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The Brothers Karamazov: A Novel in Four Parts and an Epilogue (Penguin Classics) Paperback – April 29, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 123 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Russian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881), one of nineteenth-century Russia’s greatest novelists, spent four years in a convict prison in Siberia, after which he was obliged to enlist in the army. In later years his penchant for gambling sent him deeply into debt. Most of his important works were written after 1864, including Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov, all available from Penguin Classics.

David McDuff was educated at the University of Edinburgh and has translated a number of works for Penguin Classics, including Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.


David McDuff was educated at the University of Edinburgh and has translated a number of works for Penguin Classics, including Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 960 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (April 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449248
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449242
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is over 900 pages long, and it took me only 2 weeks to read it, while working full time, which is a true testament to its compelling plot and masterful prose. That being said, this is not an easy read, but demands much of the reader. Besides being the recounting of a fictional parricide and the ensuing courtroom drama, this is also Dostoevsky's greatest rumination on the meaning of life, the difference between good and evil, the phenomenon of human guilt, and the existence of God and the Devil. Phew.
The novel begins with introduction of the three Karamazov brothers (there is one other bastard son, but he is largely in the background), Alexei, Dmitry, and Ivan. All are unique and represent different parts of the human psyche. Alexei is benevolent and good, Dmitry is passionate and generous, Ivan is serious and intellectual. They all have their inner battles with God, which Dostoevsky brilliantly brings into the plot without losing the believability of the characters. About halfway through the book, their father, Fyodor Karamazov is murdered. Much like Dostoevsky's victim in "Crime and Punishment", Fyodor is an unsympathetic character who treated his sons horribly. Dmitry is the immediate suspect and a trial follows. Even though Dmitry is blamed for the murder, this novel circles around collective guilt in the eyes of God (if he exists, which is a question that clearly torments Dostoevsky). Who is responsible for the maltreatment of the Karamazov children? Who is responsible for tolerance of Dmitry's excesses? A rich cast of characters brings every possible aspect of personality into this debate, making this novel one of the most complete and well-rounded I have ever read. The theme of this book is the human condition...
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Format: Paperback
I have read The Brothers Karamazov 12 times in three different versions - those by Garnett, Pevear-Volokhonsky, and McDuff. This one is by far my favourite of those three. While the other versions would take me at least a month to read, this one only took two weeks. Not only is the translation easier to read and more compelling, but there is a helpful introduction that explains some of the themes.

I'd also recommend these two introductions:
The Brothers Karamazov: Worlds of the Novel
Dostoyevsky: The Brothers Karamazov (Landmarks of World Literature)
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Format: Paperback
There are certain accomplishments of human genius which arouse in mankind awe and reverence for the greatness which men are capable of. "The Brothers Karamazov" is one such gem of human thought and achievement.
What IS "The Brothers..." all about?
I do not feel competent enough to define precisely the central theme of the greatest, most profound & sophisticated, not to say difficult & complex novel of the 19th century.
All I can say is that it is a book rich with ideas - all pertaining to belief and disbelief. - man's faith in God, & what happens when man rejects faith, God & immortality of the soul.
In terms of the broader abstractions, the theme of TBK is: The "fall of man" & his spiritual re-birth & regeneration.
The "fall of man" comes about as a result of his loss of faith in God & immortality - his spiritual corruption begins from there, & leads to nothing but bloodshed, pain, disorder & destruction.
In the depth of this degradation, steeped in suffering, man learns the truth - the highest truth - God.
Thence begins the growth of faith & virtue in man, which assumes the form of man's taking upon himself guilt towards one & all, & active love towards mankind.
D's characterization in TBK is unsurpassed. Each character is the representative of an idea logically connected to the themes & ideas of the novel.
A few words on the three principal characters:
1. Ivan Karamazov - the most complex & intriguing character, Ivan is an atheist who rejects God for he cannot accept "God's order" and logically, becomes a "man-god". To such a man, no moral principles apply - "everything is permitted".
But Ivan is has a deep conscience.
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Format: Paperback
The Brothers Karamazov is a masterpiece of Russian literature. Though this must be qualified somewhat: don't pick up Karamazov if you expect an easy read. Dostoyevsky makes you work for enjoyment from his novels, and Karamazov, being his magnum opus, is incredibly inaccessible to the casual reader. Dostoyevsky must be studied. Karamazov has parables (The Grand Inquisitor is a benchmark of atheist philosophy), numerous characters (who are often called by their patronyms and their first names, or both at the same time, so beware), is polyphonic, and often times tedious. I will be the first to admit that Dostoyevsky is writing for a purpose, so elegant prose is secondary to him - not to say that he doesn't write well, there are some sections that have stunning imagery, but his overall style, the proportions of the text, can be quite foreboding.

However, if you want to learn about 19th century Russian existentialism, scientism, the rational egoists, criminal psychology, the nature of rebellion (a good companion is Mikhail Bahktin's The Rebel, also considered a classic), love, religion, relationships (the spine of the story is patricide!), then The Brothers Karamazov is the perfect book. Just be prepared to read commentaries and take notes. Dostoyevsky has a reputation as one of the hardest of the Russian writers, but also as one of the most rewarding.

A brilliant book, but one for a very specific and dedicated audience. I recommend it highly, but for personal culturing and knowledge rather than quick pleasure. If you are looking for a dense, rich book, then this is perhaps the best. It is a goldmine of knowledge and ideas, but you have to work for it.

Enjoy!
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