Shakespeare, Dickens, Homer, Mark Twain, Walt Disney, History.
I avoided this book for a long time: who wants to read a book about a person who's so good everyone around him thinks he's an idiot?
Boy, was I wrong. This is an intense and brooding novel, filled with Dostoevsky's usual array of deeply conflicted characters and blistering monologues. The idiot himself, Prince Myshkin, is no pushover: maybe he's a bit naive at times, but he insists on treating people as equals and assuming their good intentions until contrary evidence is overwhelming. He suffers from epilepsy, and in the course of the novel has a couple of seizures that dramatically alter the direction of the story.
Superficially, the novel is about Myshkin's conflicted relationships with two women: Aglaya, the youngest daughter of a distant relative, with whom he is in love; and Anastassya Filippovna, a "fallen woman" who's been fobbed off by her former lover and who seems to be drifting from one self-destructive relationship to another. Myshkin may have loved her once, but now he mainly pities her. Aglaya, who at one point seems willing to marry Myshkin, ultimately breaks off because of his obsession with Anastassya.
But that's only one small facet of this complex, teeming book. The characters are captivating, the scenes at times almost hypnotic in their intensity. I've only read a few of Dostoevsky's novels, but so far I'm inclined to say this is probably my favorite.
Robert Whitfield (=Simon Vance) gives a stellar reading. Of particular note is his ability to distinguish the voices of the many women in the book: sometimes the shading is subtle, but I always knew instantly who was talking. Well done, highly recommended.
Constantine Gregory decided to give a reading of the Constance Garnett translation of "The Brothers Karamazov". Constance Garnett is no longer considered the best translator of Dostoevsky. She goes to great length to "pretty up" the rather rough and bumpy language of the original. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s new translation of "The Brothers Karamazov" is now regarded by most critics to be definitive as it does not try to mask Dostoyevskys idiosyncratic prose.
Gregory gives a rather calm and relaxed rendering of the work, which is nice in the long run.
My dream "audio" Karamazov would be David Horovitch narrating the Pevear and Volokhonsky’s translation.
However as it stands now, this version by Constantine Gregory is the best "Karamazov" available.