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Authors: Fyodor Dostoyevsky; Andrew R. MacAndrew

Tags: #General, #Brothers - Fiction, #Literary, #Family Life, #Fathers and sons, #Fiction, #Romance, #Literary Criticism, #Historical, #Didactic fiction, #Russia, #Russian & Former Soviet Union, #Classics, #Fathers and sons - Fiction, #Russia - Social life and customs - 1533-1917 - Fiction, #Brothers, #Psychological

The Brothers Karamazov

BOOK: The Brothers Karamazov
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Fyodor Dostoevsky

Introductory Essay by Konstantin Mochulsky

Translated by Andrew R. MacAndrew

A Note From The Translator

The best way of handling a translation is about as slippery a business as the best way of organizing a society, the best way of living a life, or, for that matter, the best way of writing. In dealing with a piece of literature a translator must hear its tone, judge its language, appreciate its style, and understand its subtleties of meaning, and then as if such passive appreciation were not hard enough, he must re-create all these features as closely as possible in a tongue foreign to the original.

In trying to convey the essence of a literary work in another language, he is in the position of a conductor of an orchestra of outlandish instruments asked to perform a classical symphony. He must first adapt the piece to the unfamiliar instruments and then guide his barbarous musicians through it. If he is tone-deaf in the language into which he translates, the effect may be like playing the “Moonlight Sonata” on a tin can.

—Andrew R. MacAndrew

Dostoevsky And The Brothers Karamazov

Konstantin Mochulsky

IN 1839 the eighteen-year-old youth Dostoevsky wrote to his brother: “Man is a mystery: if you spend your entire life trying to puzzle it out, then do not say that you have wasted your time. I occupy myself with this mystery, because I want to be a man.”

The great psychologist had a presentiment of his vocation: all his creative work is devoted to the mystery of man. In Dostoevsky’s novels there are no landscapes and pictures of nature. He portrays only man and man’s world; his heroes are people from contemporary urban civilization, fallen out of the natural world-order and torn away from “living life.” The writer prided himself on his 
; he was describing not the abstract “universal man,” contrived by J. J. Rousseau, but the real European of the 19th century with all the endless contradictions of his “sick consciousness.” The Russian novelist first discovered the real face of the hero of our “troubled time”—the “man from underground”: this new Hamlet is struck by the infirmity of doubt, poisoned by reflection, doomed to a lack of will and inertia. He is tragically alone and divided in two; he has the consciousness of an “harassed mouse.”

Dostoevsky’s psychological art is famous throughout the world. Long before Freud and before the school of psychoanalysts he plunged into the depths of the subconscious and investigated the inner life of children and adolescents; he studied the psychics of the insane, maniacs, fanatics, criminals, suicides. Special commentaries exist on Dostoevsky, the psychopathologist and criminalist. But his analysis was not limited to individual psychology; he penetrated the collective psychology of the family, of society, of the people. His greatest insights concern the soul of the people, the metapsychic “unity” of mankind.

Psychology is only the surface of Dostoevsky’s art. It was for him not an end, but a means. The province of the inner life is only the vestibule of the kingdom of the spirit. Behind the psychologist stands the 
—the brilliant investigator of the human spirit. In one of his notebooks we find the following remark: “I am called a psychologist, it’s not true, I am only a realist in the highest sense, i.e., I depict all the depths of the human soul.” Dostoevsky had his own doctrine of man—and in this is his great historical importance. He devoted all his creative forces to struggling for the spiritual nature of man, to defending his dignity, personality, and freedom.

In his own personal experience, the author of 
Crime and Punishment
 lived through the tragic epoch of the 
shattering of humanism
. Before his eyes humanism tore itself away from its Christian roots and was transformed into a struggle with God. Having begun with the emancipation of man from “theology” and “metaphysics,” it ended by enslaving him to the “laws of nature” and “necessity.” Man was conceived as a natural being, subject to the principles of profit and rational egoism: his metaphysical depth was taken away from him, his third dimension—the image of God. Humanism wanted to exalt man and shamefully degraded him. Dostoevsky himself was a humanist, passed through its seductions and was infected by its poison. The romantic idealist of the years of 
Poor People
 was captivated by utopian socialism and passed through the whole dialectical course of its development: he “passionately accepted” Belinsky’s atheistic faith and entered Durov’s secret revolutionary society. Starting out from Christian humanism, he came to atheistic communism. In the year 1849, sentenced to capital punishment, the writer stood on the scaffold. During these terrible minutes the “old man” in him died. In penal servitude a “new man” was born; there began a cruel judgment of himself and the “regeneration of his convictions.” In Siberia, two events took place in the life of the exiled writer which decided his whole subsequent fate: his meeting with Christ and his acquaintance with the Russian people. Amidst inhuman sufferings, in a struggle with doubt and negation, faith in God was won. Apropos of the 
Legend of the Grand Inquisitor
 Dostoevsky wrote in his notebook: “Even in Europe there are not and have not been atheistic expressions of such force; consequently, it is not as a boy that I believe in Christ and confess Him, but 
my hosanna has passed through a great furnace of doubts. . . .”

After penal servitude, the religious theme formed the spiritual center of his work. The question of faith and disbelief was posed in all the great novels. In 1870 he wrote to Maikov: “The main question, which has tormented me consciously or unconsciously throughout my entire life—the existence of God.”

“God torments” all of Dostoevsky’s heroes; all of them decide the question of God’s existence; their fate is wholly determined by the religious consciousness.

Dostoevsky lived through a period of crisis in Christian culture and experienced it as his personal tragedy. Shortly after the Franco-Prussian War and the Parisian Commune, the hero of the novel 
A Raw Youth
 went abroad. Never had he traveled to Europe with such sadness and with such love. “In those days, especially, one seemed to hear the tolling of a funeral bell over Europe.” The great idea of Christian culture was dying; it was being escorted out with catcalls and the flinging of mud; atheism was celebrating its first victories. “I wept,” confesses Versilov, “wept for them, I wept for the old idea and, perhaps, I wept real tears.”

The Russian Dostoevsky, at the end of the 19th century, felt himself the only European who understood the significance of the world tragedy, which was being experienced by mankind. He alone “wept real tears.” And now the “old idea” was gone and mankind was left on earth without God. The writer’s “novel-tragedies” are devoted to depicting the fate of 
mankind abandoned by God
. He prophetically indicated two paths: man-godhood and the herd.

Kirilov in 
The Devils
 declares: “If God doesn’t exist, then I am God.” In place of the God-man appears the man-god, the “strong personality,” who stands beyond morality, “beyond the confines of good and evil,” to whom “everything is permitted” and who can “transgress” all laws (Raskolnikov, Rogozhin, Kirilov, Stavrogin, Ivan Karamazov). Dostoevsky made one of his greatest discoveries: 
the nature of man is correlative to the nature of God;
 if there is no God, there is also no man. In the man-god, the new demonic being, everything human must disappear. The Russian writer predicts the appearance of Nietzsche: the superman of the author of 
 also signifies in his presence the destruction of man: “the human, the too human” is eradicated in him as shame and disgrace.

The other path of atheistic mankind leads to the herd. The culmination of Dostoevsky’s work is the 
Legend of the Grand Inquisitor
. If men are only natural beings, if their souls are not immortal, then it is fitting that they be established on earth with the greatest possible well-being. And since by their nature they are “impotent rebels,” then one must enslave and transform them into a submissive herd. The Grand Inquisitor will tend them with an iron rod. Then at last, an enormous anthill will be built up, the Babylonian tower will be erected, and now forever. Both ways—man-godhood and the herd—lead to one and the same result: the suppression of man.

Dostoevsky saw history in the light of the Apocalypse; he predicted unheard-of world catastrophes. “The end of the world is coming,” he wrote. “The end of the century will be marked by a calamity, the likes of which has never yet occurred.” The tragic world-outlook of the author of 
The Devils
 was inaccessible to the positivists of the 19th century: he was a man of our catastrophic epoch. But God’s abandonment is not the last word of Dostoevsky’s work; he depicted the “dark night,” but had presentiments of the dawn. He believed that the tragedy of history would be culminated in the transfiguration of the world, that after the Golgotha of mankind would follow the Second Advent of Christ and “there would resound the hymn of the new and last resurrection.”


Dostoevsky worked for three years on his last novel. For three years the concluding stage of the labor—its artistic embodiment—continued. But spiritually he had worked on it his entire life. 
The Brothers Karamazov
 is the summit, from which we see the organic unity of the writer’s whole creative work disclosed. Everything that he experienced, thought, and created finds its place in this vast synthesis. The complex human world of 
 grew up naturally, over the course of a decade, absorbing the philosophical and artistic elements of the preceding works: the 
Diary of a Writer
 is the laboratory in which the ideology of the final novel is given its definitive form; in 
A Raw Youth
 there is established the structure of the family chronicle and the tragedy of “fathers and children” is delineated; in 
The Devils
, the atheist Stavrogin’s clash with the prelate Tikhon anticipates the tragic conflict of faith and disbelief (the Elder Zosima—Ivan Karamazov); in 
The Idiot
 the subject schema, similar to 
, is worked out: at the center of the action stands a major crime; the wronged beauty Nastasya Filippovna calls Grushenka to mind, the proud Aglaya—Katerina Ivanovna; the motif of a dramatic meeting between the rivals is repeated in both novels.

The “passionate” Rogozhin is just as engulfed by eros as is Mitya Karamazov; the “positively beautiful individual”—Prince Myshkin—is Alyosha’s spiritual brother. In 
Crime and Punishment
 Raskolnikov steps beyond the moral law, declaring that “everything is permitted,” and becomes a theoretician-murderer: his fate determines the fate of Ivan; the struggle between the prosecutor Porfiry Petrovich and the criminal develops in 
 into the “preliminary investigation” of Dmitry’s case. But Dostoevsky’s last and greatest creation is genetically linked not only with the “great novels.” Mitya’s erotic possession had already been delineated in the portrayal of the hero’s passion for the fatal woman Polina in 
The Gambler;
 Ivan’s “disease of consciousness” and Fyodor Pavlovich’s “underground philosophy” had been outlined in 
Works from Underground
. Prince Volkovsky in 
The Humiliated and Wronged
 already possesses the Karamazov element—sensuality; in 
The Village of Stepanchikovo
 appears the first draft of the figure of Smerdyakov (the lackey Vidoplyasov). Even the tales of the period before penal servitude are related by countless threads with the last novel: the theme of “romantic dreaming” and the “solitary consciousness” is culminated in Ivan’s “abstractness” and uprootedness; Schiller’s romanticism finds its poetic expression in Dmitry’s “hymn”; the idea of the 
Grand Inquisitor
 grows out of the tragedy of the “faint heart” (
The Landlady
). Finally, the motif of the personality’s duality (Ivan Karamazov’s devil) rises from his youthful work 
The Double

The Brothers Karamazov
 is not only a synthesis of Dostoevsky’s creative work, but also the culmination of his life. In the very topography of the novel his memories of childhood are united with the impressions of his final years: the city in which the novel’s action is placed reflects the features of Staraya Russa, but the villages surrounding it (Darovoye, Chermashnya, Mokroye) are related to his father’s estate in Tula province. Fyodor Pavlovich inherits several traits of the writer’s father, and his violent death corresponds to Mikhail Andreyevich’s tragic end. Dmitry, Ivan, and Alyosha are three aspects of Dostoevsky’s personality, three stages of his spiritual way. Fiery and noble Dmitry, declaiming the 
Hymn to Joy
, embodies the 
romantic period
 of the author’s life; his tragic fate, the charge of parricide and exile to Siberia, was inspired by the story of the innocent criminal Ilyinsky and by this is connected with memories of the years of penal servitude. Ivan, the atheist and creator of a social utopia, reflects the 
epoch of his friendship with
 Belinsky and captivation by atheistic socialism; Alyosha is a symbol of the writer after the period of his penal servitude, when a “regeneration of his convictions” took place within him, when he discovered the Russian people and the Russian Christ.

The novel 
Brothers Karamazov
 opens before us as its author’s 
spiritual biography
 and his 
artistic confession
. But, having once been transformed into a work of art, the story of Dostoevsky’s personality becomes the history of man’s personality in general. The accidental and individual disappears, what is ecumenical and universal to mankind grows up. In the fate of the brothers Karamazov each of us recognizes his own fate. The writer portrays the three brothers as a 
spiritual unity
. This is an organically collective personality in its triple structure: the principle of reason is embodied in Ivan: he is a logician and rationalist, an innate skeptic and negator; the principle of feeling is represented by Dmitry: in him is the “sensuality of insects” and the inspiration of eros; the principle of will, realizing itself in active love as an ideal, is presented in Alyosha. The brothers are joined to one another by ties of blood, grow up from one familial root: the biological given—the Karamazov element—is shown in the father Fyodor Pavlovich. Every human personality bears in itself a fatal dichotomy: the legitimate Karamazov brothers have an illegitimate brother Smerdyakov: he is their embodied temptation and personified sin.

Thus in the novel’s artistic symbols the author expounded his own 
teaching about personality
. The conflicts of consciousness are converted into a struggle of the passions and into “whirlwinds of events.”

The conception of the 
organically collective personality
 determines the novel’s structure. All of Dostoevsky’s works are personalistic: their action is always concentrated around the personality of the main hero (Raskolnikov, Prince Myshkin, Stavrogin, Versilov). The main hero of 
 is the three brothers in their spiritual unity. Three personal themes are developed in parallel, but on the spiritual plane the three parallel lines converge: the brothers, each in his own way, experience a single tragedy, they share a common guilt and a common redemption. Not only Ivan with his idea “everything is permitted,” not only Dmitry in the impetuosity of his passions, but also the “quiet boy” Alyosha—all are responsible for their father’s murder. All of them consciously or semiconsciously desired his death: and their desire impelled Smerdyakov to the crime: he was their docile instrument. Ivan’s 
murderous thought
 was transformed into Dmitry’s 
destructive passion
 and into Smerdyakov’s 
criminal act
. They are guilty actively, Alyosha passively. He knew and permitted it, 
could have
 saved his father and did not. The brothers’ common crime also involves a common punishment: Dmitry atones for his guilt by exile to penal servitude, Ivan—by the dissolution of his personality and the appearance of the devil, Alyosha by his terrible spiritual crisis. All of them are purified in suffering and attain a new life.

BOOK: The Brothers Karamazov
5.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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