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The Brothers Karamazov
By Fyodor Dostoevsky
Translated by Andrew R. MacAndrew
First Published in November 1880

I started to read The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky for Belleza’s April Read-Along.  I thought it would be a heavy read so I bought Alice Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll to counter whatever effect it may cause me.

The Brothers Karamazov is written as an account of the Karamazov tragedy by a person who resides in the town where the Karamazovs live.  The Karamazovs are the principal characters of the novel.  Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov is the patriarch of the Karamazov family.  He is described as a brute and a buffoon and takes pleasure in doing what others expected of him to do.  Dmitry or Mitya, the sensualist, is the eldest of three brothers and the only son of Karamazov by his first wife.  Ivan or Vanya, the intelligent, is the elder son and Alexie or Alyosha, the mystic, is the youngest son, of Karamazov by his second wife.  The older Karamazov does not care for his sons so much so that when their mothers died, they were taken by their  mothers’ relatives to be taken cared of.  Smerdyakov,  the older Karamazov’s cook, is rumored as the latter’s illegitimate son by “reeking Lizaveta”.  The Karamazov’s both strength and weakness is their passionate nature.  It is the strength of Alyosha and the weakness of his brothers as well as their father.  Dmitry and the old man are not in good terms because of money and love.  They are rivals of young and beautiful but cunning Grushenka’s affections.  The Karamazov tragedy mentioned is the murder of old Karamazov and the trial and eventually the conviction of Dmitry as the murderer.

The book as a whole delves into the existence of God and the purpose of man’s living.  Alyosha, whose angelic face and gentle nature, is a firm believer of God.  He believes that God is the center and goal of one’s life.  On the contrary, Ivan is an atheist.  He implied that since God did not exist, “everything is permitted”.  However, Dostoevsky affirms God’s existence through Elder Zosima’s last speech, a monk at a nearby monastery where Alyosha is a novice.

I consider the book as a novel of spirituality, philosophy, psychology, justice and love.  One thing is true, that the human character is constant.  Dostoevsky portraited characters whose behaviors are still true today.  Whatever the shape and look of the world, man (and woman) would behave consistently.  But through the ages, man’s ideas have evolve as humanely as possible.  It is also shown that one’s actions, however, small they may be, may have greater repercussions.  Dmitry’s drunken brawl has taken a toll on the young Ilyusha when he witness his father beaten and insulted by Dmitry.

And indeed it was a heavy novel!  I think Dostoevsky has succeeded in bringing out different emotions in me throughout the novel – happiness, sadness, bitterness, anger, loathing, adoration, pity, love, fear, loyalty, irritation, frustration, apprehension, and amazement among others.  I even cried during Ilyusha’s funeral and Alyosha’s speech.  I supposed one could never helped it.

* The Brothers Karamazov is considered, if not the greatest, the best work of Dostoevsky.  It is considered as his chef d’œuvre.

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