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The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Brothers Karamazov (original 1880; edition 2005)

by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Maire Jaanus (Introduction), Constance Garnett (Translator)

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19,51821882 (4.38)4 / 858
Title:The Brothers Karamazov
Authors:Fyodor Dostoevsky
Other authors:Maire Jaanus (Introduction), Constance Garnett (Translator)
Info:Barnes & Noble Classics (2005), Hardcover, 752 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:@own: to be read, postponed

Work details

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880)

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English (198)  Dutch (4)  Italian (3)  French (3)  Spanish (3)  German (3)  Danish (1)  Swedish (1)  Russian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (218)
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Everyone has of course heard that this is a great book, and a classic. I was not aware that it was a crime and judicial procedural novel as well. Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov had three sons, the eldest, Dmitry (also Mitya) by his first wife, and Ivan and Alexey by his second. Fyodor is described as muddle-headed, but cunning. Dmitry, hot-headed and impulsive, thrown out by his father at a young age and raised as an army officer, returns to claim his inheritance, which has been spent, and thus sets the plot going. Ivan is the second oldest, and in the course of the book seems to have less of a role, although he is the author of the "Grand Inquisitor" story, a famous speculation on what the inquisition would have done if Christ himself had appeared in their jurisdiction. Ivan is a free thinker, but refuses to do his father's bidding on a commercial matter, and returns in the course of Dmitry's trial. Alexey is the saintly one, initially a novice at a monastery in the region, and throughout the novel a kind soul, achieving a redemption among poor children at the end. The father, Fyodor, is murdered, suspicion immediately rests on Dmitry, and he is convicted, although we learn that a puffed up servant was the killer. Each of the brothers, their lovers, the servants and monks, the lawyers at the trial, and the townspeople are exquisitely described, and I felt like I was living in the village with the Karamazov family. Dostoyesvsky is also a philosopher, and keen to comment on politics, so there are extensive asides, but the story of the murder and the trial are always driving the plot. I enjoyed about 2 weeks of steady reading, taking advantage of long airplane flights, to finish the book. ( )
1 vote neurodrew | Sep 9, 2016 |
  bostonwendym | Jul 20, 2016 |
I am not capable of writing a review of this book, it's simply too great. 6 stars.
  bartt95 | Jun 22, 2016 |
Everything is uncertain and there are no final endings! What you think today may change by the time you wake up tomorrow. Do not worship others. Work honestly, enjoy your life & appreciate the majesty of an unknowable universe ( )
  Peter_Scissors | Jun 21, 2016 |
Written in the final years of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s life (he died four months after it was published), The Brothers Karamazov is probably his most philosophical novel. It tells the story of four very different brothers who all got involved in the murder of their own father. While similarities can be made between this novel and Crime and Punishment as they share similar themes, they are still vastly different. Rather this book deals more with life, death and the meaning of life.

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”

At the start of the novel we meet Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, who fathers three sons during his two marriages and is rumoured for have fathered a fourth illegitimate son. He often makes the list when people talk about ‘the most disgusting characters’ in literature, or similar topics. This forms the basis of the plot and the brothers grow up with very different lives, separated from their father and each other. As a result these four brothers are very different; Dmitri is a sensualist, Ivan a rationalist (an atheist), Alexei is a novice in the Russian Orthodox Church and Pavel, well let’s just say, silent and sly.

The very different personalities of these brothers is what allows Fyodor Dostoevsky to explore all his philosophical ideas. One of the major themes in this novel is that of religion and while questioning faith is a common theme in modem literature at the time, in Russia it was considered big deal. In 987 Vladimir the Great sent out envoys to study the various religions of neighbouring nations in order to pick the right religion for Russia. Seems a little unorthodox (no pun intended) but eventually the nation adopted Orthodoxy. What became Russian Orthodoxy was embraced by all of Russia and had its own vision of creating a country of love and humility.

This is important because The Brothers Karamazov is not about questioning the existence of God but rather the role of the church when it comes to morality. It should be noted this was at a time where the Russian Socialism movement was gaining some traction and their goal was to create heaven on earth. With characters of vastly different ideals, Dostoevsky was able to explore the ideas he had floating in his head from different angles. Was Christianity simply a mask for the authority? In one of the most famous chapters Ivan talks about “The Great Inquisitor” which is a powerful argument of scepticism and against religious faith.

Other major themes found in the novel are that of fate and free will. This is closely connected with the ideas around religion. For Alexei, he has the freedom to commit to the order of the church, something that seems like a paradox to someone like Dmitri. Fyodor Dostoevsky explores the psychological makeup of control by society and authority. This plays into the Socialist debate at the time; do we have free will, when we are being controlled by the church or the Tsar. Or maybe we have the freewill but blindly follow the laws put in place by the church and the authority without question.

For Ivan, he lives by the philosophy that “everything is permitted”, which leads to another major theme, that of justice and morality. The murder of Fyodor Karamazov is at the centre of this theme, as well as the trail the follows. The Brothers Karamazov essentially wants the reader to question life, question their beliefs, and the roles of earthly or divine justice. The justice system found in the novel appears to be weird and problematic. The innocent are found guilty, the jury are manipulated by lawyers and the book even questions harsh punishments; like exile to Siberia. It is here we wonder about the different between morality and the laws imposed upon us.

There is so much more you can get out of The Brothers Karamazov (for example family) but for me, this reading through was about questioning life in the lead up to death. I really liked how Fyodor Dostoevsky used the different brothers to explore the different angles and question his own beliefs. Dostoevsky often wrote about society, religion, politics and ethics, however in his final years while writing The Brothers Karamazov, we get the sense that he was thinking more about his own life and his legacy. In fact his tombstone is inscribed with the verse from John 12:24; “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it dies, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Most people know that I’m a fan of Fyodor Dostoevsky and I am so glad to have read The Brothers Karamazov however next time I plan to read it in the David McDuff translation, rather than this one translated by Constance Garnett.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://www.knowledgelost.org/book-reviews/genre/classic/brothers-karamazov-fyodo... ( )
2 vote knowledge_lost | May 24, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (103 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dostoevsky, Fyodorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anhava, MarttiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brockway, HarryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davidson, FrederickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eichenberg, FritzIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fondse, MarkoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garnett, ConstanceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Geier, SwetlanaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kosloff, A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Langeveld, ArthurTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
MacAndrew, Andrew H.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Magarshack, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maugham, W. SomersetEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McDuff, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mochulsky, KonstantinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mongault, HenriTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nötzel, KarlTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pevear, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prina, SerenaEditor and Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pyykkö, LeaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sales, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Volokhonsky, LarissaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yarmolinsky, AvrahmIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Verily, verily, I say unto, you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringth forth much fruit.
— John 12:24
Tillägnas Anna Grigorjevna Dostojevskaja
Dedicated to

Anna Grigorievna Dostoevsky
First words
Alexey Fyodorovich Karamazov was the third son of Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, a landowner well known in our district in his own day, and still remembered among us owing to his tragic and obscure death, which happened just thirteen years ago, and of which I shall speak in its proper place. (Garnett, 1912)
Aleksei Fyodorovich Karamazov was the third son of Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, a landowner of our district, extremely well known in his time (and to this day still remembered in these parts) on account of his violent and mysterious death exactly thirteen years ago, the circumstances of which I shall relate in due course. (Avsey 1994)
Alexey Fyodorovitch Karamazov was the third son of Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov, a landowner well known in our district in his own day, and still remembered among us owing to his gloomy and tragic death, which happened thirteen years ago, and which I shall describe in its proper place. (Garnett, Great Books, 1952)
Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov was the third son of a landowner from our district, Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, well known in his own day (and still remembered among us) because of his dark and tragic death, which happened exactly thirteen years ago and which I shall speak of in its proper place. (Pevear/Volokhonsky, 1990)
Very well then - tell me the truth, squash me like a cockroach.
In schools children are a tribe without mercy.
(McDuff, 1993)
I have, as it were, torn my soul in half before you, and you have taken advantage of it and are rummaging with your fingers in both halves along the torn place...O God!
(McDuff, 1993)
I'm a Karamazov - when I fall into the abyss, I go straight into it, head down and heels up . . . 
Last words
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Individual volumes should not be combined with the complete set/work or different volumes of the same set/work.
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Haiku summary
Sad Russian people
griping about God and stuff.
Wish Dad was still here.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374528373, Paperback)

The award-winning translation of Dostoevsky's last and greatest novel.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:31 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

The violent lives of three sons are exposed when their father is murdered and each one attempts to come to terms with his guilt.

(summary from another edition)

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