The Brothers Karamasov
Dostoyevsky spent nearly two years writing this, his last novel, which was published as a serial in The Russian Messenger and completed in November 1880. Dostoyevsky intended it to be the first part in an epic story titled The Life of a Great Sinner, but he died less than four months after its publication.
The Brothers Karamazov is a passionate philosophical novel that enters deeply into the ethical debates of God, free will, and morality. It is a spiritual drama of moral struggles concerning faith, doubt, and reason, set against a modernizing Russia. Dostoyevsky composed much of the novel in Staraya Russa, which is also the main setting of the novel. Since its publication, it has been acclaimed all over the world by intellectuals as diverse as Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Martin Heidegger, Cormac McCarthy and Kurt Vonnegut as one of the supreme achievements in literature.
Although it was written in the 19th century, The Brothers Karamazov displays a number of modern elements. Dostoyevsky composed the book with a variety of literary techniques, which led many of his critics to characterize his work as "slipshod". Though privy to many of the thoughts and feelings of the protagonists, the narrator is a self-proclaimed writer; he discusses his own mannerisms and personal perceptions so often in the novel that he becomes a character. Through his descriptions, the narrator's voice merges imperceptibly into the tone of the people he is describing, often extending into the characters' most personal thoughts. There is no voice of authority in the story (see Mikhail Bakhtin's Problems of Dostoyevsky's Poetics for more on the relationship between Dostoyevsky and his characters). In addition to the principal narrator there are several sections narrated by other characters entirely, such as the story of the Grand Inquisitor and Zosima's confessions. This technique enhances the theme of truth, making many aspects of the tale completely subjective.
It has been brought to screen a number of times in a number of languages, notably in one 1958 version starring Yul Brynner, Richard Basehart, and William Shatner, the latter in a screen debut.
- Revenant, January 2013
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