White Nights discussion

Bros K vs C&P?

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message 1: by Tom (new)

Tom A friend recently sent me the comparison of Bros K and Crime and Punishment below. I was wondering what others think of this analysis?

"The Thursday seminar started The Brothers Karamazov two weeks ago. Of
course it is wonderful, but I'm not sure I will think it better than
Crime & Punishment. The Brothers, in fact, seems to me to be an anatomy
of Crime & Punishment. It's as if Dostoyevsky decided that nobody "got"
the earlier work was so instead of starting out with mysterious events
and elusive characters, he laid everything out explicitly and
meticulously. He even starts with a preface from the author to instruct
the reader that Alexei is the hero of the story because otherwise the
reader would be unlikely to recognize him as such. Then he proceeds with
a back-story to the plot and describes the character and childhood of
each of the brothers before we meet them. Zosima later explains the
church's practice of "active love" and thereby indicates the quality of
Alexei (the same as Sofya in Crime, but unexplained in her case) that
serves to elevate all those he touches. Anyway, I'd like to hear your
reason for considering The Brothers to be so superior to Crime-I'm still
open as I read The Brothers to agree, but, as I said, I'm beginning to
have doubts."

message 2: by Frederick (new)

Frederick Andresen | 11 comments I hesitate to respond to this dialog as I think it is acceptable and expected to assume that two books by the same author, even separated by fifteen years, may have similarities of style and construct. But my offering is simply about how Dostoevsky’s last book played an important part in my life. Being a lover of Russian music and culture influenced me to take a long jump in my international business career and in 1991 I went to Russia to start a company. Early on, I was advised by a Russian friend that if I wanted to understand the Russian, I should read “The Brothers Karamazov.” I did and especially the one chapter “The Grand Inquisitor” remains not only an important part of that great novel, but to me a political parable on the changing events affecting Russia in Dostoevsky’s last years, and autocracies of all time. “Miracle, Mystery and Authority” indeed, while cloaked in Roman Catholicism by Ivan, summarizes the managing formula for any dictatorial order and was consciously or unconsciously predictive of what was to happen to Czarist Russia in the approaching years. Comparing the structure of Crime and Punishment (1866) and The Brothers Karamazov (1881) is academic. Much happened in between those dates. What is important, as always in understanding the Russian, is not what is said, but what is meant—and often then we have to stand back and ponder it from a different cultural perspective. Seventeen years of successful Russian business, six years in residence, has taught me that.

Frederick R. Andresen, Author of “Walking on Ice, An American Businessman in Russia.”

message 3: by Frankie (new)

Frankie (fran_kie) | 37 comments I agree with Fred that it's largely academic to discuss which is "better." I love both novels for different reasons. You point out that BK fleshes out ideas which CP has already developed, but the opposite is true as well. If you look at Dostoevsky as a biographer of character types, CP only focuses on one, where BK focuses on several. Judging them in your way limits us to the sociological metaphor, without the storyline, or the myriad other allusions.

Having said that, Notes from Underground was my first love. It was a stark type, cathartic and easy to embrace in a broodingly egotistic way, my way in my youth. I grew away from it eventually when I found that life was full of varying types, ugly ones and plain ones. In some ways, CP is too clear-cut; like a comic book super-villian, Raskolnikov makes his rational decisions and inflicts suffering on himself and those around him for his idea. Later, Idiot explores the opposite extreme character type. The Adolescent goes further. By the time he writes BK, Dostoevsky has mastery over every type.

message 4: by Tom (last edited Oct 29, 2010 09:34AM) (new)

Tom Gentlemen, my apologies for taking so long to respond. Life and stuff, you know. I appreciate your thoughtful responses.

Allow me to clarify one thing: the analysis I posted above is not mine but that of a friend who is currently reading BK. Before responding to him, I wanted to see what others thought.

I'm posting my own response to him here now, as well as comments from another friend, a law prof who often teaches D. in his Law & Lit class.

Tom's Comments:
My own view is that Bros K is better, to put it simply, because D. had
become a better artist. Better at capturing range of voices, better at moving
the reader through the characters. Whereas in C&P, D employs mostly, to my ear, an
almost claustrophobic tone of near hysteria throughout, as if he were shouting
at the reader, in Bros K he shouts, whispers, weeps, rails, sermonizes,
comforts, empathizes, consoles, grieves, expresses wonderment and confusion, and
more. I also got sense that in C&P R's turn towards possibility for redemption
is something imposed by D, not fully earned or expressed by R himself. Not
the case in Bros K, where characters' thoughts and feelings seem more
genuinely their own. Of course, having read each work only once, I could be way
off the mark, missing a nuance in C&P that comes from lack of in depth
experience with the book.

The following comments are from Dick, another friend of mine, an avid reader of Russian lit., especially D.

Tom, I agree with you completely that BK is the richer of the two novels.
C&P has enormous intensity and psychological insight but it is,
amazingly enough, still more of a genre novel even though it founds the
genre. I agree also that D's own religious growth at that point made
R's conversion at the end a bit artificial and forced. The cat and
mouse game between R and P is unparalleled in literature but it is still
more limited than the unbelievably rich tapestry of BK. I think BK is
sprawling and is a bit baggier than C&P but D looked at as his
summation. Zosima's sermon and the chapter right before the Grand
Inquisitor (Ivan's whole thing on cruelty toward children) and then the
Grand Inquisitor chapter itself are some of the greatest set pieces in
all of literature. I would only put Flaubert's agricultural fair scene
and the opera scene on that level. I'm trying to think about Tolstoy
and I don't think he's up there with respect to the individual scenes
(Natasha's party and then the sleigh ride where she looks back and
realizes she'll never be that happy again? -- maybe). Maybe Stendhal's
Waterloo scene at the beginning of The Charterhouse of Parma?? Anyway,
I do think that BK is more sophisticated philosophically where the
relationship between Ivan and Smerdyakov is so, shall we say, central to
the novel. The sexuality is much more sophisticated. Sonya and Dunya
are beautiful characters but .... yes, there was Svidrigailov. Yet,
what can compare with Fyodor's and Dmitri's competition for Grushenka?
I'll have to reread that forward because I'm suddenly wondering if it's
not there because of the misunderstandings D had to fend off with
respect to Myshkin in The Idiot. Anyway, I definitely agree with you
but, fortunately, we can love both and not really have to pick a

message 5: by Frankie (new)

Frankie (fran_kie) | 37 comments good stuff guys. loved reading this.

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