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The Brothers Karamazov

Author(s)
Published
27/02/2003

Publisher writes

When brutal landowner Fyodor Karamazov is murdered, the lives of his sons are changed irrevocably: Mitya, the sensualist, whose bitter rivalry with his father immediately places him under suspicion for parricide; Ivan, the intellectual, whose mental tortures drive him to breakdown; the spiritual Alyosha, who tries to heal the family's rifts; and the shadowy figure of their bastard half-brother Smerdyakov. As the ensuing investigation and trial reveal the true identity of the murderer, Dostoyevsky's dark masterpiece evokes a world where the lines between innocence and corruption, good and evil, blur and everyone's faith in humanity is tested.

This powerful translation of "The Brothers Karamazov" features and introduction highlighting Dostoyevsky's recurrent themes of guilt and salvation, with a new chronology and further reading.

Author Information

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, (translated by David McDuff)

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky was born in Moscow in 1821. Between 1849 & 1854 he lived in a convict prison, and in later years his passion for gambling led him deeply into debt. He died in 1881. He is also the author of Crime & Punishment, The Idiot and The Devils. David McDuff has translated a number of 19th-century Russian prose works for Penguin Classics.

Judges' and contributors' comments

Malcolm Guite: I think there’s a lot of people who aren’t Christians when they read it and for whom there’s something that goes on that opens them up.

John Arnold: How many Karamazov brothers are there? The answer is ‘three and a half’. Together they make up sinful man. To the sensualist Dmitri (flesh), the intellectual Ivan (mind) and the novice monk Alyosha (spirit) must be added their illegitimate half-brother Smerdyakov (or ‘Stinker’) and those base, ignoble, murky proclivities of the psyche, in the unmasking of which Dostoyevsky preceded Freud by several decades. Between them they are guilty of the primal crime of parricide in thought, word, deed and negligence. Still, this is a story of redemption, implicitly in the first two volumes, explicitly in a planned third part, which would not necessarily have been an improvement. Just as Schubert with his “Unfinished Symphony” produced a perfect work of art, so Dostoyevsky with this truncated torso wrote the best Christian novel ever, one which reads the reader like the word of God itself.

Richard Harries: The Brothers Karamazov presents the struggle of belief and non-belief in the modern world in the most powerful form it has ever been put, especially the problem of evil. There is no better way for people to understand the sharpness of the challenge and what it is to have faith.

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