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review 2016-09-18 22:49
The Brothers Karamazov (Everyman's Library Classics, #70) - Fyodor Dostoyevsky,Larissa Volokhonsky,Richard Pevear

It's one of those where we get sold the whole.. 'Russia was a peasant backwater that had stagnated under the Tsars before Stalin launched the brutal equivalent of an industrial revolution in the five year plans that pulled the Soviet Union into modernity at huge cost to lives.' 


And yet you look at some of the literature and wider culture coming out of Russia in the late 19th Century and you realise that the above viewpoint is a bit caricatured. There seems to have been this great bubble of intellect and philosophy in which the circumstances were just right in that society to produce your Tolstoy's and your Dostoevskys. I'm not saying it was devoid of social and political issues, but for there to have been thriving intellect of this kind there must have been avenues in society that could make it happen.


That's just a wider observation as a lead into my review. The book is fantastic, I envy the ability of Dostoevsky to make characters so unique and believable. When you read a sentence you have your own little voice and identity in your head for that person, and it is a person, because it feels real, it feels like this is a biography rather than fiction. I'd even go as far as to say I've never seen character development on a scale like this. I think the underlying cause of this is the author's ability to create dynamic conversations between characters driven by very different personalities and ideologies.


The three brothers are perfect:


Ivan the arrogant, intellectual atheist, who commands the respect of his brothers and is conflicted between his philosophy and the outcomes of his actions.


Dmitri passionate and emotional doomed to act on emotion, unable to control his fiery infatuation for Grushenka. His actions are always detrimental to himself and yet he never learns.


Alyosha the abnormally empathetic, kind and wizened monk. Constantly embroiled in other people's drama never of his own making and yet patient enough to sit and be a bulwark to anyone who needs him to listen and aid.


And as if great characters and an engrossing, tragic story line isn't enough. We're then hit with a barrage of cutting philosophy, often in great detail to get you thinking when you put the book down. I did think Dostoevsky was an atheist, such was the depth of the argument his character Ivan puts forward in a religious debate with Alyosha, but I later found out that his religious beliefs were always a point for contention and although he was supposedly a Russian orthodox Christian, he possibly identified as deist at one point and was often conflicted.


It's because of this that I think Ivan, Dmitri and Alyosha are all born from he and his own struggles with the big question. They do say write what you know. The book as a whole is a glimpse into the Russian landscape before the brutalities of the First World War, the Civil War and the Soviet regime. It's truly priceless and I will most definitely read his other works later on down the line. 

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text 2016-08-13 23:25
Reading progress update: I've read 156 out of 776 pages.
The Brothers Karamazov (Everyman's Library Classics, #70) - Fyodor Dostoyevsky,Larissa Volokhonsky,Richard Pevear

It's a classic for a reason. Brilliant characters, engrossing drama with the added benefit of interesting political, theological and philosophical sections. 


How can you not love something that constantly refers to people as scoundrels and sensualists? I may even start running around labelling people scoundrels for the most trivial things myself. It's too good of a word to be used sparsely, although I might not be able to pass off calling people sensualists, as unfortunate as that is. 

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review 2016-07-14 02:22
The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The story is about three brothers thrown out by their hate filled, selfish and decadent father at a very early age and as young men have all come back to their father's town at the same time.  Conflict arises between the brothers and father, the brothers themselves and the brothers and other characters.


The story is about Love, sacrifice, bitterness, redemption and forgiveness.


The story is a very good one.


The story is a struggle.


The narration is uneven.  At the culmination of the novel our narrator states he cannot remember every detail and everything said at the culminating event but 200 or pages earlier a brother is having hallucinations and the narrator has no problems spending 20 pages or so describing that event in too much detail.


The philosophical monologues in the first half of the book are long and overwhelming and I am not sure they add to the story.


At the end we have two minor characters summarize, another 30 or so pages, the entire novel.  I just read the novel, why do I need a summary?


Parts of the novel are funny, especially in the first third.  Mrs. Hohlakovs in particular is very amusing.


But in the end it was the little things that left me unfulfilled. Lise was involved with one of the brothers on and off for most of the book then just disappears.  Koyla was introduced near the end for no purpose whatsoever that I could figure out.


But, I gave away an onion.

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review 2016-04-29 00:34
I fratelli Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky,Fausto Malcovati,Maria Rosaria Fasanelli

Ah! Dosto, Dosto! Cosa vuoi che scriva, cosa mai potrei dire, e in che modo? Hanno scritto di te e delle tue opere penne blasonate, grandi menti capaci di penetrare ogni parola, d’interpretare ogni pensiero. Come potrei?
Sto qua, seduta e muta cercando di raccogliere i cocci del caos. Si sono mescolati tutti i contrari, si sono toccati gli estremi; si sono mostrati simultaneamente i due abissi, quello dei più alti ideali e quello della più vergognosa bassezza.
In questo caos hai messo l’uomo e tutto ciò che lo rappresenta. E hai messo Dio. E hai messo l’immortalità dell’anima.
E hai messo la condizione più grande, più ambita e temuta: la libertà. Ecco, il dono più grande che l’uomo possa ricevere. Il Creatore l’ha offerta agli uomini. Cristo l’ha resa ancora più grande. Tragico dono, greve fardello. Lo sa bene l’inquisitore, che essi "nella loro semplicità e innata sregolatezza, non possono nemmeno concepire, una libertà che temono e paventano, giacché non c’è mai stato nulla di più insopportabile, per l’uomo e per la società umana, della libertà! ". E rivela a Cristo d’aver corretto la Sua opera fondandola sul miracolo, sul mistero e sull’autorità rendendo lieti gli uomini d’essere condotti come un gregge, e liberati del terribile dono, frutto di tanti tormenti.
Dio e l’immortalità dell’anima esistono? Lo sa il diavolo: “dal momento che Dio e l’immortalità non esistono, all’uomo nuovo è permesso di diventare un uomo-dio, anche se dovesse essere l’unico in tutto il mondo, e, promosso alla sua nuova posizione, a cuor leggero scavalcherà tutte le barriere della vecchia morale di uomoschiavo, se sarà necessario. Per un dio non c’è legge che tenga!”
E il diavolo, esiste? Lo chiede Fëdor Pavlovič a Ivan, che risponde:
«No, non esiste neanche il diavolo».
«Peccato. Al diavolo! Che cosa gli farei a quello che ha inventato Dio, se stanno così le cose! Neanche essere impiccato a una tremula gli basterebbe».
«Non ci sarebbe stata la civiltà se non avessero inventato Dio».


Dosto, riusciremo mai a trovare il senso dell’esistenza?
Sai, ho provato tanto affetto per Ivan. Abbraccialo per me.
Ora continuo a raccogliere i cocci.
Grazie, Dosto.

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review 2014-08-28 00:00
The Brothers Karamazov
The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky,Larissa Volokhonsky,Richard Pevear The most difficult thing about reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky is pronouncing his name I think. The first Dostoyevsky book I read was [b:Crime and Punishment|7144|Crime and Punishment|Fyodor Dostoyevsky|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1382846449s/7144.jpg|3393917], I liked it well enough even though it was dark and sad and generally something of a downer. The Brothers Karamazov is also dark and sad yet there is an element of optimism in it. If you are attempting Dostoyevsky for the first time [b:Crime and Punishment|7144|Crime and Punishment|Fyodor Dostoyevsky|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1382846449s/7144.jpg|3393917] is probably the easier option, being less dense, complex and simply shorter. Actually having read these two books I believe Dostoyevsky (translated) is not that hard to read, he was not one of those experimental postmodern authors that will have you scratching your head trying to decipher his prose and narrative structure. That said The Brothers Karamazov is a profound and psychologically complex novel, there are at least a couple of chapters which entirely consist of philosophical or even mystical digressions.

At the most basic level The Brothers Karamazov is exactly what it says on tin, that is a story of brothers of the Karamazov family. Three of them (and possibly a bonus one). Dmitri, the wild one who seems to specialize in digging his own grave, Ivan the overthinking intellectual, and Alyosha, the pious one. None of them were raised by their father Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, who is clearly one of the all-time worst dads in fiction. The novel explores how such a shabby, unloving upbringing shape the three brothers in different ways.

The narrative gradually transforms from a story of the development of the three brothers into a murder mystery followed by a courtroom drama. However, the intent is not to thrill but to explore the psychology of the main characters and the consequence of their actions. If this sounds like a drag I can assure you that it is not, most of the book is quite gripping and thought provoking. That said if you are looking for a thriller you would have to look elsewhere.

The three brothers and practically all the characters in this book are very vividly drawn by Dostoyevsky. I believe the most remarkable achievement is the characterization of Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov (A.K.A. Alyosha) who is the heart and soul of the book. “Nice” characters are very hard to write, especially as a protagonist, they tend to be less colorful than other characters and often downright bland. For example Harry Potter is hardly the most compelling character in the series named after him, his teachers, friends and enemies are much more interesting and fun to read about. Dostoyevsky has somehow managed to make Alyosha a complex, interesting and compelling in spite of not having a single mean bone in his body.

The other two brothers are no less compelling. Dimitri’s actions and eventual fate is a great illustration of what tend to happen when the head rules the heart, his wild “love crazed fool” behavior is often embarrassing undignified, and he ends up being something of a train wreck. Ivan is intellectual to the point of pretentiousness, this also works out badly for him. Alyosha, on the other hand, has an uncanny ability to shame the very worst people with his incorruptible goodness and extract goodness from them. There is also the dastardly yet pitiful Smerdyakov who is probably an uncredited Karamazov, he reminds me of Dickens’ Uriah Heep (from [book; David Copperfield]).

The novel extols the value of honor, self-sacrifice, forgiveness and redemption, but above all love and understanding. I am certainly sold on these themes, by the time I finished The Brothers Karamazov I wanted to hug everybody.

As usual for me with the classics, I “read” it on audiobook over several weeks (a couple of months with this one). Also as usual, I am a total skinflint and opted for the free Librivox version. This is book is read by quite a few volunteers, some are better than others but at least all of their reading is understandable. I you do not want to pay $20+ for an Audible.com professional reading this is the way to go (there are of course other, rather nefarious ways to obtain audiobooks but I won’t mention those!).
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