Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Review of ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ by Fyodor Dostoevsky

This is a rather long review, but I guess the book in question being over a 1000 pages makes concise a relative term. I have to confess that I love books, from the smell of a new book to rummaging through second hand book stores. So when  thought of getting something for myself with my first salary after I shopped for my had to be a book.

I am here to discuss with my readers about a book I chanced upon reading, and having come away with more than just an ordinary read I seek to share with my readers precisely what makes the book more than ordinary. The book originally meant to be primary installment of an epic story names 'The Great Sinner', turned out to be a last hurrah of the author. The book was completed in November of 1880 and was first published in 'The Russian Messenger'.

To put the book in brief would be akin to fitting Goliath into a pencil sharpener, but in this modest attempt of shedding light on this colossus I suddenly find my words. Because, it is exactly of that nature; it sheds light! It is a reflection of the physiognomy, of everything man can be but so wholly fails to become.

People will seek entertainment. What other point is there to one's life but a continuous thirst to be entertained. The book we are here to discuss today provides this entertainment in plenty. It does this by introducing us to the most dysfunctional of units known to man - 'Family', a family whose very last name translates to 'black smear'. This stench of Karamazovian quality is there for everyone to witness in the most putrid of flavours.

The author using the device of the omnipresent narrator attempts to introduce his hero - 'Alyosha Karamazov' to his readers. The youngest of the Karamazov brothers who has not achieved anything so great to fawn about, yet, is still a soul if left alone in an unknown ton, among the unknown people, he will be taken care of and people will take pleasure in taking care of him.

The plot opens with the introduction of the author's hero and his remaining brothers - Dmitri and Ivan. Another primary character introduced is 'Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov', the father who revels n his buffoonery and quite simply forgot about his children. He lives in his house with his faithful servants. There is also a coward living among the servants, one named 'Smerdyakov', who was found as a baby in the garden but is rumoured to be Fyodor Karamazov's illegitimate son.

Dmitri Karamazov, a scoundrel in his own words is also deeply in love. He is in love with the most base of woman one can scour in society, the temptress - 'Grushenka', who has tempted his thoughts away from his fiance - 'Katya'.

It is important that the readers understand that Dmitri is totally conquered by his new flame, so much so that he has a prearrangement with Smerdyakov at his father's house, a secret signal if the queen of his thoughts were to come there. It also an apt moment to reveal to my readers that the father has also fallen for the very same bast woman. The father will try to suffocate his son by denying his maternal inheritance and torture him with the thought of Grushenka choosing his father over him.

In his tortured state Dmitri turns into a raving man, he beats an old captain suspecting him of being a spy. That too in front of the captain's little son who begs Dmitri. ''Please don't beat Papa. Forgive Him!'' The book talks of how this boy fights against his father's shame and how a devil is born in his innocent mind. The devil is put to ease by the author's hero, Alyosha.

The main plot revolves around a terrible murder, that of Fyodor Karamazov. Dmitri has made constant declarations in full view of the village that he will kill his father! And now the father has finally been slain, Dmitri is ready to take his own life as he finds Grushenka has returned to her first love, her rightful lover. But, when he discovers that her first is not as indisputable as he had imagined, he finally wins his love.

In his victory comes his arrest, for the murder of his father. Dmitri is in good spirits for he feels the blood that weighed in his conscience has been washed of his hands. He admits to going to his father's house, he says he went to kill him and waited at his father's window to kill him but in the end when his father peeked outside, he did not kill him! He proceeded to hit the servant, but the servant did not die, so there is no blood on his hands!

The circus of the trial ensues and consumes the whole of Russia. Will they believe him? Or as Ivan Karamazov declares "Viper will eat Viper, and it would serve them both right!"

My readers, there are many facets of the book that I have left out for the sake of conciseness, but it will ring through your hears both as pleasing as a meandering river and a s torrid as a waterfall.

The reader will learn how not to feel shame at his tears, for his heart is capable of being moves hence, heaven has sent him these tears. the reader will learn on the matters of conscience and redemption, and how a monk is born in person.

I end my review with an advice to my readers, to read this book as a challenge. The challenge does not involve understanding the author's thoughts but also to question those very thoughts at every oppurtunity presented.

Contributed by Nikhil Mallikarjun