Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
Publisher:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: 776
Rating: 5/5

     The Brothers Karamazov is a murder mystery, a courtroom drama, and an exploration of erotic rivalry in a series of triangular love affairs involving the "wicked and sentimental" Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov and his three sons - the impulsive and sensual Dmitri; the coldly rational Ivan; and the healthy, red-cheeked young novice Alyosha.  Through the gripping events of their story, Dostoevsky portrays the whole of Russian life, its social and spiritual striving, in what was both the golden age and a tragic turning point in Russian culture.
     This award-winning translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky remains true to the verbal inventiveness of Dostoevsky's prose, preserving the multiple voices, the humor, and the surprising modernity of the original. It is an achievement worthy of Dostoevsky's last and greatest novel.

Can I just start by saying that I love Russian literature.  I have read three Russian novels for school (The Brothers Karamazov, War and Peace, and Anna Karenina) and have preferred them by far to any American novel that has been assigned (1984, Scarlet Letter, Red Badge of Courage, Moby Dick, Huck Finn, Heart of Darkness, The Great Gatsby). I blame it on my infatuation with Stalin.

I did read this book for class so the rating is based on how much I liked this book compared to other classics not other books in general. I like to hurry through the books my school assigns for summer reading as quickly as possible.  I hate the feeling of having something to do looming over me.  Hence, I have finished this book in about 3 weeks.  Most of my classmates don't even have a copy yet.  When I started this book I found it really hard to believe that it would be as interesting as the back of the book claims.  A murder, affairs?! Yeah right, Alyosha is chilling in a monastery! However, it picks up around part III and all the back claims did come true.

Now, I am not religious, but I joke that the only time I have any spiritual tendencies is when a plane is taking off or landing, then I pray my heart out.  I must admit that Russian novels also bring out my spirituality.  All classics are supposed to make you question your society and yourself, but sometimes the questions are outdated or something I've already uncovered myself, which is annoying.  It feels worthless to read the book when that happens.  However, I always am moved by the Russian works I've read.  What has stuck with me from The Brothers Karamazov the function of God in society.  Basically the novel showcases the downfall of religion in popular thought.  Facts and science are taken into account more then Alyosha's feelings.  The novel shows that excluding spirituality and sensuality doesn't always result in the truth. For a while I haven't felt that science needs to explain everything and be the basis for all knowledge so it was interesting for me to see this viewpoint with a religious backing because, like I've said, I do not have any religious experience.

Wow, I haven't done a great job selling this book have I?  I've said it reminds me of Stalin and that it promotes deep thought.  Not really what you want on the beach right?  Well, it's also a good story.  Those Russians certainly know how to shock society.  Anna had an affair then offed herself and in this novel, contrary to the first half of the book, there is a very interesting murder, a complex love affair, and the courtroom was interesting (if you like that kind of thing).  Americans are afraid of love and sensuality but Russia just digs deep and spreads all their dirty laundry on the page for the world to read.  Give it a try, they're very honest.

Well, I haven't done a great job of explaining what this book is about.  However, for a classic is that really necessary? You're either going to read it for school or...actually don't read it otherwise.  It might mess you up if you do.  (Trust me War and Peace changed my life and all of my convictions)  If you do have to read it for a class, now you know why I liked it! What book have you actually liked that you read for a class?

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