Friday, September 28, 2007

Books I've Read(or am reading)-Seven: The Brothers Karamazov

Well, I completed this book yesterday and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed reading this literary masterpiece.

I cannot believe how quickly the reading came to an end. Surely the sign of something I enjoyed.

The only part that aggravated me was the trial of Dimitry, or Mitya as he is also called. It would seem that the emergence of the new psychological sciences were creating quite a stir during this time and the impression I got was that Fyodor Dostoyevsky was "showing off" a bit to his readers in showing his understanding of psychology. I did not enjoy the long winded speeches of the prosecution nor the defense. Especially the defence, when he would hit upon some concrete evidence to exonerate Mitya, would pass this up to expound on themes that made Dimitry a victim of his circumstances and therefore to be forgiven on this basis.

If someone reading this blog has some insight into this that I am not seeing, please let me know.

I will not say anymore about the story in case someone reading this has not read the book. But again, apart from my above stated quibble, what a wonderful read.



Unknown said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts about this great work of Dostoevsky.
Concerning the trial, I think I was bothered like you were the first time I read it. The second (most recent) read, I came away with a different impression. I saw in it a combination of (a) commentary on the "science of the day", and (b) Dostoevsky's own sense of how we should approach the accused, or even the guilty. As an example, I think Dostoevsky expressed his personal view through this statement from the defense atty Fetyukovitch:
"It is not for an insignificant person like me to remind you that the Russian court does not exist for the punishment only, but also for the salvation of the criminal! Let other nations think of retribution and the letter of the law, we will cling to the spirit and the meaning--the salvation and the reformation of the lost."

It's interesting to consider parts of the book in light of Dostoevsky's own past, including his own imprisonment and near-death experience in front of a firing squad. I think that's where he got his inspiration for the description of time almost standing still for a criminal being taken down a couple roads towards the gallows.
I'd be interested in other thoughts you had about the novel. I put out a post at about my favorite part.

Sophocles said...


You're right. I did not think about Dostoevsky's own experience here flavoring this scene. I should have as the copy I have of the book gives a little background on the author and now what you just said makes more sense of the trial.

This being said, on a personal level, I just found it so frustrating when Fetyukovitch had in his hands evidence which I believe he could have used to trash the prosecution if he pushed with much more force such things as the envelope even being found at all, especially in the state it was in, as very telling evidence that Mitya was not the murderer.

However, in light of your above comments, I can see that the author was using this whole work for another purpose than simply to spin a compelling yarn and that Mitya's guilt or innocence was in this respect irrelevant.

Would you agree?

Unknown said...

Yes, I agree. Another thought is that Dostoevsky seems often to posit that an extreme hardship often improves a person immeasurably - including an imprisonment or hard labor. Maybe this was how he intended to "save" both Mitya and... was it Katya?

Speaking of personal experience being built into the narrative, that made it all the harder for me to get through the death of the young boy, and especially the father's demeanor at the boy's funeral - as Dostoevsky lost a child himself.

I wonder if he knew it would be his last major work - in which case he might be getting some of his most heartfelt thoughts out. The closing thoughts seem to include:
a. never, ever forget the reposed, or each other when separated
b. don't be afraid to live.

Sophocles said...


He also portrayed in a masterly way how easy it is for truth to be misunderstood and how circumstances colored the truth to such an extent that it would seem in living our ordinary lives, we often interweave our person in innumerable events and other lives and the effect that we ourselves cause and the effect of others upon us and what we are are reminiscent of the ancient Greek tragedy.

The human being is almost (from our limited perspective) adrift upon currents that shift and rise and fall and this would (for me) engender a deeper clinging to Him who is without change.