Dostoevsky's fascinating exploration of religion, Russia, family and evil -- the 3 Brothers Karamazov -- is likely one of the top 10 novels of all time.
Maybe I'm mellowing. I found Dostoevsky's THE IDIOT more enjoyable and compelling. I also prefer Tolstoy.
A general thought and criticism of Dostoevsky's work: though I don't know much of Dostoevsky's background, I believe he was mistreated by the opposite sex; I find his females hysterical (and I don't use that term to mean "extremely funny").
An assessment of the narration: the narrator has 2 of the 4 important male characters, the father and son Dmitri, neighing like drunken geldings.
When I purchased this, I only knew I love the poetry of Rilke and that I had read many positive reviews of this compilation of his letters to a young poet.
I had no idea that this is a true chest of treasures. I purchased the Kindle version to go along with listening to this audiobook (the narration of which is outstanding). I kept placing bookmarks on the audible version and then highlighted the text in Kindle. This is quite a futile endeavor because, as I found, well over half deserves special emphasis.
I will share only my favorite quote, after saying that this book of letters, and particularly this translation into English, is worth a credit in my opinion for its encouragement of creativity and a love of life and for the testimonials from the great artists over the past decades who have been deeply and positively affected by these letters.
"... try, like the first human being, to say what you see and experience and love and lose. Don't write love poems; avoid at first those forms which are too familiar and habitual: they are the hardest, for you need great maturity and strength to produce something of your own in a domain where good and sometimes brilliant examples have been handed down to us in abundance. For this reason, flee general subjects and take refuge in those offered by your own day-to-day life; depict your sadnesses and desires, passing thoughts and faith in some kind of beauty--depict all this with intense, quiet, humble sincerity and make use of whatever you find about you to express yourself, the images from your dreams and the things in your memory. If your everyday life seems to lack material, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to summon up its riches, for there is no lack for him who creates and no poor, trivial place."
I was new last Fall to this Tolstoy masterpiece when I read it and listened in part. I came to it skeptical, under the mistaken impression that it was simply about Anna Karenina, her terminal love affair and her despicable selfishness toward her son and everyone else in the end. I thought "Anna K" was simply a story of this lady showing the tragic consequences of self-centeredness and the lack of any moral compass.
I was mistaken; the foregoing is only part of the story and should only be viewed in the context of the novel's three (or four) other relationships to appreciate the beauty of this Tolstoy masterwork.
Both the Russian Giants (Leo and Dostoevsky) play consistently the themes of man/woman's relationship to and with God and with spouse, the internal struggles of faith versus doubt and monogamy and morality versus free will, as well as the ongoing, infinite war between good and evil with all the skirmishes on the fringe.
These themes are arguably no where more dramatically displayed for study, contemplation and interpretation for all time by scholars, thinkers and, most importantly, lovers of literature in a quite timeless story of tragedy and relationships among and between:
Anna K in her tragic affair with the younger Count Vronsky
Her relationship with the controlling, but cuckolded husband Karenin and his capacity (or not) to move on and be a father to their son;
the steady, thinking farmer Levin and his courtship of and marriage to young, gorgeous and shallow Kitty who was once infatuated with Vronsky; and,
the unsteady, unfaithful social-hound Stiva Oblonsky (Anna's brother) and his loyal wife Dolly (Kitty's sister), the exemplary and unappreciated mother of his children, who catches herself daydreaming and fantasizing of what it may be like to have a torrid, short-term affair of body and soul.
Over this rocky terrain, Tolstoy fashioned an extraordinary and unforgettable mindtrip through the passions of humanity. YOUR destination should be some measure of SELF-revelation. Probably, it's varies from mine, maybe even antithetical. That is Tolstoy's point: a narrative to make you think and feel.