Fyodor Dostoyevsky is a titanic figure among the world's great authors, and The Brothers Karamazov is often hailed as his finest novel. A masterpiece on many levels, it transcends the boundaries of a gripping murder mystery to become a moving account of the battle between love and hate, faith and despair, compassion and cruelty, good and evil.
Public Domain (P)2013 Naxos AudioBooks
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.
I wonder what inspired Dostoyevsky to write this novel? During the trial it is mentioned that there was a woman in St. Petersburg who had given birth and then killed the infant, hiding the little body and then later it was discovered she had done this numerous times. I wonder if, assuming that story is true, Dostoyevsky began to wonder about how difficult it would be to forgive someone like that, to see into their heart and find something good. This novel is, after all, about that very idea, the idea of never being able to know what goodness really lies in another persons heart and how difficult it is, or even how inappropriate it is, to judge anyone, no matter how evil they have been.
The novel ends with a promise, a promise that all the boys and Aloysha will never forget each other, never forget little Ilyusha, and never forget the goodness of their childhood memory together. Even, if later, they grow cynical or do many terrible things, Aloysha asks them to always remember this one good moment in their life because it may save them someday, just as an onion almost saved another sinner. Those small moments of goodness could, at least in the eyes of God, be the one link to salvation for even the most terrible sinner.
The novel also deals with the questions of faith and belief and it is these parts I found most fascinating because Dostoyevsky makes the strongest case I've yet heard that counters the scientific arguments of logic and reason. And while I think Dostoyevsky was too hard on science and too opposed to the good science can do for humanity, he does show how logic and reason can absolutely condemn an innocent person. At times I wondered if Dostoyevsky was trying to tell us it would be better just to forgive all criminals and then let God figure it all out later.
And that's the real issue here: forgiveness. How difficult is it really to forgive someone. Not just any regular sinner either, but a person who has done something horribly terrible. And what sort of world would we live in if we did, in fact, forgive everyone easily? A world where we forgive a terrorist or the rapist of a child? Can we even imagine such things? In the character Smerdyakov we have someone who is cunning and ruthless and who takes advantage of the people around him, but we never really know why he does what he does. Smerdyakov is the closest character to the 'main villain', but we never get his own thoughts, we only see him through the eyes of others. He is difficult to forgive because we don't know him, yet this is exactly they point Dostoyevsky is trying to make: we MUST forgive Smerdyakov, he is in the greatest need of it as Father Zosima alluded to earlier in the novel.
Dostoyevsky is not foolish enough to think that we can always forgive, however. He knows we will always be carried away by our emotions and passions. He knows those passions will lead us to do terrible things and to also condemn others, too. He quite clearly sees the onion layers that make up human interactions, the dual nature of all people who can be both good and bad at the same time. He knows how complicated people really are. But he also plants that seed of doubt in our mind while reading this novel as to if we really are qualified to pass judgment on any person. He wants us to know that nothing is what it seems and even when we are positive we know a person we might very well be wrong about them. He's showing us the danger of gossip, of judgment, of not walking in another person's shoes. And he's also showing us how we are all conflicted, how we ebb and flow between goodness and sin and even how what we perceive in others as sin might actually be virtue as in the case of little Ilyusha and his father, Captain Snegiryov, or even the Grand Inquisitor who though his actions go against God he is actually doing so because he is for God.
Then there is the faith question, the tricky nature of how faith works. Here he shows us that if God himself showed up at our doorstep and said "I am God, here I am", we would actually doubt the existence of God even more. But the lack of any proof of God, the absence of proof is the very thing that is needed for their to be faith. If we know for certain there is the possibility of salvation at the end of life then what point would life have since that would take away our own free will? We would already know beforehand if we are saved or doomed so why bother going through the motions?
The book even goes so far as to make me want to be a better person. I found myself questioning my own opinions and judgments of others while at work and out and about town. I started wondering what sort of life each person I saw was really living, how good or how bad, what tragedy or joy they were dealing with. I started to wonder if perhaps you could just do away with all the different religions in the world and have everyone read this novel instead.
And even as I write this it does sound rather absurd and I can imagine anyone reading this saying "Well clearly this person has a religious agenda", but that's not the case. In fact there is no way I could convince you that I don't have an agenda because you can't see into my own heart and know how I really feel about this subject. All I can say is that I was sincerely moved by this novel and that it makes me want to look at the world differently and that I had a better understanding of belief and faith than when I began the novel.
This book is not some "depressing Russian tome", but aside from its philosophical and theological nature it is a well plotted family novel and murder mystery. Like all of Dostoyevsky's other works it's wordy and characters seem to speak in long speeches, but it's never boring - even when it is. Dostoyevsky also makes a great counter to Tolstoy in that Tolstoy allowed you to see into a character's mind where Dostoyevsky is always more interested in looking into his heart.
This is a novel of great compassion and is one of my favorite reading experiences I've ever had.
Yes. I need the momentum of the audio version, during some of those long Russian monologues. I like alternating between audio and text. This audio is the Constance Garnett translation which sounds good on audio.
I liked that the characters surprised me. I liked the world of the story, the sense of sacredness, the way that big questions were brought up in conversation. It's a lot different from the everyday world of today.
He was very subtle in his character work. I could distinguish characters most of the time. Sometimes I could not. He did a wonderful job overall.
No. It took a few weeks.
I'm glad I listened to it. It was a difficult book, but it was ambitious.
Rye-and-Indian, baked daily.
At 39 years old, this is my first reading of "Brothers K". From the first chapter, this title was nearly impossible to put down. Upon completion, this book immediately rocketed to the top of my all-time favorite reads. Glorious!
"How did one person write this book?" is the question I ask myself over and over. And to think that this title was only HALF of what Dostoyevsky really wanted to finish: just outrageous! The absence of this second volume due to his death is perhaps one of the greatest losses in the history of world literature. To consider the circumstances of the author's life (the death of his real-life epileptic son Allyosha, the murder of his real-life father, etc.) and how they intertwine with this title is near overwhelming.
I can't even begin to offer a degree of plot summary that does this title justice. Perhaps the best advice to the new reader is to not worry over memorizing the convoluted Karamozov family tree (ex-wives, distant relatives, etc.). Stick to the father (Fydor), the three brothers (Mitya, Ivan and Allyosha), the four women (Katya, Grusha, Madame Hoklakov, Lise), the servant family (Grigory, Marfa and Smerdyakov) and the four monks (Zossima, Rakitin, Ferapont and Paissy). By the time other characters are introduced later in the book (the children, the captain's family, the courtroom, etc.), you'll be ready for them.
This translation (Garnett) is indeed great for first-timers and Gregory's narration is knockout. Every minute of this title is meant to be savored--relax, be prepared for brilliance around every corner and enjoy what surely must be one of the best rational, spiritual and philosophical reads I'll ever experience in my life. "Hurrah for Karamozov"--then, now, and for generations to come!
There isn’t much to add to what other people's wonderful reviews of the book already said. The book is brilliant, one of those books with ideas (a few months ago the Endpage in the New York Times Book Review had its writers talk about novels with ideas) - I like books with ideas, especially when they don't preach one set of ideas or one agenda, but present different views and show the difficulties in each view, which I think is the case in this book. Aside from the ideas and the well-crafted characters (I love books with intricate characters - rather than the rather shallow characters we find in so much current fiction), there is the story itself. A murder story, a courtroom drama - think of Perry Mason (if you go back that far). And I learned things I didn't know about how the legal system in Russia had some quite progressive concepts. Not what we think of as a "Russian court" from Communist days. So I don't know how the majority of cases were conducted during the period that the story depicts, but the fact that it is depicted as it was implies that at least there are concepts in place that are still not found in many countries.
The narrator (performance) only got 4 stars rather than 5 because, though he did a very good job, I've heard better, and at times I felt that there was not enough distinction among the various characters' voices (including the narrator's voice). From the context you could tell who is talking, but not always from the distinct voice.
I read about the various translations of this book. Though there is negative (and positive) critique of Constance Garnett's translation and many people prefer one of the newer translations (many say Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsk), without me having a side-by-side (or multi-column) set of versions, and, more important, without me being able to understand the Russian, I can't evaluate the translation that was used. But I didn't find anything particularly strange or out of place. In fact, because she referred to children as "kids" and "kiddies", I thought it sounded almost too contemporary, but maybe those terms were a good equivalent for the Russian. If you are looking for an audiobook version - and I find this a great pleasure to be read to - I don't think the translation should stand in your way.
I would like to comment about Dostoyevsky’s numerous references to Jews. I love 19th century literature, and I’m used to the pawnbroker, always being referred to as “the Jew” (a negative stereotype, of course – why not just say “a pawnbroker”?), the usurer, and other negative stereotypes. They are always troubling, but I accept it as part of the period, the attitudes of the period, and hope that intelligent readers (are there any other kind?) recognize these references as problematic symptoms of a period in history, as are derogatory references to other persecuted minority groups in what is otherwise great literature. In the case of The Brothers Karamazov, I found these references to be more prevalent than in other works, even of the same author. Particularly troubling is the question put to Alyosha about whether Jews kill a (presumably Christian) child at Easter, and his response “I don’t know”. Perhaps it could be said that Dostoyevsky is representing a character – a former monk who is ignorant of Judaism, which, of course, is totally realistic. Yes, even though that former monk is supposed to represent the conscience and charity of Christianity, that representation is laid bare – Christian love only goes so far. Learning other religions in theology school was not yet in vogue, and ecumenical conferences far from existence. But if Dostoyevsky does not believe this himself, one would hope he’d understand the danger of perpetuating such ideas. Books have been written about Dostoyevsky’s attitudes towards Jews, and literature scholars have various opinions about what the author himself actually thought. I wrote about this matter because any reader of Dostoyevsky should not take these expressions lightly, but should consider them and their impact in cultures, just as a reader should examine any bigotry expressed in literature and other arts.
"There is scarcely any passion without struggle." Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
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.
He puts such expression into the dialogue, that I feel I know each of the characters personally. Wonderful wonderful performance!!
Because of its prodigious length, I recommend listening to this audiobook at 2x or 3x speed.
The Brothers Karamazov on audiobook allowed me to finally understand and enjoy a novel I've always wanted to read, but would always find confusing and cumbersome. I'd end up putting it aside after only a few chapters, confused by long Russian character names and endless philosophical arguments. It does start off slow as circumstances and characters are introduced, but becomes captivating as the plot begins to thicken. There is so much to be learned from the symbolic novel about people, life and the essence of good and evil. I enjoyed the book and was in the end captivated by those Russian brothers Karamazov!
"Beautiful, Addictive, Rewarding"
Never mind that my listening experience was marred by strange glitches in the audiobook (downloaded in enhanced quality) that mysteriously kept reappearing once in a while when I was listening on my iPod* but disappeared when I listened to it in iTunes, ”The Brothers Karamazov” is a jewel.
There were places when I was ready to give up, and only kept going because of pride. After a difficult section or two, however, I found moments of such sublimity of prose and characterization it’s impossibly beautiful, addictive and rewarding. I don't believe in the kind of self-deception that attaches importance to moments one doesn't like merely because the work at hand is a canonized classic. Instead, a work, when it really and truly does overwhelm its reader, itself gives meaning to the parts perceived as meaningless by the reader in the first place. One sees with new eyes if one is converted, and isn't that ultimately one of the goals an author tries to achieve? To convert us to believe, follow and take the leap? I did, and do.
"Karamazov" indeed works for me as described, shedding light retrospectively to portions of the book I couldn't connect with, these portions now illumined and shining brightly with new-found, glowing meaning. The result is that one wishes to return to those places that now possess a magical, glimmering new depth and colour.
Constantine Gregory certainly helps. His reading is among the finest I’ve heard, and I’ll certainly find out more works read by him. I also love Garnett’s translation, so I’m doubly satisfied.
* imagine lying in bed, the house all quiet, everyone else sleeping. You’re slowly drifting off yourself, still minutely hanging there as to be able to make sense of what you’re hearing, when suddenly there’s a loud electronic noise as if somebody yanked the plug from the surround system – that’s the kind of leisurely listening I’m referring to.
superb and intelligent performance of perhaps the greatest novel ever written. the best thing I've heard on audible
"Wonderful classic story"
I have really enjoyed this audio book. It is slow to start off with but as a reader you soon begin to appreciate the gentle pace. Dostoyevsky transports you to another time. He relates conversations beautiful. The philosophical dialogues are thought provoking. This wonderful novel then culminates in a riveting murder mystery. The narrator is extremely talented. I thoroughly recommend this audiobook! It is long but well worth every minute.
Long and heavy going in places but worth the effort in the long run imho second only to War and peace
I love it!
Constantine Gregory is a very competent narrator; he gave the book a pleasant voice.
Thank you, Mr. Gregory, without your brilliant work, it would be impossible to enjoy this book as much as I did.
While I was listening to the audiobook I also read the book. I read the C. Garnett version and the famous American version (Pevear & Volokhonsky's) . The Pevear & Volokhonsky's version helped to understand "The Great Inquisitor" chapter.
Excellent, engaging and profound, but rather too long in some parts. Discussion of belief and disbelief is highly contemporary.
"Diving into human nature"
The distress Dmitri was under in the later parts of the book. His state of mind and delirium made me realize I could never be a criminal. Much like Crime And Punishment, but Dmitri had way more support
Ivan because of "The Grand Inquisitor" poem/story. I must admit it was somewhat over my head but it was the most interesting part of the book and the part I will go back to and read again. Assuming that in the 1880 Russia, questioning religion was way more taboo than it is today
The instant switch after Dmitri "altercation" with his father and his quick downwards spiral. I feel like that is where the book really took of and started a faster pace. Sadly it was in the end of the book but lasted til the very end!
I finished Crime And Punishment before reading this one and could easily see how they came out of the same author. Similar style, similar mental states of mind, but broader since it had more aspects of human nature woven into it
Overall the book was good but I strongly prefer the other one over this. But parts of the book is unforgettable. Really enjoyed the trail and the characters had depth, although the book overall was fairly slow and much like Crime And Punishment it only really took off at the last 10-15%
"Russian materpiece read with aplomb"
Characterisation without resorting to cod accents
The narrator bought the story alive and the listening time flew. It is a fascinating story masterly weaving many themes.
Good pacing. Great characterisation.
Another brilliant Naxos unabridged novel in the Russian canon. Highly recommended. Never did it drag or bore - Mr Gregory caught the spirit of the novel in his marvellous reading.
"Worth reading it just for the grand inquisitor"
Really enjoyed this book, sparked some interesting discussions. Narration was superb through the book, and the voice that he puts on for each character helps you keep track of the ridiculous number of nick names for each character.
"Great story, great performance"
Excellent audiobook. I would highly recommend it. You also get your money's worth because it's so long.
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