Thursday 2 January 2014

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky was my pick for the Classic Club Spin #4 .

I knew that reading 985 pages by the 1st Jan would be a big ask, especially with Christmas, New Year's Eve and an interstate holiday to keep me otherwise occupied.

So I don't feel guilty about admitting that, tonight, I'm only up to page 341. For those of you who now the story, this brings me to Ivan's tirade/poem about religion, God and Jesus!
I'm thoroughly enjoying the story. I finally got a good run at it today - NYD, lazing by the pool at a very peaceful resort in Bunker Bay, WA (see photo below).

The brothers are diverse personalities with just a few relationship issues!

Their father's scenes read like an old Laurel & Hardy set piece, but instead of custard pies being tossed around, it's vodka shots being tossed back.

Dostoyevsky has a lot to say about the state of Russia, Europe & religion. Some of these sections get a little long winded and seem a tad self-indulgent (nowadays they'd be heavily edited).

I prefer his discussions and observations on human nature. Truth, lies & the meaning of life are pondered by his large cast of characters. Their concern with relationships, security, right & wrong move the story forward and provide much of the drama in the story.

Although it is over 130 years since The Brothers K was published, it is still possible to recognise many of the characters and their personalities.

I guess that's what makes this huge book a classic. Dostoyevsky's characters still have something to say to us today. Their problems and concerns are universal, with a novel twist supplied by their specific setting and times.

You don't need to know a lot about the history of Russia to appreciate The Brother's K, but it does help.
Most editions come with footnotes or notes at the back to provide some of this detail. Some translators also discuss why they chose certain phrases or words over others.

I chose the Penguin Classics David McDuff translation in the end and found it easy to read. If you'd like to check out other translations of this book go to Compare Transations.

I will add another review later in the month when I finally finish the book.

Happy New Year one and all.
I hope 2014 is a year of joy and peace and full of many, many good books.


  1. Anonymous2/1/14

    Book sounds's been sitting on my shelf for years. You have certainly started 2014 off with a great " intro-review" due to holiday committments! Happy New Year.....and as they say on this side of the world: Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!

    1. Thanks Nancy & Gelukkig Nieuwjaar to you!
      Back at work again this week and struggling to find time to read properly - the chapter I try to read before falling asleep does not always stick very well the next morning :-)

  2. Anonymous2/1/14

    I read Brothers K many years ago - I might have been a bit young to fully appreciate - although I was in my early twenties. I seem to remember liking it, but it is cwertainly hard work. I went through a short phase of enjoying the drama of the big Russian novels. I hope you enjoy the rest of it.

    Happy New Year to you.

    1. I've also read and loved a number of hefty Russian novels over the years, but it has been a while, and I am just slowing a little with my enthusiasm at the halfway mark as we go off on yet another side shoot!

  3. Every time I go to Barnes and Noble, I look at this book and wonder if I should get it. I loved Crime and Punishment. Well, I never end up buying it, but now I think next time I am there, I probably will just do it. I really like how you said that the characters are still speaking to us.

    1. It sometimes feels a little odd to recognise character traits in people that you know dressed up in characters created so long ago. But I guess that truth, lies, selfishness, contrariness and sexual games have been around for a very long time!!

  4. I just read this and it is a beast, but it really hooked me about midway through.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Melissa. I've just passed half way & feeling a little impatient with all the tangential storylines. Hoping they start to come together soon.

  5. I am so excited to read this but want to wait until I have the time to really absorb it. Great initial review!

    I looked up photos of Bunker Bay and it looks WONDERFUL! I wish I was there (winter in Canada is not something to envy ;-) )

    Happy New Year to you too!

    1. Thanks for popping by and for doing some research!
      Bunker Bay was a lovely place to holiday, although not as warm as we had hoped. We only had one pool day in the end, as the rest were blustery, low to mid 20's (°C ) - lovely for sightseeing but I need at least 26-27°C to swim!

    2. My husband did a Polar Brrr Swim last week in weather of about 6 C. Ugh! But, of course, he didn't stay in long! With all the dreary weather here, your picture looked lovely. My best friend has family in Castlemaine, so I told her about Bunker Bay. She's been all around Australia, including Perth, but she hadn't been there.


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