Reading The Brothers Karamazov
On December 26, I wrote to a friend that I had just started reading The Brothers Karamazov. I was on page 60 and I loved it so far. The writing style, the humor–and all the Orthodox stuff! Icons, a monastery, even a starets (the elder, Father Zossima). I already identified with Alexei Karamazov.
On December 31, as I wrote, I spent part of the afternoon reading The Brothers Karamazov, the first 100 pages of which are so wonderful I want to savor every word:
The rich characterizations, the humor of the narrator, the character Alyoshev (Alexey)–whom I identify with….
The father, Fyodor Karamazov, is a narcissistic sociopath….
The brothers and the people who visit the starets (elder), Father Zossima, have the same questions and concerns I do–the same overriding question, How can we prove immortality does or does not exist? And the scenes from Russian Orthodoxy are very appealing to this convert….
On January 28, I wrote that my very same doubts and questions about God and immortality, are expressed in The Brothers Karamazov. Though Dostoyevsky was a Christian and loved his Orthodox faith, he, too, suffered from doubts. In the foreword of my copy of the book, written by Manuel Komroff, page xv reads,
The theme and philosophy of The Brothers Karamazov occupied Dostoyevsky’s mind for many years. In a letter to a friend he writes:
“The chief problem dealt with throughout this particular work is the very one which has, my whole life long, tormented my conscious and subconscious being: The question of the existence of God.”
What if God does not exist? Then for Dostoyevsky the world is nothing but a “vaudeville of devils” and “all things are lawful,” even crime.
I also found a lovely quote on jealousy: “One might wonder what there is in a love that has to be so watched over, what a love can be worth that needs such strenuous guarding. But this the jealous will never understand” (p. 440).
As I wrote here,
In The Brothers Karamazov, the character Grushenka had been mourning for years for the love of her life, after he married someone else. But the wife died, and he came back, wanting to marry Grushenka.
However, in the course of one evening, Grushenka discovered that this guy was actually a scoundrel and a con man, who only wanted to marry her because she had done fairly well for herself financially.
That evening was sufficient to break her of her grief, and make her wonder how she could have spent all those years mourning this guy who clearly did not deserve her love. Then she was free to pursue her passion for Dmitri Karamazov.
It is the same when we mourn a narcissist. I have grieved and waited for exes to come back to me, exes who lied to me, who abused me, then dumped me. When it finally hit me just what I was grieving and waiting for, the grief began to go away.
I have grieved and waited for Richard to come wanting to restore a friendship with us. Two and a half years I’ve waited for this! But when the character of the narcissist becomes clear to us, we can finally stop grieving and move on with our lives.
I am now finished with the book. I especially love how Orthodoxy is woven into the book. So many things I understood instantly because of their connection to the faith. Things that, ten years ago, before my conversion, I would have missed.
Such as, understanding why they were so devastated when the starets immediately began stinking after he died: They expected him to be incorrupt, because in Orthodoxy, many dead saints are discovered to be incorrupt long after burial, with healing myrrh streaming from their bodies. Yet a little child who died did not decay after 3 days.
It was a huge crisis of faith for the town after the starets died and this happened. Those who loved him, questioned their belief in God and miracles; those who hated him, were smug.
Alyosha is the mystic of the family, and very close to the starets. Yet he does not seem to abandon his beliefs.
As I read in the foreword, Dostoyevsky was called by Turgeniev the most “evil Christian” he had ever met. And yet I had felt such a kinship to him when I read the religious sections. He wrote Alyosha so well for an “evil Christian.”
I sense from what I read here of his biography that if I knew him, I would not like him, because of his bad fruit: He was wicked, vicious, unfaithful to his wife, abusive to servants….
If only he had repented of these things and done as his faith required, the faith he loved so fervently. If only he had been more like the righteous characters he created.
But fortunately, I only have to deal with his writings. So far, I loved Crime and Punishment, and I love The Brothers Karamazov.
Converts to Orthodoxy also love Karamazov, mentioning it often on online forums, which is how I heard about it in the first place. No, wait, I did read part of it in a college class, but did not remember where it came from.
In short, I recommend it.