Written by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Ahh classical Russian literature… what an enigma you are to me. I love you and your lofty ideas, your pages that literally drip with existential crisis of all sorts (okay maybe not literally, that is unless you happened to find a copy of a Dostoevsky novel at your local adult book store). And yet, you can be nothing short of a chore to get through at times, spending pages and pages (and yes, even more pages!) on introducing and developing characters that only stick around for short intervals of time in the grand scheme of things. Or better yet, spend pages stating, rewording, imagining, re-imagining and finally, restating the same thoughts and beliefs by characters, one after another (after, yes, yet another!) But I believe that somewhere along that line lies the point. Russian literature is as powerful, moving, and important as it is, because of the very reasons that cause me both to love and abhor it. (Which is example number one on how Russian literature is similar to women.)
I think it took me about four months to get through this novel. For me, that’s a very God damn long time. To be fair, it’s nearly 800 pages long and is packed (make that jam-packed) with words. Tiny print too. Tiny print with big, big words. I should also note that at some point, I stopped reading it for about two months. I was just too frustrated at how slowly it was moving (example number two, hey, hey!) and how slowly I was reading it. But I came back to it because God damn it, it’s Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov”! As far as I’m concerned everyone should have to read four novels in classical Russian literature before they die, those novels being: Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” and “The Brother’s Karamazov” and Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” and “War and Peace”. I’ve got Dostoevsky’s novels down now, Tolstoy is up next… at some point.
Anyway, I’m sorry, I got off on a tangent of sorts there. Back to “The Brother’s Karamazov”. I’m glad I finished reading it, not only so I could knock an item off of my Must Read List, but also because the book is damn good once you finally relent and let is wash over you (and that’s example three of how Russian literature is like a woman, I swear these are just coming to me). I think that the reason why I like Russian literature so much is because of all the philosophising and grandiose ideas that the novels deal with. And it’s not like these grand theories and ideas are sugar-coated as they are in most modern-day literature. Quite contrarily, they are in your face and laid out in painstaking detail. It’s like reading a book by Nietzsche, but with the pretense that what you are about to read is a fantastical and intriguing story, not simply just a work of theory. That’s probably why I choose to read Russian literature over Philosophical writings, because I like my ideas presented to me as a story. One with a clear beginning, middle and end, with characters that I can care about. It’s ironic because most works written by accredited philosophers are much shorter than novels by Dostoevsky or Tolstoy, but at the end of the day the Ruskies found a way to make their stories immensely more enjoyable while the other writings often come across as nothing more than words.
Something I feel like I must note however, reading Russian literature is a heavy, heavy ordeal. It’s not all rainbows and puppy dog tails. (In fact, the only dog in “BK” is tricked into eating a piece of bread with a nail in it.) It can be a chore to get through not only due to its length, but because at some point you start to eerily relate to the dramatic and tragic suffering that nearly all classical Russian literature characters seem to go through. The good news is, you almost always come out the other side having learned something new about your self. So next fall/winter (for some reason I find reading Russian literature with snow outside your window and maybe a fire brewing in a fireplace next to you as the optimum way to experience the event – Russian literature/Women similarity number four!!) find yourself a work by Dostoevsky or Tolstoy and enjoy a very long but engaging piece of work.