2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic story
THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, which is one of Dostoyevsky's all time best, perhaps the best, adds to make him perhaps the best writer of all times. The author came up with so many great ideas and characters that are so real to life even in their complex emotions and rationales that we relate to the characters as if we are in their heads. In the end, not only do we have a great...
Published on Dec 28 2006 by Sergey Vasilev
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly over the top
There's really no point in arguing that this anything but a really great novel. It is an epic work, with an almost epic length as well; an the exploration of the relations between three (actually four, if the illegitimate house-servant is included) brothers, the sons of a selfish, greedy, conniving, morally and physically repugnant father. In many ways, "Brothers...
Published on July 10 2001 by Edward Bosnar
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic story,
This review is from: The Brothers Karamazov (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) (Paperback)
THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, which is one of Dostoyevsky's all time best, perhaps the best, adds to make him perhaps the best writer of all times. The author came up with so many great ideas and characters that are so real to life even in their complex emotions and rationales that we relate to the characters as if we are in their heads. In the end, not only do we have a great story, we are also left with a beautifully written work of political, psychological, sociological, ethical and psychological thought that is very true not only to Russia, but to other lands and peoples as well.
The greatest soul writer of all times and great contributor to human psychology successfully created a beautiful and amazing dynamism between the Karamazov brothers that has been the core of many stories after involving siblings. There is the unreliable father, the old Fyodor Karamazov whose life dominates his sons and whose death casts a huge shadow on their future.
Sensual Alyosha who is the youngest of the Karamazov brothers is the main character of the story, and he is noted for his strong faith in god and humanity, deep kindness and sense of sacrifice.
Ivan the atheist has a sharp mind and is the critical analyzer who seeks for meaning in everything. He is skeptical and dwells more on rationale in his dealing with people and issues. In the end, his intellectual mind misleads him and opens the doors to the nightmares in his life.
Dmitry is the sensitive brother who has a strong consideration for anything living, Smerdyakov their half-brother, is the cunning illegitimate son of old Fyodor Karamazov and works as Fyodor's servant.
The characters of the brothers and the events of their lives made for the complex and fascinating story of exceptional proportions, where faith, meekness, atheism, indifference and slavery to negative instincts and impulses are often in conflict. Faith and atheism or disbelief in God is taken to epic proportions in Ivan's encounter with the devil.
Dostoevsky stated that, "when there is no God, all is permitted.". That assertion is reinforced in books like UNION MOUJIK,THE IDIOT and CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. The absence of God or lack of faith in man makes it possible for man to thrive in his worst animal instincts. Even when man starts with good intentions, the absence of faith usually derails him to the point where the good intentions are overshadowed by the negative effects of his actions. My conclusion is that this is a rare masterpiece.
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential Dostoevsky, beginners maybe start elsewhere,
This review is from: The Brothers Karamazov (Hardcover)
The Brothers Karamazov is a magnificent piece of literature. Anyone the least bit familiar with Fyodor Dostoevsky will easily spot his hand at work here, which means some familiar ground for readers of other works by the author. This is not at all negative, however; this volume overflows with illuminating, thought-provoking Dostoevsky ideas.
The Constance Garnett translation is somewhat awkward; I find Garnett overly monotonous and convoluted. Though Dostoevsky is no quick nor casual read, his text was certainly confused in some of Garnett's meandering passages. I feel other translators do a more concise and entertaining job, while keeping the same ideas intact, though I've only briefly read other translations.
To give evidence to my critique, the notes on translation in the back of my text indicate some issues, including the title itself! Instead of "The Brothers Karamazov," the book should probably be "The Karamazov Brothers." As editor Ralph E. Matlaw states, "we do not refer to 'the brothers Kennedy'," and I'll mention "the sisters Hilton." On the bright side, I feel the strange title makes the book feel more "foreign" and exotic.
Matlaw also states Garnett doesn't just confuse the reader with some language, but actually simplifies and cleans up other language, turning at least one character into a more polished version than Doestoevsky probably intended. Thankfully, Garnett's peculiarities become familiar and comfortable. Overall, this book is sufficiently readable.
Of note to first-time Dostoevsky readers is the extreme number of characters quickly introduced near the beginning of the book, with the traditional cavalcade of Russian names, surnames, and nicknames. This is no deficiency of the translator, but rather a difficulty inherent with the source text.
Fans of Dostoevsky may simply be wondering: is this worth the time to read? After taking in all 700+ pages, I can answer a resounding yes. Ideas introduced in earlier works are here fleshed out into living, breathing, bleeding human beings. I feel the characters are some of the most real I've ever encountered in literature. The variety in people eases the reader's process of identifying with a character; I identified with multiple throughout the book.
For those being introduced to Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment may be better, simply because Karamazov has a slow, disorienting beginning. However, if you enjoy the Russian master, you will relish in the delight of Karamazov.
5.0 out of 5 stars Russian Gen Xers Looking for Love,
This recent Russian novel has lately been getting a lot of attention in America following the release of The Brothers McMullen, an American movie based upon the book. With all of the hype surrounding the film, this new English translation should propel Dostoevky's work to the bestseller list and may even become one of Oprah's new favorites!
The story focuses on three Gen X brothers, Dmitry, Alexi and Ivan, coming to terms with relationships and careers in the ironic and apathetic late-90s. Dmitry is the party kid, recklessly drinking and gambling and picking up loose women. His character is clearly inspired by the anti-heroes of Jay McInernery and Bret Easton Ellis. Then there's the thoughtful college student Ivan. He is wracked with indecision as he finds that his philosophy courses have only prepared him for jobs at the local Safeway. The youngest, Alexi, is the good kid - a former altar boy with a big heart and an eye for good deeds. He becomes increasingly frustrated when he finds that girls don't always go for nice boys.
The three brother's lives are all impacted by their troubled relationship with their foolhardy and negligent father. Having lost two wives, his role as a single parent is compromised by excessive drinking and disorderliness. Their troubled household is clearly inspired by some of the seminal writings of S. E. Hinton.
When the father unexpectedly dies, the plot takes a 180 degree turn and we suddenly find ourselves in an intense Law & Order style courtroom drama. Look out O.J.! Solving this crazy whodunit becomes a real brain twister. Lovers of teen drama and mystery novels alike will have to exercise considerable restraint to avoid sneaking a peek at the surprise ending!
5.0 out of 5 stars What lurks within the hearts of men,
If Charles Dickens's novels are a romanticization of Victorian England, then Dostoevsky's must be a realization of 19th Century Russia. "The Brothers Karamazov" not only sheds light on Czarist Russian life, society, and religion, but also succeeds in completely captivating the reader with its vivid characterization and dynamic plotting. Like Dostoevsky's other novels, it is a study in man's motivations for good and evil, his potential for corruption, and his glory in salvation. Each character, scene, and event in the novel seems to relay a principle that religion provides the structure for society, for better or worse.
The novel chronicles the fragmented Karamazov family, who live in a small Russian town. The father, Fyodor, is a hedonistic, boorish landowner, twice a widower, who has his eye on a young lady named Grushenka. He has four sons: The oldest is Dmitri, an ex-military officer, a passionate, desperate, violent young man who is like his father in many ways; for one thing, he also is madly in love with Grushenka. There is Dmitri's half-brother Ivan, intellectual and studious, but morbid and cynical, and whose motto is "everything is lawful." There is Ivan's gentle, magnanimous brother Alyosha who is an initiate monk and whom Ivan likes to provoke with his iconoclastic discourse. Finally, there is the illegitimate Smerdyakov, a morose and cruel young man who works as Fyodor's cook. None of the brothers has a particularly loving relationship with their father or with each other.
Each brother has a personal devil and an angel. Dmitri's devil is Grushenka; his angel is a young lady named Katerina to whom he is engaged, both connubially and financially. Alyosha's devil is a divinity student named Rakitin, who exploits the misfortunes of the Karamazovs; his angel is his mentor, Father Zossima, who represents religious solace. Ivan's angel is his brother Alyosha; his devil is his own conscience, with whom he converses in one unforgettable chapter. Smerdyakov's devil and angel are the same person: his father, the only person who has ever entrusted him. It is interesting to observe how each brother's devil and angel influence his actions and thoughts and provide conflict throughout the novel.
One night, Fyodor is murdered, and Dmitri, who has the most urgent motive, is accused of the crime. This could be considered the central event of the novel, but it is not the event on which the novel's profundity rests. What is profound is the series of psychological mind games that the brothers play with each other both before and after the murder; they could be any trashy family on a modern TV talk show, but they have Shakespearean complexity and depth in the way they express their anguish and weave their webs of deceit.
The novel ends with a seemingly positive notion about death and the joy in the remnants of life; in the very last scene, the stirring speech that Alyosha delivers after a young friend's funeral could have been Dostoevsky's own requiem. This is a staunchly uncompromising novel, refusing to provide any easy answers and forcing the reader to look inside his own heart for the source of good and evil.
2.0 out of 5 stars Laborious yet insightful reading,
Brothers Karamazov is very complex, in relation to the characters and their interactions. To me the characters were not described very well and the dialogue seemed forced, at times incoherent(why is everyone having convulsions?)It seems Dostoyevsky did not have any strength left to make the dialogue interesting. People would lapse into fits for no reason and hallucinate constantly, it made you just want to get to the more philosophical sections. The personal interactions were mainly confusing and frustrating, many times I wanted to throw the book in the garbage. 75% of this book consisted of the characters going back and forth to each others houses talking about god knows what(you lose interest and lose track of who's who eventually and they all sound the same). This book was a definite chore-read, I did not suspect this having read "crime and punishment" beforehand, a book I was very impressed with. The only part I did enjoy were Dostoyevsky's questions about morality, which are always satisfying and informative. It is possible that Dostoyevsky's illness in later life reflects the poor effort of this book. I think that because it was his last, people assume that it was his greatest. I wouldnt waste your time, maybe read the cliff's notes. (...)
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly over the top,
There's really no point in arguing that this anything but a really great novel. It is an epic work, with an almost epic length as well; an the exploration of the relations between three (actually four, if the illegitimate house-servant is included) brothers, the sons of a selfish, greedy, conniving, morally and physically repugnant father. In many ways, "Brothers Karamazov" can probably be viewed as a reflection of Russian intellectual/spiritual culture in the 19th century, and perhaps even beyond. Like his other works, this book also contains Dostoevsky's literary musings on the state of Russian society as he saw it. Even so, this is also weighty book: in a fashion similar to Tolstoy, Dostoevsky was quite obsessed with the concept of personal redemption, the moral catharsis (or 'moral bath' as Tolstoy called it in "War & Peace"), atonement for sins, etc. and this, together with his religious mysticism (and the accompanying good vs. evil symbolism), can become quite tiresome at times. Dostoevsky was a very conservative Christian tormented by his own vices and a virulent opponent of Western European Enlightenment ideals (he viewed them as a threat to Russian culture and the Russian soul), and this is often reflected in "Brothers Karamazov." Personally, I think the best parts of the book are when Dostoevsky explores the mindsets of his various characters, creating a very psychologically tense atmosphere. Also, his portrayals of the interactions and conflicts between his various characters is superb. In this sense, it is similar to "Crime and Punishment," which is a better book - simply because it tends to focus more on one major theme. Thus, after reading "Crime and Punishment" one can easily be left with the impression that the "Brothers Karamazov" is a slight case of overkill in some aspects. However, on its own it is nonetheless a great book and definitely worth reading - although due consideration should be given to its historical context, meaning the place and time in which it was written (tsarist Russia in the 19th century).
5.0 out of 5 stars Dostoyevsky's last novel,
There can be no argument that Dostoyevsky is one of the finest novelist in literature. It is so rare that you can read a novel and see reflections of yourself as well as being so true and exacting as far human nature is concerned. This novel will make you ask questions of yourself. Do reflect those positive values expressed by Dostoyevsky? Am I a good person? Does pride get in the way of person being truly happy or do many of us live as tormented damned souls who "live on their vindictive pride like a starving man in the desert sucking blood out of his own body" as he puts it? The point of the book is that in order to have happiness and peace you must have love and love can only be achieved by accepting the love of Christ, and worldly cynacism and pride are barriers that separate us from divine love. These self created barrirs lead to despair and death. This novel can never become dated. It is a masterpiece for all the ages.
5.0 out of 5 stars The meaning of life?,
I recently read a book so amazing, so well-written, and so memorable that I simply must tell you about it. It's The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. After reading another of Dostoyevsky's novels, Crime and Punishment, a while ago, and thoroughly loving it, I had to get this one, for I had heard it was his best work. And I can't disagree. To sum up the premise quickly, the novel takes place in Russia circa 1890, and tells the story of four brothers who become involved in the murder of their own father. That is the most basic summary of the plot I can give; but it doesn't even begin to give you an idea of the territory covered in this massive, sprawling novel. (Over 700 pages of great literature.) There are other things going on besides this murder, and eventually the novel is about so much more than this.
This novel has possibly some of the best characterization I've ever seen for any book, period. This is not an exaggeration. First, the four brothers are each given their own distinct personality and background (even though they are brothers they come from different pasts) and become some of the most developed, recognizable, and memorable characters I've ever encountered. In addition, the father is one of the most pathetic, funny, and evil characters in literature. But even then, Dostoyevsky does not stop. There are probably ten or fifteen secondary characters that appear a lot, and even more third-tier figures that don't have much time in the book but are still memorable. This is because whenever a new character is introduced, the author devotes at least a couple of full, developed passages telling the reader about the person, and reveals even more through the many conversations and speeches people have. Remarkably, there are never any repetetive characters. Dostoyevsky manages to create a new, unique, living, breathing person out of every character.
This is also one of the most thematically inclusive books I've ever read, one with such depth. Thanks to the incredible characters and well thought-out plot, the novel discusses a whole range of themes. Dostoyevsky must have been a philosopher or psychologist just as much as he was a writer. Through his characters he expounds on the idea that people have the uncanny ability to harbor opposite and contrasting values within themselves at the same time. Good and evil exist side by side in the hearts of men. Dostoyevsky also shows us that some people are never happy because they don't want to be, and that this fact makes them happy. As long as they are unhappy in their own way, they remain happy, even if they know it's not to their advantage.
Dostoyevsky was so ahead of his time with this novel- his deep knowledge of humanity is so evident. Years before Freud, he develops the idea of punishment as a way to alleviate guilt and love as a way to cure shame, or as he puts it, "self-laceration." He was probably one of the very first to fully implement into his characters the concept of the split personality. At one point, one of the characters has a conversation with his alter-ego, fully aware that he doesn't exist. It's so impressive, it really puts some modern stuff into perspective.
Death, love, forgiveness, immortality, religion, God, the Devil, all of these things are more than briefly touched upon in the course of this narrative. At one point, a character remarks, "I don't know whether God created Man or Man created God, but if the Devil exists, he was created in Man's image." In one chapter, Christ comes back to earth and is challenged and shunned by the religious community. The Devil himself even appears as a person to discuss philosophy and religion with one of the characters. When he's asked, "How are you able to take on human form?" the Devil replies, "Nothing human is beyond me." Powerful, chilling moments like these fill the book.
There are so many moments of pure, unfiltered humanity in this novel, it's as if the author's whole life is bleeding through in the pages. When he creates an evil character, we believe in him, and when he creates the opposite- a truly pure figure- we believe in him, as well. In fact, this book has one of the most believably good characters of all stories. Dostoyevsky plunges the depths of man's soul, and what he brings up is sometimes scary, sometimes beautiful. If there are any stories out there that can come close to showing us the meaning of life, The Brothers Karamazov is one of them.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty Will Save The World!!,
This review is from: The Brothers Karamazov (Hardcover)
"Love to throw yourself on the earth and kiss it! Kiss the earth and love it with an unceasing, consuming love. Love all men, love everything! Water the earth with the tears of your joy and love those tears. Don't be ashamed of your ecstasy, prize it."
Thus ended the paragraph that saved my life from Book VI of Constance Garnett's translation of The Brothers Karamazov. Read unintentionally in tandem with the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony it wreaked upon me a transvaluation of all values. This also happened to some of my students at Shimer College where I teach both the Constance Garnett and the Pevear/Volokhonsky translations. I urge my students who love the book to read BOTH translations. Constance Garnett's poetic grasp of Dostoyevsky's language (with occasionally antiquated twists of phrase) assumes the worldview of the nineteenth century, which is the century in which Dostoyevsky wrote. Her first translation appeared in about 1912.
She lovingly captures the cadences of Father Zosima's voice. This wise elder's words are at the heart of this book. I have never understood why his chapter, "The Russian Monk" has not been excerpted and widely read as "The Grand Inquisitor" which precedes it. Poverty, injustice, cruelty, and the suffering of innocents can only be transformed by love--and beauty. This book, a murder mystery interwoven with four love-triangles, exploring dysfunctional families, the nature of God, erotic lacerations, forgiveness, the devil, and the Russian soul can give you the equipment you need to cope with life's agonies, to go through suffering and into joy.
Hurrah for Karamazov!
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fulfillment of Artistic Vision,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Brothers Karamazov (Hardcover)
"I would die happy if I could finish this final novel, for I would have then expressed myself completely."
This statement from Fyodor Dostoyevsky helps elucidate both the theme and purpose of the The Brothers Karamazov, one of the greatest masterpieces of world literature. Superficially, the novel deals with a patricide and how each of the book's characters contributed directly or indirectly to that murder.
Yet, The Brothers Karamazov, at its heart, is so much more. Its underlying theme deals with the drive for self-redemption in the eyes of both God and man and the role suffering plays in facilitating that redemption.
Fyodor Karamazov has fathered four sons, Dmitri, Ivan and Alyosha, by two wives, and one, Smerdyakov, with a peasant woman known as stinking Lizaveta.
Fyodor Karamazov, a vulgar and ill-tempered man represents, for Dostoyevsky, the Russian government of his times. Like the government, Fyodor shuns his children, preferring instead the materialistic, but joyless, life of wealth and possessions. His union with Lizaveta, who comes to represent all the peasants of Dostoyevsky's Russia, produces Smerdyakov, a bastard child who, in his own turn, will be raped and pillaged by the government and will go on to give birth, metaphorically, to bastard children of his own.
Karamazov's eldest son, Dmitri, an impulsive sensualist, finds respect as an overbearing soldier but one whose inability to pay his debts eventually turns him into a poor and irrational man.
Ivan, Fyodor's second son, is a cold intellectual who finds his fulfillment in his literary and creative abilities. He becomes famous through his writings, especially those concerning the Russian Church.
The youngest son, Aloysha, finds temporary fulfillment in the cloistered, monastic life. Outwardly innocent and naive, Aloysha struggles with his desire for spiritual fulfillment in the monastery and the joys and excitement of the secular life.
The character who provides the catalyst for change is that of Father Zosima, a character who seems to embody the strong spiritual sense that was Dostoyevsky, himself.
Father Zosima, who has lived a pure and spiritually-nourishing life, has the gift to sense both a man's motivations and his needs. Zosima tells the brothers Karamazov that a sheltered, monastic life is not a prerequisite to the achievement of spiritual riches, a fact that seems to be proven true when Zosima's corpse rots after his death in direct contradiction to Russian belief at the times regarding spiritual purity.
It is Father Zosima who, throughout the book, expounds Dostoyevsky's theory that it is suffering that will purify and cleanse our soul, thus bringing us peace. Each brother, in his own fashion, undergoes his own trial by fire, and, in the end, is better for it.
One brother, tormented by a guilt he does not deserve, must live his life in unwanted exile, or not at all, though he possesses the heart and soul of a true Russian. Another suffers the torments of a complete nervous breakdown that leaves him grappling on the very edge of sanity. Only a third son seems to find the answer he is seeking and the novel's uplifting final scene epitomizes Dostoyevsky's eternal belief in the importance of Russia's children in her future, as children hold their hands high and shout, "Three cheers for Karamazov," ending this essentially depressing masterpiece on a joyous note.
An extraordinarily complex and rich novel, The Brothers Karamozov also deals with man's response to death. All of the characters, each in his own way, attempts to flee from death and only those who can finally accept the finality of death and the suffering of living find justification and fulfillment in life.
Dostoyevsky uses many stylistic devices to expound upon his theme of redemption through suffering: imagery, irony and dreams are three of the most prominent, however, it is Dostoyevsky's wonderful ability to manipulate the third person subjective that serves to illuminate each character and bring him to life.
The Brothers Karamazov is a book that delves deeply into the heart of man and the soul of Russia. Dostoyevsky, as any true artist, presented facets of himself in all of his characters who each manages to see the world in a different way and finds redemption through his own unique vision.
Ironically, one of the brothers Karamazov is portrayed as a young man who begins to instill the seeds of change in Russia through its children, something Dostoyevsky, himself, thought was needed if Russia was ever to make the transition from a backward country to a global power. That it did, although the children Dostoyevsky envisioned as spiritual visionaries became instead, violent revolutionaries. They sought to free the peasants, not through enlightenment but through the establishment of a totalitarian state Peter the Great would have envied. Today, however, Russia tragically lies amidst the same poverty in which it was dwelling one hundred years earlier.
Clearly, Dostoyevsky's path to enlightenment, illuminated brilliantly in The Brothers Karamazov, has not yet been fully assimilated by either the people of Russia or the people of the world in general.
A sad and ironic twist to the vision of a master writer and a truly prophetic man.
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The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Hardcover - Jan. 23 1996)
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