Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Brothers Karamazov

Thanks to an old quote book and a love of underlining quotes that jump out at me I can recollect my thoughts on this book in somewhat accurate detail despite having read it in 2001.

Dostoyevsky was one of my first favorite authors. I own many of his books and have read a lot of them. I love that he focused on people with struggles. He is a master at showing the inner workings of people and the reasons they chose the actions they do.

The Brothers Karamazov is actually my all time favorite Dostoyevsky novel. I heavily identified with Aloysha the brother that chose to be a priest. My favorite quote is:

"Love God's people. Because we have come here and shut ourselves within these walls, we are no holier than those that are outside, but on the contrary, from the very fact of coming here, each of has confessed to himself that he is worse than others, than all men on earth"

At the time, I hide from the world. I felt very keenly that I was not stable and had very little trust in myself. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why I chose to go to a Christian university. After getting healing (thankfully while at university) I began to realize that I could let myself go. I could have fun and be free and that the world would not collapse. My Christianity became less about the structures and rules of religion and more about my relationship to God.

The Brothers Karamazov was one of the books that I read that showed me that life was for living. It filled me with such agreat joy to hear that there was more than just surviving.

Here is a quote that shows that best

"If I didn't believe in life, if I lost faith in the woman I love, lost faith in the order of things, were convinced in fact that everything is a disorderly, damnable, and perhaps devil ridden chaos, if I were struck by every horror of man's disillusionment-still I should want to live and having once tasted the cup I would not turn away from it till I have drained I would not turn away from it till I had drained it."

And further down that same page:

"I have asked myself many times whether there is in the world any despair that would overcome this frantic and perhaps unseemly thirst for life in me, and I've come to the conclusion that there isn't"

This book is a beautiful example of how nobody is one thing. In doing good, we are also at times evil. In doing evil we are also still good. Humanity can be best described as being a blend of the three brothers. Aloysha who has faith, Dmitri who is filled with passion and tries to live life with abandon and Ivan who pursues logic and science.

Aloysha and Ivan argue about God with Aloysha defending him and Ivan stating that suffering is horrible, and that God couldn't have created it.

Ivan tells of "The Grand Inquistor" which is a story about Christ coming back during the Grand Inquistion and being charged for giving man free will. The Church complains that God has been mistaken in believe that there is good in humanity and that they need to be controlled. The church states, they have taken this on. Talking of Gods love for man, the inquisitor complains that it would be more loving to have eased the burden of free will.

"Thou who has loved him more than Thyself. Respecting him less, Thou wouldst have asked less of him. That would have been more like love, for his burden would have been lighter.... for it will save them from the great anxiety and terrible agony they endure at present in making a free decision for themselves"

Aloysha however, is told of a more true way of being by one of his mentors

"Life will bring you many misfortunes, but you will find your happiness in them, and bless life and will make others bless it-which is what matters most"

I love that Dostoyevsky's novels always show that all behaviour is rational. Even the most horrible act often has a motive that any of us could easily understand. As humans we are a blend of both good and evil. We are as humans "capable of the greatest heights and of the greatest depths"

I was so glad to read this book when I did for I feel it helped me to reconcile a few parts of myself. I discovered I could be passionate, faithful and logical and not be contradicting myself in any sense. I count this book as probably my second favorite novel of all time only to be shadowed by East of Eden by John Steinbeck which for some reason never made this list of 100 at all. Oddly enough however it was also a story of brothers as well...


Melissa said...

Great, great review. I love that this book helped you understand yourself more. I love that God has given us free will. I have so many thoughts about that, but I don't know how to put it into words. Also, I know East of Eden isn't on your list, but I hope you do a review on it anyway because it is a wonderful book. The most wonderful thing about the story is that it brought out so many emotions in me...a lot of anger & much so that when I finished it, I thought I hated the book, but the more I thought about it in the following weeks, the more I loved it. It's so strange, but my favorite books are always the ones that bring out the strongest emotions in me, good or bad. Another book that I thought I hated when I finished it was Life of Pi, but now I think it was excellently written & one of the absolute best books I ever read. I've thought about that story so many times. Anyway, thank you, thank you. You should write for a newspaper or magazine!


bigskygirls said...

I've wanted to read this book before, but now I really want to read it. Thanks for the review!