11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel with everything
This is a book that, as one reviewer put it, "has everything" in it. To that someone retorted "so does the Argos book". So is The Brothers Karamazov a sweeping epic that reveals new and telling things about the human psyche and what it means to be Russian? Or is it an overblown, boring book of useless tat that should ultimately be discarded?
It is without...
Published 23 months ago by jacr100
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The greatest novel of all time, one of the poorest translations.
I humbly and respectfully forward my opinion that The Brothers Karamazov is the greatest book in existence. Now how can I impress this grand belief on you the potential reader in an eloquent, clear, thought-provoking manner? Well, let's be honest - I can't (I have not the literary perspicacity for it). But what I will say is that every page in the book is full of such a...
Published 8 months ago by J. Lockwood
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel with everything,
This review is from: The Brothers Karamazov (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)This is a book that, as one reviewer put it, "has everything" in it. To that someone retorted "so does the Argos book". So is The Brothers Karamazov a sweeping epic that reveals new and telling things about the human psyche and what it means to be Russian? Or is it an overblown, boring book of useless tat that should ultimately be discarded?
It is without doubt the former.
For those who have read the other reviews and are left with a sense of trepidation - please allay those fears. Yes this book is long, yes there are a couple of moments in which Dostoevsky wanders off to satisfy his need for religious philosophy (though only twice did I find the book slow in its pace) but ultimately it is compelling. Written today it would no doubt be whittled down by an over-zealous editor - the fact that we have such an overblown novel, warts and all is actually the whole point - it is a reflection of life - which as we all know - is not smooth sailing or nicely manicured lawns.
The plot itself is fairly simple - we are introduced to the Karamazovs - the landowner father and his three sons - plus their servants. What plays out is essentially a family drama with its crescendo as a murder and trial. Upon this simple(ish) tale Dostoevsky is able to execute a stunning portrayal of human motivations, jealousies and ultimately understanding. Every character is superbly drawn with their own foibles and more importantly inconsistencies, making them realistic and perfect tapestries upon which the author can hang his philosophy and beliefs.
There is little of the usual repetition that can blight Dostoevsky's style, making the near 1000 pages pass quicker than you may initially imagine. Having said that, this is not a book that you can read in a fortnight. You must commit to the fact that it will take some time to get through, but it isn't anywhere near as difficult as some other reviewers are making out. Just sit back and revel in the staggering achievement. You will be richer for the experience and will be blessed with a new found and deeper understanding into your fellow man, society and Dostoevsky himself - for this is him in a book. All raging, kicking, screaming, thinking and praying - truly one of the landmarks in world literature.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The tragic and yet also magnificence of human life,
This review is from: The Brothers Karamazov (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)I read this large book in regular short periods and despite its numerous long dialogues found myself always eager to find out what was happening on the next page. It is a great classic worth reading.
It was written between 1878-9 and is the last of Dostoyevsky (1821-81). Many events that featured in the author's life are reflected in this book. Dostoyevsky's father was head physician in a hospital and was apparently murdered by some serfs on his estate. In the book, Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, the father of the brothers, is presented as a landowner with a few servants and is murdered in curious circumstances. Dostoyevsky studied at the Military Engineering College in St Petersburg, was some years later arrested for political offences against the Russian state and sentenced to penal servitude in Siberia; he was widowed of his first wife; in the meantime he became addicted to gambling, and was rescued in his mid forties from his various debts by his twenty-year-old stenographer, who became his second wife. Elements of this, transformed, feature in the characterisation of the eldest brother Mitya Karamazov. Dostoyevsky had four children by this younger wife, two of whom died very young; his son Aleksey died in 1878 at the age of two soon after which this book was begun. This death is reflected at the end of the book by the death of the poor boy Ilyushenchka. Whereas the name Aleksey or Alyosha is given to the youngest of the brothers Karamazov.
Alyosha is the most attractive personality in the work; he is a humble and intelligent young man with the soul of an innocent child; a mystic who goes to reside in the local monastery, where he attaches himself to the elder Zozima, until the latter's death, which occurs shortly before the murder. Zozima is presented as a priest-monk with the reputation of a wise saint, but who curiously gets on quite well with the absurd and immoral father Karamazov when the family fights out a dispute in his cell. Alyosha's older brother Ivan Karamazov is an intellectual who is mentally tortured by, among others, the question whether there is a God. From his mouth comes the famous fable of the Grand Inquisitor, who arrests Jesus when he appears, because people cannot cope with the freedom that he preaches. Ivan also says that he wants to return his ticket to God for he does not want part in a salvation that requires the extreme and unjust suffering of children and others that goes on in the world. Yet, Ivan's own statement that `all things are lawful' will turn out very detrimental, and eventually he will encounter the devil in his hallucinations. Then there is the furtive figure of Smerdyakov, who is the bastard son of Karamazov, though never formerly recognized as such by the latter. The brothers are of course involved with females, who are described in detail as well.
Many characters in this book are tainted by weakness, they are inconsistent, sometimes malicious, and they disappoint, even perhaps Zozima. Worth mentioning is that when Zozima narrates his life he is made to express the vision that all creatures have been given a purpose in life, are turned towards God and are expressive of a great mystery. All creatures except human beings know the path they have to follow. The book's finale, however, following Ilyushenchka's funeral, is a magnificent and ecstatic speech of Alyosha to the schoolboys. It is a statement of faith and love and a recognition of the magnificence of life, despite all, if one is willing to do some good and upright thing. But it does not wipe out the doubt, tragedy, irony and ambivalence that has featured throughout the book.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is "The" book,
This review is from: The Brothers Karamazov (Penguin Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)If I remember well, in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5, there's a character that says that "The Brothers Karamazov" is the only book one has to read, because everything's in it.
This is the mos apropriate comment I've ever read on this book: From the live of the Starets Zossima, to the impressive tale of the Grand Inquisitor, and the incredible dialogue of Ivan and the devil, the book is filled with memorable scenes and reflections that will stick to your memory forever.
The characters are complex (as in any major Dostoyevsky book), deep, and deeply distressed, and every usual theme of Dostoyevsky's works is here, and it's at its best...
The great masterpiece of one of the best writers in the history of universal literature.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brotherly love,
This review is from: The Brothers Karamazov (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)I've just finished the novel and feel like I've been beaten to a pulp by a pro boxer. All of FD's earlier themes and narrative tricks are here in spades and the concluding sequence describing the trial of Mitya K is as good as the interrogation scenes in Crime and Punishment (and that's good!). The conversation between Ivan K and the "devil" - his own tormented soul and mental illness - is one of the most sinister and spine-chilling chapters of literature I've ever read. But it's not all gloom and doom because the master's bleak, black humour is evident throughout, as it is in Demons. It's sometimes easy to exaggerate these things but FD was as good a writer as William Shakespeare - even though he has one character announce "There are no Hamlets in Russia" (a swipe at fellow writer and loan provider Ivan Turgenev who wrote the short story 'Hamlet of the Shchigrovksy District'). I feel like someone in a cola advert by saying this - but what we have here is Awesome!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Massive in every sense, especially the literal.,
This review is from: The Brothers Karamazov (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)Dostoeyvsky's last novel is a huge doorstopper of a tome and probably his most ambitious work. The theme of religion looms large with Dostoyevsky confronting the chaos and despair that comes from the absence of God. Ivan Karamazov says: "without God, all is permitted" and this becomes one of the key preoccupations of the book.
Dostoevsky goes into typically tortuous detail on the motivations of his characters, nothing is as simple as it seems, and all actions are subjected to the most intense scrutiny. Dmitry Karamazov in particular is a hugely contradictory character in the classic Dostoyevskian mode, capable of great tenderness and utter selfishness, conscience-ridden but often utterly amoral, passion-crazed and self-destructive. Alyosha Karamazov, on the other hand, is another embodiment of the "holy fool" type character beloved of Dostoyevsky.
Alyosha aside, however, Dostoyevsky goes out of his way to depict the duality of his characters natures, showing their enormous capacity for good alongside a similar disposition towards evil and, while this may serve to illustrate Dostoyevsky's view of human nature, it does lead to much unfathomable erraticism in their behaviour. The mood changes many of the characters undergo are little short of psychotic. "Frenziedly" and "hysterically" are two much overused adverbs in this novel. Dostoyevsky's characters seem always on the edge of hysteria, perhaps reflecting his own character. I found this occasionally trying, especially towards the beginning, but as the novel progresses it gains a momentum of its own and interest centres on the themes of redemption, guilt, suffering, to name but a few.
In general, this novel is of a more optimistic tone than Dostoyevsky's earlier work such as "Crime and Punishment". This is especially evident in the scenes involving little Illyusha and his classmates, as they fall under the influence of Alyosha. This subplot provides the most moving scenes in the book.
"The Brothers Karamazov" is a huge, meandering study of human psychology and what has become known as Existentialism. It is sometimes moving, sometimes provocative and sometimes, in my view, unfocused. It may well be, as has been said, one of the great novels of world literature but it is probably most likely to be appreciated by those who enjoyed Dostoyevsky's other works. It is less accessible than "Crime and Punishment", but more rounded in its view of humanity.
I have not read any other translations than this one, by David McDuff, so I can't compare but the language here often struck me as odd. To give the only example I can recall offhand, the phrase "like a blow of a knife" is used somewhere near the end. This, and other phrases used in this translation, I found somewhat jarring.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I've honestly ever read,
This review is from: The Brothers Karamazov (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)The Brothers Karamazov is my all-time favourite book; its exploreation of complex questions concearning philosophy, psychology, theology and ideology, expressed through a remarkable storyline with incredibly vivid characters made it the most captivating and interesting book I'm yet to come accross. It's almost 1000 pages but when reading it, it seems like a lot less and it actually took me longer to finish Crime and Punishment. I could not put it down and would recomend this book to anybody!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The greatest novel of all time, one of the poorest translations.,
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This review is from: The Brothers Karamazov (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)I humbly and respectfully forward my opinion that The Brothers Karamazov is the greatest book in existence. Now how can I impress this grand belief on you the potential reader in an eloquent, clear, thought-provoking manner? Well, let's be honest - I can't (I have not the literary perspicacity for it). But what I will say is that every page in the book is full of such a multitude of mirrors, references, parallels and other literary devices that one wonders how Dostoevsky was able to tie it all together. I read the Constance Garnett translation of the book (on the internet, legally) many years ago on lunch breaks at work. It wasn't long before I was hiding a copy of it under software windows and greedily snatching opportunities to read another paragraph. After I'd finished, I remember lifting my head and looking round the office. I'm still not certain why. Maybe it's because I'd just 'experienced' something, maybe I was hopeful someone would look into my eyes and /know/ why I had looked up. It sounds ridiculous even now, many years later. But this isn't 'mincing affectation', it's just a glimmer of a memory I carry with me.
After reading the book a second time (at home, with a comfy armchair and no manager looking over my shoulder) I delved for the first time below the surface of the book and came back with fresh opinions on the plot, the characters and the over-arching principles framed by the author. The ONLY way to understand the book is to read it through a second time immediately after turning the final page. When I'd read it a second time, I purchased the audio book (narrated wonderfully by Frederick Davidson - there are others but I recommend this edition for those that have already read the book) and listened to it when walking, travelling and bathing. I listened to it over and over and over - I started to /understand/ the ideals of the author, to pick up on the literary devices (the selective use of French in the book, the significance of nicknames, the importance of seemingly-irrelevant side stories, et al).
How Dostoevsky uses the narrator-character in the novel is not always consistent, that's the nearest I have to a mark against the masterpiece - so why the 1 star? For me, this translation does the book no justice. I've read through this edition, and I would urge you to find a good Constance Garnett version (either online or preferably a good hardback). Here is an example of why, if Amazon will allow me:
A captivating little foot,
Though swollen and red and tender!
The doctors come and plasters put,
But still they cannot mend her.
Yet, 'tis not for her foot I dread--
A theme for Pushkin's muse more fit--
It's not her foot, it is her head:
I tremble for her loss of wit!
For as her foot swells, strange to say,
Her intellect is on the wane--
Oh, for some remedy I pray
That may restore both foot and brain!
Oh, this little foot so fair,
Swollen just a little, there!
Doctors call on it with cures,
Bandage it and make it worse.
'Tis not feet, though, make me pine -
Poet Pushkin sing their praise:
For the head I grieve and pine,
And it cannot grasp ideas.
It had grasped a little bit,
But fair foot got in the way!
Let the foot be healed and fit,
So that comprehend head may.
I hope I have not come across as a blind poseur (if I had a year free I would write a book deconstructing the beauty of the novel in an attempt to convince you). Though not well read I have enjoyed many of the Classics and I'm working my way through Dickens's catalogue. Read the book: the Constance Garnett translation if possible, any other if not. Great no matter how translated, this is to those that have studied it the greatest novel of all time. I hope you will take the time to find out why.
3.0 out of 5 stars read 100 pp so far, but its been a grind,
This review is from: The Brothers Karamazov (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)tedious, actually. this is a hard slog, and I do mean slog - lots of words, lots of analyses, I really am hoping it gets better -- that's why I came to the reviews for some orientation. but at this stage I can't help wondering whether those long Russian winters has turned everyone over there into a madman - that and a relentless, pondering attempt to analyse everything -- at much longer lengths than one would prefer.
I am also starting to suspect that Dostoievski himself must have seemed insufferable at times
unkind? uninformed? probably, but I will keep plodding and maybe come back with a later update......
3.0 out of 5 stars That was hard going,
This review is from: The Brothers Karamazov (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)It's difficult to know how to review the Brothers Karamazov. The story itself is good, but it is sooo overblown in terms of words. When there are pages and pages of continuous speech - by the one person - and this quite often, it becomes a bit of a slog to read through. So does the need to repeat what has happened so frequently.
Still, for the slog that it was to read through, it isn't without its redeeming qualities. Some of the discussion in the book is very thought provoking, and there are a couple of enjoyable interactions between the main characters. Of course one of the best things Dostoyevsky does in this is the characterization of the brothers themselves. They do feel like 3 unique individuals - and real.
Overall, an ok read but i was probably looking for more of the thought provoking from this rather than the extreme wordiness.
5.0 out of 5 stars LIke that troika.,
This review is from: The Brothers Karamazov (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)If poets are, as Mallarme said, the antennae of the race, then Dostoevsky is the poet of the perverse and the degraded. This is a truly amazing book if a long and sometimes demanding one. He raises, definitively, the Problem of Evil in the justly famous "Grand Inquisitor" chapter which is probably the most profound meditation on this topic in any novel. And the characters; Father Zosima the saintly is oddly plausible, so is the old rogue of a father; and the brothers. (Brilliantly he shows Karamazov senior, hating someone because he, Karamazov, had done him ill What an insight!). Well what a crew they all are, out there in the great Russian vastness. Dostoevsky is the master of abnormal psychology - Freud thought he knew himself better than anyone - and as a Russian Orthodox church member, if an unusual one. He is also onto the catastrophe coming to Russia, it would seem, in the famous image at the end. It may not be for you; it may be but you need to give it time. But actually it is no more forbidding that his name is and that is actually not so very hard to say. If you can read Dickens then you can manage the great Russian. Worth anyone's time. Steiner once wrote the all readers face a choice: 'Tolstoy or Dostoevsky?". For me it is Dostoevsky, every time.
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The Brothers Karamazov (Penguin Classics) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Paperback - 27 Feb 2003)