Discovering Russian Literature discussion

The Brothers Karamazov
This topic is about The Brothers Karamazov
79 views
Group Reads Archive - 2013 > The Brothers Karamazov - Book 1 - March 15-18

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Amalie (last edited Mar 19, 2013 06:47PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
Please begin discussion on Book 1 of "The Brothers Karamazov". If you have not finished this section of reading be aware that spoilers may be posted here. But you can begin discussion at any time. Happy reading!


message 2: by dely (last edited Mar 17, 2013 04:41AM) (new)

dely | 340 comments Amalie wrote: "Please begin discussion on Volume 1 of "Quiet Flows the Don". If you have not finished this section of reading be aware that spoilers may be posted here. But you can begin discussion at any time. H..."


Quiet flows the Don?

:D


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

dely wrote: "Amalie wrote: "Please begin discussion on Volume 1 of "Quiet Flows the Don". ..."

I was just about to show that myself :D I think Amalie is reading Quiet Flows the Don these days.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

This is a really short part. I'll add something to heat up the discussion but I'm not reading with the group. Best thing about Dostoyevsky is writing these long works and never sound boring one bit... the characters always show a psychological depth that makes it diffecult to forget them, my problem is with the names though, I quickly forget them once I close the book.


Rachel Green | 37 comments So far so good. Although at first glance, those long paragraphs look a bit intimidating, haha. Maybe it's because for other authors, long paragraphs are long-winded tangents that you leave you wondering what the point was. But that's definitely not a problem with TBK. Looking forward to Book 2!


message 6: by Amalie (last edited Mar 19, 2013 09:54PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
Shanez wrote: "dely wrote: "Amalie wrote: "Please begin discussion on Volume 1 of "Quiet Flows the Don". ..."

I was just about to show that myself :D I think Amalie is reading Quiet Flows the Don these days."


:D I'll change it. This is what happens when you read several books at the same time and try to keep a full-time job mean while.


Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
Rachel wrote: "So far so good. Although at first glance, those long paragraphs look a bit intimidating, haha. Maybe it's because for other authors, long paragraphs are long-winded tangents that you leave you wond..."

In my opinion Dostoyevsky is the greatest of the Russian novelists, he never bores me to sleep (like Tolstoy does sometimes)once again he has created quite a cast of characters. I suspect this is going to be a lot of fun. Though I planned not to read this I guess I'll tag along. I can't miss out a Dostoyevsky reading.

What I found really interesting was that how the author so sharply contrasting Alyosha as a moral figure with the other characters, especially his father. I wonder if he's going to be a Christ-like figure? Like in The Idiot.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Amalie wrote: "What I found really interesting was that how the author so sharply contrasting Alyosha as a moral figure with the other characters, especially his father. I wonder if he's going to be a Christ-like figure? Like in The Idiot ..."

Yes. They are both positive characters, kind, loving and sensitive, you'll learn while reading. Alyosha may be an ideal human being just like Prince Myshkin.


message 9: by dely (new)

dely | 340 comments I have read BK last year and it is in my opinion Dostoyevsky's last masterpiece. We can fin all the main characters of the other books.
Alyosha is similar to Myshkin, they have some points in common but there are also some differences.
Dimitri is in my opinion similar to Raskolnikov of Crime and Punishment because of the inner struggle.
Ivan is similar to Stavrogin of the Demons.

In fact in my opinion it is better to read BK after have read the other writings by Dostyevsky. Some characters are similar but we can see the development of a lot of characters.


message 10: by D.j. (new) - rated it 5 stars

D.j. Lang | 12 comments I had asked about the McDuff translation compared to other translations. I ended up getting the kindle version of BK, translated by P&V. So far, the two translations have been very close. I did appreciate Richard Pevear's intro to the book, and this version includes a list of characters with all their nicknames (which I know my high school seniors would have appreciated).


message 11: by D.j. (new) - rated it 5 stars

D.j. Lang | 12 comments I have been thinking about the last two sentences of chapter one: "In most cases, people, even wicked people, are far more naive and simple-hearted than one generally assumes. And so are we." Where I live, simple-hearted is generally thought of in positive terms: pure and innocent, like a child; whereas, naive has negative connotations as if a naive person should have more experience, sophistication, judgment than he or she does. So, the questions I have been asking myself are these: 1) Are wicked people both unsophisticated, pure and innocent (my dictionary defines simple-hearted as "free of deceit; artless; sincere")? 2) Or does Dostoyevsky mean someone more like a simpleton: "foolish and silly"? 3) Or does "simple-hearted" here mean more like a heart that lacks complexity -- never sees beyond itself? 4) And, are most people, including ourselves -- "And, so are we" -- far more naive and simple-hearted? 5) Will there be cases in BK where someone is not naive and simple-hearted?


message 12: by D.j. (new) - rated it 5 stars

D.j. Lang | 12 comments Maybe I've found the answer to my own #5 question. In chapter 4, the "author"/narrator states of Alyosha: "...and yet no one ever considered him either naive or a simpleton." Here the word "simpleton" is used and not "simple-hearted." Does anyone know if the same Russian word is used in both places?


message 13: by David (new)

David | 3 comments D.j. wrote: "Maybe I've found the answer to my own #5 question. In chapter 4, the "author"/narrator states of Alyosha: "...and yet no one ever considered him either naive or a simpleton." Here the word "simplet..."

@d.j.: Different words. In chapter 1, it is 'prostodushnyi': etymologically 'simple-souled,' could be translated as 'innocent' (but not in the *legal* sense). 'Simple-hearted' is probably the best translation in context, with it's neutral to slightly positive shading. In chapter 4 it is 'prostiachok.' This is a diminutive form of 'prostiak.' The force of 'prostiak' varies depending on context and tone, but it is somewhere between 'simpleton' and 'dunce,' which is to say mildly to moderately negative. The diminutive ending softens it, and in context I think simpleton is just about perfect. I'd say the translator did a great job of capturing the tone of these two words. It is perhaps 'naive' that is misleading. I do think that the English 'naive' is in many instances more negative than the Russian 'naivnyi' (directly borrowed from French). But it depends a lot on the situation and the point of view of the speakers, as well as certain niceties of syntax. I'd say that in both contexts here is close to neutral, but a little more negative when applied (in negation) to Alyosha. Consider, in contrast, the way Katerina Ivanovna used it when she applies it to Grushenka in chapter 10. It is perhaps most useful of all to know that there was a strong, religiously based appreciation of 'simple souls,' even to the point of attributing a kind of spiritual wisdom or prophetic ability to the mentally ill or disabled: the so-called 'holy fools' (iurodivye). Dostoevsky was not immune to this tendency. (See *The Idiot*!) In a certain sense, both Alyosha and Myshkin are Dostoevsky's investigations into the question of whether it is possible for a purely good 'soul' to exist in our corrupt world (or as interesting characters in literature, for that matter!).


message 14: by D.j. (new) - rated it 5 stars

D.j. Lang | 12 comments David wrote: "D.j. wrote: "Maybe I've found the answer to my own #5 question. In chapter 4, the "author"/narrator states of Alyosha: "...and yet no one ever considered him either naive or a simpleton." Here the ..."

Thank you, David! Your answer makes sense and helps a lot. I particularly like the interesting comment about whether "it is possible for a purely good 'soul' to exist in our corrupt world..."

Since I live in an area where a group of people are on trial for a horrendous crime, I'm still wondering about the comment that the wicked, and we ourselves, are far more naive and simple-hearted than one assumes.


message 15: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Kaufman | 5 comments Hello all,
I've been enjoying this discussion, which I've just joined. D.J's last connection to the people on trial for a horrendous crime in his area struck a chord with me. I teach Dostoevsky and other Russian writers in juvenile correctional centers, and the themes of Dostoevsky have hit home in a way they never did before. As I hear these teenagers tell their life stories, while grappling with the themes of guilt and innocence in, say, Crime and Punishment, it strikes me that none of us are completely free of moral responsibility for the crimes committed by these kids. This is a difficult pill to swallow, I know, especially for somebody like me who's thought that I have done all the right things to support social justice throughout my life. I don't have clear answers to this dilemma, but one of the things that has always drawn me to BK is the way in which Dostoevsky invites us to consider a view of the world in which we all share in the responsibility for one anothers' fates. As Father Zossima will say (or has said) in BK [I'm not sure exactly where you are in the reading]:"Everything, like an ocean, everything flows and comes into contact—you touch in one place, and at the other end of the world it reverberates." It seems to me that once we truly embrace this view of the deep interconnectedness of everyone and everything in the universe, it becomes impossible to turn away from either suffering or evil as if they are 'out there.' BK explores these themes as deeply and provocatively as any other book I know...


Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
Andrew wrote: "Hello all,
I've been enjoying this discussion, which I've just joined. D.J's last connection to the people on trial for a horrendous crime in his area struck a chord with me. I teach Dostoevsky an..."


Hello Andrew welcome! You have a really interesting job. Other than TBK and C&P what other Dostoevsky's work of Russian writers you use?

Hope you'll remain for the discussion. We are almost beginning the 3'rd book.


message 17: by Kevin (new) - added it

Kevin Waggoner (crazybass33) | 3 comments D.j. wrote: "David wrote: "D.j. wrote: "Maybe I've found the answer to my own #5 question. In chapter 4, the "author"/narrator states of Alyosha: "...and yet no one ever considered him either naive or a simplet..."
Wow! Very well put. I too am struck by the interconnectedness found in Dostoevsky's works and our responsibility as a society to 'be involved' in whatever way we can to affect those youth, and adults, in need of a 'touch' of influence. I worked with youth in youth corrections when I was younger and even now have a step-son in the youth corrections system. I am regularly blown away at our society's aversion to this need and ability to turn a blind eye and deaf ear. Great to have you in the discussion.


message 18: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Kaufman | 5 comments Amalie wrote: "Andrew wrote: "Hello all,
I've been enjoying this discussion, which I've just joined. D.J's last connection to the people on trial for a horrendous crime in his area struck a chord with me. I teac..."


Thanks for the response Amelie,
In the program where we read Russian literature with incarcerated youth (It's called Books Behind Bars: Life, Literature, and Leadership), I've used Pushkin poetry, Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and "An Honest Thief," Gogol's "The Overcoat" and "Diary of a Madman," Chekhov's "Ward No. 6", Solzhenitsyn's "Matryona's Home," Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" and "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" Next year I'll be adding Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." Because these students are in high school and usually have about a 9th grade reading level, I need to choose works that aren't too long.But they enjoy being stretched, and find the exoticism of Russian literature to be a draw. In my regular college courses I've used them all--Tolstoy's and Dostoevsky's novels, Pushkin's plays and stories and poems, Lermontov, Gorky, Chekhov's stories and plays, Zoshchenko, Bulgakov, Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn, etc. The writer I've invested the most amount of time in is Tolstoy, having recently published a book about him, but I also adore Dostoevsky, and think Brothers K is phenomenal.


Caleb Blake (caleb72) | 10 comments I'm way behind on this read. I only just started today.

Dostoyevsky has a power over me I don't fully understand. I hold him largely responsible for me thinking I have an affinity with Russian authors.

What is it about his work that makes me want to start taking notes while I'm reading? I'm reading on my Kindle and although I tend to highlight often, I don't often tap out notes to my highlights. Not so for TBK. I'm entering notes all over the place. I still remember how much I destroyed my mother's copy of Crime and Punishment when I read it with underlines and margin notes throughout. I had to buy her a fresh copy out of guilt.

I'm going to wait until my views of the book have settled much more before I read too much of what anyone else has written so that I'm not unduly influenced. My posts will be more like a blog of my thought processes.

For all my love of Russian literature, I still know very little about its history other than the obvious. So my views here might be totally off-base.

I tend to think of the father, Fyodor Pavlovitch as a debauched version of Russia. Ridiculed, a buffoon, but somehow solvent at all times through its shady dealings.

I think of the three sons as representative of different classes of Russian society: Dmitri, more the unwashed masses or working class; Ivan, the educated or academic (possibly atheist as well), and Aloysha as the religious.

It's mentioned that Ivan gets along well with the father despite being mistreated as a child. This makes me feel like there is some kind of complicity between the educated and the debauched Russia - or maybe just a plot which requires a truce.

The fact that Dmitri obviously does not get along with the father makes me think of civil unrest and the fact that the academic is attempting to intervene on behalf of the father? Hmmmmm.

The respect Dmitri has for both Ivan and Aloysha makes me think of the respect the masses have for the institutions of academia and religion. It makes them vulnerable to either which might make for interesting reading later on.

I'm possibly reading far too much into this so far, but somehow I don't think I'm entirely off the mark. Using 3 quite different brothers that happen to easily represent 3 fairly distinct segments of a society can't be a coincidence.

I think I'll barely have this book finished by the end of April at this rate so I hope people still visit these discussion threads after the group has moved on to another work.


message 20: by John (new)

John R. Like Caleb, I've just started reading and will try to catch up as best I can. I agree with him that there is something about Russian authors/Russian literature that makes us want to take notes, study, learn more, discuss, speculate about meanings and character motivation, and offer our own interpretations of story and message.

My first Russian novel was Fathers and Sons, read in high school. I was surprised at how it held my interest and how much of it I recalled over the years. I'm a latecomer to Dostoyevsky, having read some of Tolstoy first, then to Chekhov and some Pushkin. From what I do know of The Brothers Karamazov, I think Caleb has opened an interesting line of thought concerning the framework of the story. It will be exciting to see if it works in my interpretation.


back to top

unread topics | mark unread


Books mentioned in this topic

The Idiot (other topics)