Week #18: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
A wealthy man with many enemies is gruesomely murdered. His three sons are suspected, and one son is arrested. A lengthy trial ensues, but the son’s alibi doesn’t hold up because of a complicated love triangle.
But guess what? The butler did it.
Pretty typical thematic tropes, right? So what makes The Brothers Karamazov such a great work of classic literature? Probably the impassioned moral and philosophical arguments laid out in the novel about free will, existentialism, morality, and reason. Each of the three Karamazov brothers engenders a different philosophy. Dmitri, like his father, is a sensualist who loves women, wine, and spending his money. Ivan plays the rationalist and is the only son with a strong education. Alyosha, much like Prince Myshkin from The Idiot, is a Christ-like figure who has devoted his life to God.
I read (er… listened to) most of this novel on audiotape. I downloaded it from http://librivox.org/, and probably couldn’t have gotten through it any other way. I listened to many chapters repeatedly before I felt I had grasped the themes and even the basic plot lines. I started to read the book many times before I enlisted the help of an audio recording, but I just couldn’t manage the Russian names, frequent footnotes, and the hefty weight of the 1100 page tome. Even with the listening aid, it still took me almost three months to get through the entire story.
Although I’d definitely recommend The Brothers Karamazov, I’d even more strongly recommend audiobooks.