Book Review: The Brothers Karamazov

So, this last week and a half (starting basically when I no longer had to do a bunch of work for Junior Poet) I sat down and read The Brothers Karamazov.

Verdict: It’s amazing, but I just don’t get it.

That is all.


3 Responses to Book Review: The Brothers Karamazov

  1. Brian Patrick Cork says:

    Given your general grasp of everything that falls into your clutches (at least in the terms you reveal in your blog postings – and, I’m a fan), and then the greatly evident ability you clearly possess to extrapolate thoughts and theories into a unique perspective, what don’t you get?

    I read The Brothers Karamazov in High school, again in college, and then, out of curiosity about twenty years ago, during down-time while training for triathlons. I believe there are twelve books that outline an epic story amongst three brothers that are, always, influenced by their father. The books walk us through how they faced adversity, often pitted against one another, as they evolve through belief systems and political strife. Like any good Russian writing, this includes a grim tongue-in-cheek perspective.

    Or, am I misunderstanding the genesis of your uncertainty?

    Meanwhile, go investigate Craig Burrell’s efforts that include This Band of brothers on his own Blog: All Manner of Thing.


  2. My complaint with the book, I suppose, is twofold:

    Firstly, it doesn’t really hold together as a novel. There are a lot of loose ends left at the end, for example, and a lot of the action seems forced – there’s one part where the narrator says something along the lines of “I know it’s almost unbelievable that these characters would all be in the same house at the same time, but, uh, just trust me, it makes sense.” Also, the characters, while fascinating, aren’t believable – I’ve never met anyone like Fyodor, Dmitri, Ivan, or Alyosha. They’re like caricatures of different parts of a normal person’s personality.

    These were all (to a lesser extent) problems with Crime and Punishment as well, but I could forgive it there because I understood what Doestoevsky was going for philosophically, and why he needed to drive the characters to those extremes. (I doubt anyone like Svidrigailov exists, but he’s still my one of my favorite characters, ever.) But in Brothers K, while the basic themes of the novel are apparent – theodicy, sin, rationalism – I’m less sure what Dostoevsky really means to say about them. The defense attorney’s speech at the end of the trail, for example; I just have no idea what to make of that, since while the reader knows the case being made is just, it is presented in such a way as to make the reader doubt its righteousness.

    Don’t get me wrong – I do consider it an excellent book. But also a really flawed one. And regarding certain parts of it, I don’t really know what Dostoevsky’s point was.

    Though perhaps, as I think more about it (and sit in on some lectures about it – I’m not in the Russian Literature class, but I’m going to go anyway on the days they do Brothers K), it will all resolve in a moment of fridge brilliance (

  3. Brian Patrick Cork says:

    What if Dostoevsky’s point was more metaphorical, and he wanted you to live through the characters one at a time in order to explore different elements of yourself through the story’s example?

    We tend to live life vicariously through many mediums (like your video games and role-playing games). His was a very early attempt to draw people out of themselves. The Brothers Karamazov then forces us to go pretty deep with a shallow character. We have to stretch to make the characters relatable.


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