The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

brothers k
  1. An incredibly deep and captivating book which delves into the lives of the 3 (maybe 4) Karamzov brothers and their brute of a father. Dmitri, Ivan and Alyosha (and maybe Smedyakov) are the brothers and Dmitri and Fyodor, the father, are in love with the same woman, Grushenka. Dmitri is thought to have killed his father over money and to have Grushenka to himself and much of the book revolves around this but there are also many other sub-plots. The genius of this book lies not in any action but in Dostoevsky’s in-depth analysis of the characters and what those characters come to represent. It would do the book injustice to try to summarize it so briefly here but it was clear to me after I finished why this is one of the most revered books of the last century and why it has influenced countless people from Freud to Kafka.
Key Takeaways:
  1. Details the life of faith vs the life of doubt. Dostoevsky clearly favors the life of faith even though it is the more difficult option and often never gets any recognition. Alyosha represents faith and Ivan represents doubt.
  2. Free will is at times seen as a burden because if people are free to make their own choices, then they should choose the hardships that often come with faith and religion as opposed to the comfort of doubt.
  3. People are not capable and should not judge one another – the only true judge is one’s conscience
  4. One must first truly know and love oneself before you can love God and others and the primary way to know oneself is through suffering
  5. The choice to believe in God cannot be explained in rational terms
  6. Ayosha’s elder monk, Zosima, dies and his body quickly becomes putrid which is seen as a sign of his sins even though he was greatly revered before dying. This can be seen as a symbol that great religious devotion and faith often does not receive any recognition or reward.
What I got out of it:
  1. Again, this book is too deep and complex to try to summarize here but I am very happy I read it and definitely understand why it is so revered in literary circles. I have added the rest of Dostoevsky’s works to my reading list after finishing this masterpiece and know I will come back to this book and re-read it at some point.

Read The Brothers Karamazov

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