“Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end; but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature.. And to found that edifice on its unavenged tears; would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell me the truth” ~ From Brothers Karamazov
It took me several years to finish the last novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I started reading it before ten years and finally completed the last few chapters recently. Every time, when I went back to the previous chapters to refresh my memory, I was surprised with a new dimension of the story. Estranged relation between father and wards did disturb at one point of time. The misery of the illegitimate ward lingered for a long time. I was taken aback with the religious connotation in the novel that was expressed through Father Zosimafor long. It took several years to read the novel with patience. It was a delightful revisit of my favorite author’s final imprint!
The structure of the novel is almost linear with each character representing different facets of human behavior. The brothers, Ivan(The genius / intellectual), Dimitri (guided by gut and is sensual) and Aloysha(spiritual) and their interaction unraveling the human behavior attracted the interest of Sigmund Freudalso. Dimitrihas been tried for patricide.
Father Karamasov represents the satanic image in mythology who was the biological father who forgot to raise his off springs. It could be read as the mirror image of those who are not fit but adore a position and doomed to the fangs of destiny. He has been portrayed as the one who indulged in all sins – womanizer, penny pincher, having illegitimate ward —- but how he treated his off springs turned out to be fatal.
But when he is no more, the circumstances that lead to this void are being manifested through the responses of the brothers. Everyone got their solid opinion and priorities. The 800 plus pages full of dramatic sequences, love triangle, murder mystery, philosophical introspection, clash of ideologies is definitely going to engage the readers. Proper care should be taken not to focus on any particular character and getting carried away with his views [this is where I failed as a reader years before. I have almost considered this to be an evangelical limerick.
Crime and Punishment is also dealing with a similar subject but it was focusing on the mental state of a single human being. Here, the multitude of characters having equal prominence is being depicted in a wider canvass. It is required to portray clashes between morality, ethics, religious norms etc.
Also, the personal experiences of Dostoevsky as a prisoner, premature death of his son etc. influenced the key twists in the novel. Extreme situations in life made him to find solace in absolute. But by mental makeup, he was the one who lead the life like an existentialist. Many of his works were offshoots of existential crises [even if, the same terminology was not used by him or his contemporaries]. But Dostoevsky was never the prisoner of any “isms” and was an ardent follower of free will towards the end of his life. Might be, this is the reason why in this novel he had liberally allowed the intellectual atheist, spiritual master and the impulsive idiot to act according to their will.
Reading Dostoevsky demands lots of time and patience from your side primarily because of the size of the books he authored. Also, the complexity of the theme is often presented as a crime thriller that might misguide those who are conditioned by western thrillers. In short, Dostoevsky need to be explored like trekking snow capped mountains full of booby traps. The moment you reach zenith again you feel like being in nadir and your exploration will continue!
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The final imprint of genius – Brothers Karamazov – Sajith Nair