The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Larissa Volokhonsky, Richard Pevear

I've delayed this review because I was (and I am) strongly convinced that adding my opinion to the list of million of opinions in the world about the book was..unnecessary. Particularly because giving to The Brothers Karamazov 4 stars could be judged as a crime! But, to appease the potentially angry crowd, I don't have anything to say about the outstanding quality of the book, 


The Brothers Karamazov is an explicative title: apart from clarifying that the story is about three brothers (Dimitri, Ivan and Aljosa) and their tormented lives in the year taken in examination, for me it's also a masterful sum-up of the human content of these 800 pages. Even if Aljosa is clearly the leading character and somehow the hero of the story, the book is not called Aleksej Karamazov but it involves all the three brothers. There's a strongly intellectual division: Aleksej is the kind, caring, understanding and above all fatifhul soul; Dimitri is the impulsive, passional one (he's not fully aware of himself like Ivan or Aljosa), Ivan instead is the most intellectual of the tree: skeptical so faithless, a bit nietzscheian (even if without success), more tormented and wavering than Aljosa (not exactly ambiguos) if we consider the moral side, like a living human without a God behind should be if he's not an evil.  Here we are clearly reasoning with chief systems, in fact the three tendencies would be partial and a little "exaggerated" if not related to the other two. If we unite the three tendencies we have somehow the contraddiction and multitudes of a single "standard" human soul. Sometimes faithful, loving; sometimes skeptical, in crysis, uncertain, wavering and full of suspicion; and sometimes impulsive, unreasoning, dedicated to follow our istincts without much thought about it. Clearly everyone tends to be more an Aljosa (admirable, then!) or a Dimitri, or defintely closer to Ivan than Aljosa on the intellectual side. I'm Ivan in my deepest inner world, but I try when I remember it to be more an Aljosa, particulary towards other human beings. I end up being a sort of mix between them, I'm not so masterfully crafted as a human being to be a sort of saint like Aljosa and sometimes I don't even try too hard (my most sincere apologies).  My mother would say that I underestimate my dimitrian part, and she's probably right. Not because she's the mum (not only! c'mon!), but because I have my passions too. So, maybe you don't know it (!), but a dostoesvkijan container is so large that pratically it contains the whole human soul, represented by the three kind of human answers to the question "how do your person respond to the word reason?" (and I would add the condition of intelligence then, because you are not able to be Ivan or Aljosa if you don't even have any ability in the exercise of thought. That's understandable, extremely developped consciences like Dostoevskij somehow need to reflect extremely developped inner worlds in their characters). And now, when I say The Brothers Karamazov, what Dostoevskij tried to face here is reassuringly clear.


Let's not deepen the father issue too, I would finish tomorrow and I have to please myself with some good food in my stomach (and it's painfully rare sometimes, Karamazovs suffers for big issues but sometimes I just want a *good* cake to be temporarily satisfied with my life). 

So how the three reacts to a disgrace of a father is explicative for the conflct between passions and reason, now identified with social laws for example, not anymore with the only intellectual side. Ivan's reaction to a certain fact in the second part is a model of the Freudian side of the novel (even more for DImitri if you think that I'm making a reference to Oedypus, even I was thinking more about the cohabitation of conscious and subconscious), and the entire second part of the novel too. Their impulses towards the father were extremely understandble, but what divides the freedom of feeling and the responsabily of acting?

That trial somehow seemed to invole every conscience in the tension between ourselves and the average morality. 

(show spoiler)

In general, the reactions to all the ugliness in the world (the evil in Smerdjakov, the father, death and so on) are one of the tension deployed during the story. 


Now, sorry for the long post and let's deal with the big why: 4 stars?!

It's only an emotional matter that prompted me to not give the highest rating. Even if I was interested and admired by the represented multitudes (even in the style, sometimes tragically emotive, sometimes humoristic, sometimes deeply philosophical, like all the waves which moves a lifetime), I was not truly fond of the entire novel. I love with all myself White Nights, but in this case my appreciation is mostly reflective and not instinctive, emotional like the unconditional affection between two creatures. We could say that the Ivan in me appreciated this book, but not the dimitrian part. Ouch! 

Why? I can't tell with rigor: maybe because it was explicitely and infinitely more inclined to the intellectual chief systems than White Nights, who involved me as a single person and type. And it could not be a critic, but in some way this affected the more primordial attachment to the story. It would not even be a coherent reason for my person, given that I loved The Myth of Sysiphus for example,  I tend to be fond of the figures with who I share my thoughts about life, and I'm really interested in many philosophical matters. Maybe because I tend to avoid theology and all the intellectual tensions in this book was mainly towards the question of God and faith? No, this exact philosphical matter doesn't engage me like others. 

A lot of questions and no certain anwers. A typical dostoevskijan novel has so many implications that it's difficult to explain rationally the hows and whys of the emotional reactions to them.