The Brothers K and Karamazov

Most people who have read Dostoevsky’s masterpiece probably read it in college. Not I. My interest in the famed Russian translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky began after reading David James Duncan’s hilarious The Brothers K with a book group. This piercing look at a family, full of baseball, was both entertaining and deeply intuitive about the human condition. And for someone like me, who dislikes any mention of team sports, it was a refreshing use of the ball game to illustrate everything about this dysfunctional, yet loving family.

So, since Duncan was clearly doing some kind of take off on the Russian novel, my group decided it was time. I loved the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation of  War and Peace, and I  must also admit I am fascinated by the Russian language and culture. I was pleasantly surprised to find all the humor that is in Karamazov. It is a chore to get through all of the almost 800 pages, but I promise there is a payoff for the parts that are less than stimulating for those of us who are not philosophers or theologians.

As a reader I enjoyed getting to know Alexei, Ivan, and Dmitri in all of their imperfections. Even the fourth brother had some interesting speeches. The courtroom drama at the end of the book (I have just 35 pages to go) is a great summary, I think of the author’s intentions. That is, to dissect the culture and societal attitudes of Mother Russia at the time, to point out the silliness of the mob and social mores, and to show the  good and bad natures that exist in humankind simultaneously.

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