Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Russian Lit 101

A few months ago, someone in our October 2006 DTC Yahoo group posed a question, to the effect of what we were going to do during the long wait for our referral. Partly in jest, I responded that I would read The Brothers Karamazov, Les Miserables and War and Peace, the three longest novels I could think of. Well, today I finished The Brothers Karamazov, three months after I started it. It’s a book I had begun reading a few times before but never finished. It is a daunting work, a complex psychological novel filled with long Russian names, religious themes, greed, lust and murder and it weighs in at almost 900 dense pages. I committed to reading about ten pages a day and I figure it took about 40 total hours to complete. Suffice it to say, I think anytime spent reading great literature is well worth it.

I was already familiar with the philosophy espoused by the character of Ivan Karamazov, the intellectual brother who surmised that without God, all things are permissible; in other words, we are accountable only to ourselves. This way of thinking is internalized by Smerdyakov, a servant to, and illegitimate son of, the father, Fyodor Karamazov, and it’s how Smerdyakov justifies killing him and successfully framing another brother, Dmitry, for the murder. Aleksey, the youngest of the brothers, is a novice monk and is under the tutelage of an elder at the local monastery when the story begins. He is seen as the novel’s “hero” and moral conscience and his relationship with the other members of his family makes for some interesting dialogue. Throw in some jealousy and good old fashioned greed and you have a great novel. I know I’m enriched for having stuck with it.


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