The Brothers Karamazov - 1: A Nice Little Family

1.18.2014

(A number of bloggers I follow write their thoughts on lengthy books as they go along.  In fact, I believe one of them did this for The Brothers Karamazov in the last year or so.  Credit to them for the good idea!)

Vilhelm Hammershøi - The Collector of Coins - Google Art Project

For years, I've wanted to read this novel.  I enjoyed The Idiot and Notes from Underground, and people only say good things about this one.  Coinciding with o's Russian Literature 2014 challenge, it seemed high time to put it off no longer!

The Brothers Karamazov is divided into 4 parts or, if you like, 12 books.  I do like this format.  If I'm to read a long book, short chapters are preferable.  (Moby-Dick is similar, except that there are no parts or subdivisions.)  Anyways - I plan to write a post for each book.  Because "book journalling" inherently requires talking about plot twists, many of these posts will be spoilery. I'll add page cuts when I get to those parts.

In book 1 we jump right away to meeting the main characters.  Always a good sign!  The Karamazov patriarch, if he could possibly earn that title, is Fyodor Pavlovich.  He's a vile wife-abuser who spends most of his time sleeping around.  Moving on to his sons, the brothers of the title.  I was expecting them to be mutual enemies for some reason - so far that is not the case.  The oldest, Dmitri, is described as rather uneducated and quick-tempered.  Ivan and Alyosha are his younger half-brothers.  Ivan is a reclusive, bookish atheist, while Alyosha is a little less withdrawn and also very religious, hoping to become a monk.

Book 1 simply ends with the family about to come together (for the first time, perhaps?) to discuss Dmitri's dispute with the father over money and inheritance.  In a quirky turn of events that is very Dostoyevsky, the meeting will take place in the home of Zosima, an elder at the monastery and Alyosha's mentor.  Alyosha is already embarrassed, afraid his family's irreverent behavior will offend Zosima, who has become to him, in essence, the father Fyodor should have been.  As in the The Idiot, I predict some very long conversations coming up in book 2.

In Dostoyevsky's introduction, Alyosha is said to be the hero of this book.  I can see that - he reminds me a lot of Prince Myshkin.  I guess I'll inevitably be making this comparison throughout...hopefully not to Alyosha's discredit. I honestly can't imagine a more endearing suffering hero than Myshkin (except Gregor Samsa, but that's from a different author  :) ).  Some of you perhaps have read both already - which character did you prefer?

2 comments :

  1. When I read BK with a group of folks a couple of years ago, they did not say only good things! Holy cow, no. There were loud complaints about prose, structure, characterization, the long section of Zosima's wisdom, and more.

    Yet we did all right with the novel in the end, even if there was a struggle along the way.

    I read the books in the reverse order, but either way the Alysoha-Myshkin comparison is impossible to escape. Dostoevsky is revisiting and revising his ideas. A big difference is that Alyosha is presented withing his normal world, his family and home, while Myshkin is an outsider.

    Your painting is well chosen! I always enjoy seeing Hammershoi.

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    1. It's one of my favorite pictures. :) Thanks for your thoughts! I love reading authors' character types in different settings, so I'll be definitely looking forward to that part of it.

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