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The Brothers Karamazov (1880)

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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28,71731593 (4.37)4 / 1063
Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

What is free will? Is redemption possible? Can logic help us answer moral questions? Renowned Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky tackles all of these topics and many more in this remarkable novel, widely regarded as one of the classic masterpieces of literature. Follow the Karamazov family through the travails that transpire after the murder of their father, and expand your intellectual horizons with a work that celebrated thinkers such as Einstein, Freud, and Pope Benedict XVI cite as one of their favorites.

.… (more)
  1. 222
    The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (PrincessPaulina, melies)
    PrincessPaulina: "The Idiot" is overlooked compared to Dostoevsky's other work, but in my opinion it's the most engaging. Deals with upper crust society in pre-revolutionary Russia
  2. 30
    The Master of Petersburg by J. M. Coetzee (xtien)
    xtien: Brilliand novel by Coetzee about a fictional Dostoevsky
  3. 44
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche (igor.chubin)
Romans (21)
My List (67)
AP Lit (336)

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Showing 1-5 of 285 (next | show all)
Took me roughly 50 days, but it was worth it! It was absolutely worth it! ( )
  atrillox | Nov 27, 2023 |
Back to the Classics Reading Challenge 2017
Category: Russian Classic

This book took me a little while to get into, but once I got through the first few chapters, I was hooked! This is a long, philosophically dense book, but do not let that deter you. It is anything, but boring, and it will make you think. The main conflict in the novel is Faith vs Doubt. The characters are so dynamic that I believed they were real people. Definitely take your time reading this one. I read it in two months, and there is so much to it that I want to read it again. I think I will read a different translation every time. I actually regret that I can't read it in Russian. I would love to experience this novel in it's original glory. ( )
  DominiqueMarie | Oct 22, 2023 |
Two Dostoevsky novels under my belt and I can now say officially that while I appreciate his ability to see deeply into the human experience, he needed an editor. ( )
  nogomu | Oct 19, 2023 |
When I finished this book I thought it was... okay at best. I then realised that maintaining all the most crucial points of all the many different characters in a book that spans (in my version) 870 pages is very difficult, and upon reading about the different characters in isolation and understanding their development and change along the novel I have found an incredibly strong admiration for this book. for anyone having trouble to rationalize and truly understand The Brothers Karamazov, this is what I would recommend as well. I found this especially useful as I read this book in under a week and because of that, I did not have as much time to read and reflect upon TBK as someone who may have spent months reading the book.

The most important characters are of course Alyosha Karamazov, the main protagonist- and Ivan Karamazov which challenges Ayolsha with his atheistic, quasi-nihilstic world views. These two characters are great on their own but truly shine when put in juxtaposition with one another. Alyosha patiently listens to Ivan's intellectual explanations of how God cannot exist, or if there is a God, then that must mean he is an awful one since he allows suffering of innocent people to take place in the world. Alyosha has to find out for himself, through his interactions with others and his own skepticism whether a divine entity does exist, and if it truly matters whether it does or not; does there being no God mean that we should not uphold Christian (altruistic) values? Ivan has the same kind of character arc, only that he has to face his demons whilst Alyosha does not really: he observes the situations he is in with relations to Zosima; the trial of the book (book 12); Ilyusha and the rest of the children and always chooses the most delicate approach to every conflict in his life. He reaches an understanding of any person he meets through emphasization, and is respected and learns to truly respect others in doing so. Some (spoiler examples) of this is: he knew that Ivan truly meant it when he said he could kill their father and he let Ilyusha bite his finger despite him having no just reason for treating him that way (for they were strangers).

EDIT: I wanted to add the defining moments for each of the main brothers (spoilers). I am doing this the morning after finishing TBK, this book just cannot leave my mind, it is seriously incredible. The worst of the three (but not bad really), Dmitri, has his defining moment when learning to understand that despite not being guilty of the crime he is accused of, he is guilty of his crimes of being a scoundrel and somewhat a thief. He understands that having such hatred for his father should be punishable in the first place. Ivan Karamazov has his defining moment in his talk with the demon, understanding that his "everything is permitted" mentality fails and that his one chance at redemption is to start his journey of redemption, even if that is a long one. This has a nice parallel to the anecdote of the man condemned to walk a quadrillion kilometres to get into heaven as told by "the Devil", but despite this, he does undertake that journey and eventually enters heaven. Once he enters heaven, this long, winded journey is forgotten about in a matter of two seconds, as the bliss of redemption heavily outweighs the downs one must face. Ivan applies this to his own life by confessing for his crime. Alyosha has his highest peak at the very end of the book when all of his learnings throughout his journey are added up and he teaches these to the next generation of children. He teaches love and emphasization, the importance of not having prejudice and having love of mankind to the children, and so much more, in a monologue of two-three pages. Although Alyosha is wavering in his faith, he does not waver in his love for mankind and hopes of a unified future. One of the greatest character conclusions of all time for sure.

EDIT 2: yeah, this is basically perfect. Would be as of the time of writing this (20/7/2023) my 3rd favourite media and my worst (although still incredible) 10/10 rated thing.

Incredible book. I will only come to understand and learn more about this book with time. ( )
  AskG | Jul 19, 2023 |
This is one of those books I have heard about all my life and, at seventy, I decided to finally read it. I have never read it twice, although goodreads insists that I am reading it for the second time. (I do not know how to fix that.)

I have previously read and enjoyed Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.” In that book, this mid-nineteenth century author brought out his own Christian faith—and his mastery of the nuances of other people’s faith—in a more limited way than he does here. (That novel was about a man who commits murder, and his guilt, as well as his fear of the inevitable discovery of his guilt. One of the people he deals with is a Columbo-like police inspector who may or may not already suspect him of the murder, and another is a woman whose faith leads him to ask her to read the Bible with him. There: There is more to it than that, but I almost summed up a very long novel for you.)

Names of people in this novel are meaningful or suggestive. "Karamazov" could be understood to mean "smeared black," which is exactly what happens to the family as a result of having their dirty laundry aired in public via a scandal. The illegitimate son in the family is named "Smerdyakov," which could mean "son of a stinking bitch."

In the first part of “Karamazov,” the author makes a leisurely exploration of Russian religion in the nineteenth century, acknowledging various attitudes among the different social classes, some of whom have a thoroughly superstitious faith while others are more modern and have almost no faith at all. In between, the author explores quite a wide range of views. He also explores how different religious persons regard each other; they don't always get along.

In the first major scene, the Karamazovs visit a starets, or holy man (a similar holy woman would be called a staretsa), who lives at the local monastery in the small town where the family estate is located. This holy man’s history is covered in the course of the early chapters of the novel. He was a wandering monk for decades, but now he lives among monks and offers pastoral service including prayers, advice, and even laying on of hands to religious and lay people alike. He is even regarded as having special powers of healing and prophecy. He is old and dying even as the novel begins, but he still sees visitors in a way that might be dignified by the term "audience."

When the men of the Karamazov family visit the starets, we see how outrageous, inappropriate, and dysfunctional they are. Alyosha, the youngest Karamazov—himself a novice or would-be monk—is thoroughly embarrassed by the carryings on of his father and brothers as each seems to be trying to outdo the others in their irreverent and even blasphemous behavior, but Alyosha is amazed by how tolerant the starets is of them.

When the father, Fyodor, utters a series of outrageous lies and then spontaneously admits it, the starets gives him perhaps the best advice he gives anyone: “Stop lying, especially to yourself.”

At one point, the starets goes over and falls at the feet of Alyosha’s brother, Dmitri, who seems to take this gesture in stride, perhaps thinking he is being honored. The starets does not explain it at the time, but he later tells someone that he only made this gesture because he foresees that Dmitri is doomed to do something monumentally outrageous. (Foreshadowing.)

Dmitri wants his father to give him his inheritance, and he basically hopes that the starets will help with this problem. This is a striking parallel to the biblical passage that begins at Luke 12:13: “And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And he [that is, Jesus] said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?” As did Jesus, the starets declines to interfere with the family’s money issues.

The fourth Karamazov brother is Smerdyakov, who is probably Fyodor's illegitimate son and works as Fyodor's servant. (He does not rate going to audiences with the local starets.)

Dmitri, Fyodor, and Ivan Karamazov are all in love (or in lust) with the same woman, Grushenka, while at least two of them are involved in different ways with yet another woman. Dmitri is particularly furious with and jealous of his father whom he physically and brutally attacks in front of witnesses at one point. He stalks his father while on the lookout for whether Grushenka comes to Fyodor. Dmitri thinks that if he can obtain the money he wants, then he can take Grushenka away.

The reader comes to see that all of Dmitri’s plans are unrealistic. He is an impulsive mess. At one point, he goes to visit a sharp business man and makes a proposal. The businessman tells him a truth and a cruel lie. He honestly admits that he is not interested in Dmitri’s proposal, but then he tells him that there is a man in another town who would be interested. This turns out to be a wild goose chase. Dmitri wastes his time and the little money he has left to find the man, who turns out to have no interest in and, probably, no ability to take Dmitri up on his business plan. Dmitri hurries home, imagining that Grushenka has gone to his father in the meantime. But the reader has met Grushenka in this meantime and learned that she is seems not to be interested in either Fyodor or Dmitri (for now at least). She comes to respect Alyosha who is an all-around Mr. Nice Guy and not interested in her sexually. Maybe she only really likes bad boys, and maybe a guy who is liable to reject her or use her is preferable to the lustful but puppy-ish Karamazovs. Surprisingly, Grushenka changes her mind later and decides that she does love Dimitri. Or thinks that she does, and this comes about because of that dreadful thing that the starets predicted that Dimitri was going to do.

In the middle of the novel is a murder mystery. First, we see Dimitri wandering around covered in blood, and people he meets seem curious but not moved to immediately call the police. Dimitri suddenly has a lot of money, and he throws it around. He travels to a nearby town where he has learned that Grushenka has gone to meet the man who wronged her many years ago. After Dimitri spends a night of carousing and winning back the affections of Grushenka, the police arrive, and Dimitri is arrested for the murder of his father. He is humiliated and dragged back to town. Grushenka now becomes more devoted to him than ever.

The evidence against Dimitri is analyzed in detail, and it looks like an open and shut case. The climax of the novel is a trial in which a clever prosecutor and equally wily defense attorney fight it out in court, dealing with surprise evidence and odd witnesses. both attorneys have the wrong end of the stick it seems. By this point, the reader has been given evidence that none of the other characters seem to have.

One flaw in this novel may be that the narrator, who gives us some exculpatory evidence, does not reveal it to anyone else. This narrator is a character in the story, but he only observes things. How did he find out about the exculpatory evidence? Do some things take place outside of his view and yet wind up in his narrative?

There are many social insights into the changes that Russian society was going through in the late nineteenth century. (This novel was published in late 1879.) Strikingly familiar to us is the defense attorney's arguments for social relativism. Maybe Dimitri killed his father, he argues, or maybe he did not. But looked at a certain way, he asks, is murder really murder? As clever as the lawyer's sophistry might be, the reader cannot help but see that he is doing his client, Dimitri, a disservice, because Dimitri—who is being tried on earth, not in the abstract realm where his lawyer seems to be arguing—maintains that he did not murder his father. Arguing that it doesn't really matter if he killed him is not really helping Dimitri.

There is another subplots about a boy who throws a rock at Alyosha, and Alyosha later finds out why. He meets the boy’s impoverished family. This plot picks up again in the second half of the novel, when Alyosha befriends another young boy whom Dostoevsky uses as a mouthpiece for ideas popular in the late nineteenth century that the author took a dim view of, Alyosha politely disagrees with the boy but offers him friendship. This subplot is dropped for a while, but it is picked up in the epilogue where a funeral takes place. This is a curious place to end the novel, because the aftermath of the trial could have been the focus. Instead, what happens to Dimitri and Ivan is left in the air. Nevertheless, it makes sense to tie up this other subplot. Alyosha comes to the fore as the moral center for everyone in the novel as he dispenses wisdom to the funeral-goers. I detect in him the influence of his master, the starets. Some day, Alyosha will be like him, because he already is like him.

There is a famous digression early in the book in which Ivan tells Alyosha a story about Jesus appearing in Spain during the Inquisition, with a surprising dialogue between the Grand Inquisitor and Jesus. The Inquisitor is not happy to see Jesus come back when the Church has gone to the trouble of disabusing people of the notion that they can have self-worth and spiritual liberation.

In another remarkable scene, Ivan converses with the devil during an episode of what the author calls brain fever.

Although reading this well-told story has its rewards, it is not always easy. There are many drawbacks for the modern reader and many inside baseball (or rather, inside religion, literature, and politics) aspects. Also, the characters have multiple names and you will need to know all of their names to keep track of some characters. There are nineteenth-century narrative foreshadowings in which the narrator tells the reader what is going to happen later. He also uses stuffy expressions to connect his thoughts in ways that a modern writer would dispense with. There are literary and religious in-jokes especially when the more irreligious Karazamovs butcher the scriptures. (They also butcher secular literature.) Even the defense attorney (deliberately?) misquotes his sources to make the point that he wants to make rather than the one the author he is quoting wanted to make. (This could seem like a satirical critique of post-modernism/deconstruction a century before these literary ideologies arose in academia.)

The most read translation of “The Brothers Karamazov” into English is probably that of Constance Garnett, who I believe first published her translation in 1912. I find her style stuffy and possibly stuffier than Dostoevsky’s own style. I prefer the translations of Dostoevsky by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. They are relatively more modern, and, apparently, they combine Pevear's understanding of how English should sound with Volokhonsky's understanding of what Russian expressions mean. They thereby seem to do justice to the original. ( )
  MilesFowler | Jul 16, 2023 |
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» Add other authors (96 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dostoevsky, Fyodorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anhava, MarttiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Avsey, IgnatTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bazzarelli, EridanoForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brockway, HarryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davidson, FrederickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eichenberg, FritzIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eng, Jan van derTranslatorsecondary 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
Polledro, AlfredoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Portugués, José MaríaForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prina, SerenaEditor and Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pyykkö, LeaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rogers, T. N. R.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rudzik, O.H.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sales, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Trast, V. K.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Volokhonsky, LarissaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yarmolinsky, AvrahmIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zambrano Barragán, J.Translatorsecondary 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)
[Introduction] The Brothers Karamazov is a joyful book. (Peavear/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 . . . 
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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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Wikipedia in English (1)

Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

What is free will? Is redemption possible? Can logic help us answer moral questions? Renowned Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky tackles all of these topics and many more in this remarkable novel, widely regarded as one of the classic masterpieces of literature. Follow the Karamazov family through the travails that transpire after the murder of their father, and expand your intellectual horizons with a work that celebrated thinkers such as Einstein, Freud, and Pope Benedict XVI cite as one of their favorites.


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Book description
Tre fratelli con caratteri molto diversi: uno orgoglioso e sensuale, uno razionale fino all'eccesso e uno sinceramente religioso; un figlio illegittimo malato ed emarginato ed un padre avaro e crudele, odiato e disprezzato da tutti.
Haiku summary
Sad Russian people
griping about God and stuff.
Wish Dad was still here.

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