Once upon a time, there were three brothers…Dmitri, impulsive, sensual, passionate; Ivan, scholarly and rational; and Aloysha, an angelic young novice. Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, their father, a man who refers to himself as a “buffoon,” treated his sons poorly, and they were hard pressed to care for him. In fact, Dmitri actively despises his father, and Part I of this hugely complex novel precludes the denouement which will occur between them. Thrown into the mix is a woman whom they both profess to love, setting the stage for disaster.
Russian novels remind me of hearty, rich stews, with multitudes of complex and fascinating characters blended together in a rich and spicy broth of passion and intrigue. I’m fascinated by the many levels at work in this book, which reads at times like the raciest of potboilers, and at others like a philosophical treatise. In Part I, Dostoevsky introduces us to the characters, defines their motivations, and acquaints us with the world and society in which they move. As I read, I wonder about what has shaped the characters of each of these young men – particularly of Aloysha, who, in his angelic, Christ like goodness, is so diametrically opposed to his father’s baseness.
There are many rich, emotional moments in Part I -the visit to the monestery, where Aloysha’s mentor, Zosima the monk, is on his deathbed, but yet manages to spend time with this troubled and haunted family. There are many references to lost children, made the more heartbreaking if the reader knows Dostoevsky was mourning the loss of his own three year old son. The story of Lizaveta, and the birth of her illegitimate child. In less than 200 pages, Dostoevsy has already presented a tale of epic, Biblical proportions.
For faith plays a major part in this story, from Aloysha’s wholehearted embracing of God’s love to brother Ivan’s total renunciation. I’m interested to see how faith will play a role in their lives as events in their future unfold.
~The Brothers Karamazov read-along is hosted by Dolce Belleza.