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Customer Review

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The tragic and yet also magnificence of human life, 22 July 2011
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.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 28 Feb 2013 12:28:09 GMT
Taranis says:
Ever heard of paragraphs? More people will read your review if you use them.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Feb 2013 13:33:24 GMT
Last edited by the author on 28 Feb 2013 13:35:16 GMT
Dear Taranis,
Thank you for your comment.
It is true, I should have inserted a few paragraph breaks. As you have taken the trouble to point it out, I will do it. Probably a reason that I did not do it immediately is that it is the first review I posted on amazon and aimed to make it as compact as possible, since I feared it was too long.
Best wishes and thanks again.
Robert
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