Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Rereading The Brothers Karamazov

I read it in my mid teens and I'd never read anything like it.  For a long while it was the book by which I measured every other book.

Coming at it half a century later I can see that it is, in fact, a Victorian novel like other Victorian novels. I  detect the influence of Balzac and Dickens. Had Dostoevsky read the Brontes? Had he read Wilkie Collins? Or is it just that he lives in the same tumultuous mental universe?

I'd forgotten quite how frantic the action is. One character throws the most frightful scene and then another character throws the most frightful scene. It's like Eastenders. People converse by exchange of monologue. Everyone is a drama queen.

The people are chaotic but individual. It's not like Balzac where the people are social types and every Parisian dandy is exactly the same as every other Parisian dandy. As a teen I fixated on Ivan (of course). Ivan is cool. He's said and done very little as yet, but he's a presence- brooding, apparently aloof but with the occasional lightning flash- as when he shoves old Fyodor's mini-me, the excruciatingly servile Maximov- out of the carriage with a blow to the chest. Ivan doesn't wrangle with you; he puts up with you until he's had enough, then smacks you one hard and you stay smacked. The chaos is under control but working inwards.

I do remember there being no colour. I'm 200 pages in and I doubt that Dostoevsky has used a single colour word. Except "black" of course.  Oh, and "brown"- because most of the characters have brown hair. Grushenka has just been introduced and she's wearing a "voluptuous" black dress. Well, of course she is.

Landscape description is kept to a minimum- but there's more than I thought there was. I was surprised to be reminded that Father Zossima's hermitage is surrounded by rose beds. But of course it's winter so there aren't any blooms...
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