The Brothers Karamazov is a classic novel centering around the Karamazov family. The father is a sensualist, as his eldest son. The middle son is an intellectual, and the youngest son is deeply religious. Due to decades of strained relations, as well as love triangle more complicated than something from Riverdale, the father is murdered. His own son stands accused. It’s the stuff of high drama, and was a bucket list book for me to read. Unfortunately, after four months of reading, I respected but did not enjoy this masterpiece.
Giving a classic book two stars feels like a sin, but the rating isn’t a hot take. It’s an honest assessment. While certain passages and quotes from the 1880 novel stand out, about 740 pages of the 776-page novel were difficult to get through. Some of the difficulties have to do with context. The novel is old, and was written by a Russian to other Russians in order to address contemporary ideas and Western influences in Russia. Of course, the book was written in Russian, though the version I’ve linked is supposed to be one of the better English translations due to the translators keeping Dostoevsky’s playfulness in the characters’ verbal tics. However, this simply isn’t my favorite Dostoevsky work to read. Every character is “somehow” trembling, with a strange voice and wet, flashing eyes. Everyone is always running around yelling. I’m not sure there’s a normal conversation in 800 pages.
There are a lot of big ideas in the book worth exploring, but in this case I would’ve preferred a series of essays instead of this serialized story. The novel was originally printed over a couple of years in a Russian publication, and I do think it would’ve read more interesting that way. Additionally, Dostoevsky died shortly after writing the book but had planned to continue on with the characters. If some of the brothers’ storylines continued, I’m curious how that would’ve changed my understanding or enjoyment.
As a matter of cultural literacy, I recommend reading the book. I can’t in good conscience recommend it for enjoyment.