Friday, December 7, 2012

The Brothers Karamazov ~ Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Brothers Karamazov is the story of three brothers, two women, a grotesque father, an illegitimate brother and  three thousand rubles, set in a provincial town in Russia in the 1860's. 

Dimitri Karamazov was my favourite of the brothers.  He is a 'scoundrel' by his own admission and whilst he has a good, if not passionate, heart he has a temper which prevents him from doing what is right.

Alexei (Alyosha) Karamazov is the type of character I find annoying.  He is too 'good' and kind, (like a benevolent Dickens character, just a bit too good to be true) but I read that Dostoevsky had lost his 3 year old son Alyosha to epilepsy, and so he imbued Alexei with the qualities he admired and, I guess, would have wished his son to have aspired to had he lived.  The author's grief at the loss of his son is also reflected in the novel with the death of a young character, whose funeral scene I will never forget.

I felt I didn't really get to know Ivan Karamazov very well, he is the serious brother who adores the youngest (Alexei) but he carries the Karamazov chip on his shoulder for all to see.

This is one mammoth read, and I did at times feel bored with some of the philosophical passages and long speeches, and I was a bit baffled by The Grand Inquisitor until I read it a couple of times and could appreciate and agree with what Ivan was saying.  But, if you can get past the religion and philosophy this is an exciting story of lust, passion, greed and murder.

I must mention too, the characterisation of the brother's father Fyodor is wonderful.  He is a middle aged wealthy pig.  He is a lustful, disgusting and rude drunk who actually made me laugh in most of his scenes.  He is so vile I loved him! ( I wonder what this says about me, I loved Fyodor but found Alexei annoying? Maybe I just appreciate well drawn antagonists?).

There is a sort of madness attributed to all the characters I have read so far by Dostoevsky, yet you can always identify with them and their self destructive natures.  This novel was planned to be part of a greater work but was sadly never realised as Dostoevsky died just four months after its publication.  I would love to have known what he had in store for Dimitri.


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