Monday, January 04, 2010

The Brothers Karamazov

"All true Russians are philosophers!" is a revealing statement from a main character in The Brothers Karamazov, a passionate philosophical novel, hailed by many as one of the world's best pieces of literature.

It is a lengthy tale of the three sons of a dirty old buffoon, Fyodor Karamazov, who represent three personalities: the reckless sensual (Dmitri), the agnostic intellectual (Ivan), and an immensely likeable, godward young man (Alyosha).

The story is set in a small Russian town around 1870 and centers on a romantic rivalry that erupted between Fyodor and his eldest son Dmitri. This rivalry figures prominently in the murder of the father and the trial of Dmitri for the crime.

Dostoevsky’s description of the tragic Karamazov brothers and the murder of their father presents the context needed to eruditely explore philosophical questions about God’s sovereignty, the place of suffering in our world, human depravity, and redemption through pain.

The Brothers Karamazov is a long book (almost 800 pages), so I opted for an abridged audio book that still ran over 19 hours. Even abridgements cannot overcome some of the slow-moving moments where the novel labors in details. At other times, its story and dialogue are captivating. This, combined with the depth of thought behind the philosophical questioning, is what makes the book stand out as a true classic.

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