~ 24 February 2004 ~

Books That Haunt: The Brothers Karamazov

Each Tuesday, TruePravda has featured a different book in the Books That Haunt series. This series will be on an indefinite hiatus for a while, but it is sure to surface again.

When writing about one’s favorite novel, the temptation is write too much. With that in mind, I’ll try to keep this mini-review brief. Of all novels I’ve read, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov has haunted me the most. It took me six months to read it—partly because I’m a slow reader, and partly because there is so much to digest in the novel.

The novel focuses on the murder of Fyodor Karamazov, and the intrigue surrounding the case involving his sons, each of whom represent different worldviews; Alyosha—a theistic worldview, Dmitry—a romantic worldview, Ivan—an existentialist worldview, and the illegitimate Smerdyakov, who appears as the evil outcast.

The most famous chapter of the book, “The Grand Inquisitor,” has been hailed by one critic as one of the most compelling arguments for Christianity and at the same time one of the most damning arguments against it. In my view it’s a stunning look from a Russian Orthodox writer about the need for reformation. It is here that the existentialist Ivan makes the pronouncement, “If God is dead, then all things are permissible.” I’ve alway thought it odd that Dostoevsky is so casually labeled as an existentialist, seeing how the character Ivan ends up.

Do not, however, let the philosophical nature of the book intimidate you. TBK is more than just a philosophical tome. One think I appreciate is how accurately Dostoevsky portrays the relationships between brothers.

The themes of TBK are guaranteed to stay with the reader a long time. The motif of patricide is heavily theological, and God is ever present in the book, always looming over everything that happens, always forcing man to come to terms with him.

I’d better stop here. I could truly go on for days. This is my favorite novel, bar none, and it is one that is well worth the effort of reading it.

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2 Comments:

  1. matt h. » 25 February 2004:

    I have really enjoyed Dostoevsky’s other work, so I couldn’t wait to dig into Bros. Karamazov this past summer. I got about half-way and it still haunts my shelf, laughing in my face. I’d love to finish it, but what a beast – one I have been unable to tame!

  2. Jeremy Doan » 31 January 2005:

    “The Brothers Karamozov” is one of my favorite books. I would recommend every Christian read it. It is almost impossible to single out one aspect, but I will try. The stark sincerity of Alyosha. Next to all the others characters, who are all after something, Alyosha stands out like a blinding light. He is so innocent, so simple, so naive, so emotional, so kind, so confused. He is sort of the axil around which everyone else moves. His journey throughout the novel is compelling, and, as you say, haunting. I must read it again some day soon

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