As I elaborated here, The Brothers Karamazov presents Fyodor Dostoevsky’s grand theory on God’s design of the Universe. As I also explained, Dostoevsky’s views are not at all compatible with my own as to the reality of existence. Yet, I love this book. It is no understatement to call it a sublime artistic achievement. In fact I would classify it as one of the finest works ever written.
At eight hundred pages, this is a big book. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, the buffoonish and immoral Fyodor Karamazov is father to four sons. Alyosha Karamazov is the pious and saintly youngest son. Ivan Karamazov is an intellectual atheist and sometimes a nihilist. Dmitri Karamazov, the eldest son, is hard drinking, wild spending and lives life on the edge. Pavel Smerdyakov is an illegitimate son who is depressed and resentful. Agrafena Svetlovais (Grusha) a fickle young woman that Dmitri and his father fight over. There are numerous additional characters and connections. When Smerdyakov murders his father, Dmitri is falsely accused of the crime and a trial ensues.
Dostoevsky has fashioned a work that contains some of the most dynamic and interesting characters who ever lived on paper. His writing style, at least as far as I can tell through the filter of translation, is amazingly inventive and aesthetically pleasing. The book was often hilarious when it was not tragic. The plot is extremely engaging. The novel consists of pages and pages of insights into human psychology and character, some of which are extremely perceptive as well as ahead of their time. Finally, the book is full of philosophical musings on the nature of reality that I, as I point out above, believe to be absolutely incorrect, but that is presented in a marvelous fashion.
I kind of feel the following way about the book. I got into a car with a friend in New York with the intention of driving to Los Angeles. We spent weeks on road and drove thousands of miles. We met dozens of interesting people along the way. We explored cities, towns and natural features that I never knew existed. We had great conversations with each other as well as with the multitude and diverse set of characters that we encountered along the way. I learned all sorts of things about the world and even a little bit about myself. In addition to all this, we laughed an awful lot during the trip. It turns out that my friend was never good at reading maps. After driving all this time and distance we never made it to Los Angeles, in fact, we were so far off our route we ended up in Hoboken, New Jersey. However, I cannot help thinking that had we arrived at our original intended destination the arrival might have actually have distracted me from the benefits and wonders of the journey.
Though we never made it to Los Angeles, if someone were to ask me whether or not the trip was worth it, whether or not I had a great time, whether or not I learned anything or whether or not I was changed by the journey, the answer would be so obvious that I need not even reply.
More to come on this novel.