At the end of September, I wrote about my frustration about Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov, and more specifically, about the fact that the story seemed to take too long to even start. I concluded that the book was never supposed to be about a murder trial, but about the characters and their arcs. At that time, I was also reading the book with a specific eye for clues about the (future) murderer, whom I believed to turn out Ivan at the time.
I finished the book yesterday morning. Here's my professional opinion, which I'm obligated to give:
The book is absolutely BRILLIANT.
And now onto other notes:
- I was wrong about the murderer, as it wasn't Ivan but Smerdyakov, who turned out to be the flawless combination of who Raskolnikov (Crime and Punishment) and Kirillov (Devils) wanted to be in their respective stories. He feels no remorse or guilt about his act and is therefore above the law ("all acts are lawful"), and he commits suicide out of a whim, apparently without hesitation or being forced by anyone else.
- The narration, as is typical for Dostoevsky, zooms in and out from an omniscient narrator to a first person spectator at the trial.
- The ending is seemingly left open, and this is done on purpose. The question of will they succeed in rescuing Mitya never gets answered, same with will Ivan survive his illness, but those are both wrong questions. The real ending is about Mitya's inability to suffer, Ivan's resolved conscience and the price he paid for it, and Alyosha's endless hopefulness and love for life.
- Everything that happened in the story before the trial begins was essential to the trial itself, and I now see why Dostoevsky had to use half of the book to prepare for the spectacle. But man was it frustrating to read when I didn't yet know this.
- Did I mention the book is a perfect masterpiece? It's like each time I read a Dostoevsky novel, I'm more confused about which of them is his best work. They're all so different, but all equally on point. But I guess, if I had to pick, I'd say my favorite is either this, or Devils, or C&P, or Notes from Underground. (Or The Idiot, or The Meek One, or White Nights...)
Anyway, I'm happy and shocked that a book this good was written. (And sad that I'll never get to read any of Dostoevsky's major works for the first time ever again.)