review
May 15, 2012

it was amazing
Read in May, 2012

I haven't posted in a while but I've been reading lots of books. I swear. I've read tons of books since July 2011. I'm really smart. I promise.

To prove my smartness I read the Brothers Karamazov, which is a 900 page Russian novel by Fyodor Dostoyevski. I read books like this so I can brag to others that I've read them, but then I quickly realize that nobody cares. I mentioned The Brothers Karamazov to one person and they replied "I've never even heard of that." It's only one of the greatest novels of all time! It's very well known! Whatever!

It really is one of the greatest novels of all time, though. That's what I got out of it. No bragging rights because nobody cares I read it but I did get to read a phenomenal story that made me think about big questions.

It's about three brothers. Each brother seems to sort of represent a different approach to life. One brother is very physical, a sensualist and a scoundrel who likes to drink and party. One brother is intellectual. He writes long philosophical articles about God not existing. The youngest brother is spiritual. He believes in God and the Church and the Basic Goodness of people.

Their father is a clever, cruel, dirty old man. He's a true scumbag, unrepentantly vile. His actions throw the entire family into chaos. Then some truly horrible things happen. The book's basic question is: how do we handle horrible things in life? Which approach has the solution? The physical? The intellectual? The spiritual?

Dostoyevski answers that question and I really liked his answer. It wasn't what I was expected and I'm not even sure I agree with it, but I can't imagine anyone making a better argument for it.

If it sounds a little heavy and morose it's Dostoyevski, so yes it's morose. Russia is morose as a country I think. Always has been. But it's also a very funny book. There's humor packed into every chapter. The humor comes from the characters, the idiosyncrasies of how real people behave. Even when the book is sad it can be funny at the same time. I'd say the closest comparison is Charles Dickens. if you've loved anything by him you might love this.

There are a hundred characters that are so well written you'll feel like you recognize them from your own life. Everybody that walks into and out of this novel has a reason to be there. They have their own mini-arcs and they all work together to make the village a character, to make Russia a character.

Every character is a real person. They all have layers and dimensions. They can be good and bad, honest and deceitful, cruel and kind. That's true of every character. Even the walk-ons.

I read the Garnett translation, which I hear is the most common translation. It was a breeze to read. The prose was great. As usual with a translation, you can't quite determine what in the prose was Dostoyevski and what was the translator. Also, not being versed in Russian history, I probably missed some themes and symbolism that speaks to the state of Russia as a nation. But I was surprised how prophetic some of the ideas in this book were seeing as how there was a big communist revolution about thirty years after it was published.

If you like big, long 19th century novels with lots of characters this is a must-read. If you don't like those kind of novels you should still read it but you probably won't. Too bad! You're missing out! This is a book that helps you deal with the existence and/or non-existence of God! This is meaning of life stuff! Everyone who reads this should receive lots of respect from people who haven't read it!


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