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The Brothers Karamazov Paperback – June 14, 2002

4.6 out of 5 stars 419 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“[Dostoevsky is] at once the most literary and compulsively readable of novelists we continue to regard as great . . . The Brothers Karamazov stands as the culmination of his art--his last, longest, richest and most capacious book. [This] scrupulous rendition can only be welcomed. It returns to us a work we thought we knew, subtly altered and so made new again.” ―Donald Fanger, Washington Post Book World

“It may well be that Dostoevsky's [world], with all its resourceful energies of life and language, is only now--and through the medium of this translation--beginning to come home to the English-speaking reader.” ―John Bayley, The New York Review of Books

“Heartily recommended to any reader who wishes to come as close to Dostoevsky's Russian as it is possible.” ―Joseph Frank, Princeton University

“Far and away the best translation of Dostoevsky into English that I have seen . . . faithful . . . extremely readable . . . gripping.” ―Sidney Monas, University of Texas

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Russian
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 824 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 12th edition (June 14, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374528373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374528379
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (419 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel C. Wilcock on July 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
I cannot compare this translation to the others. Like most mortals, I rarely read 800 page books more than once. However, I can attest that The Brothers Karamazov, as translated here, combines the moving human drama we expect from Dostoevsky with liberal dose of wry humor. The text seems modern and fresh, the circumstances and petty humor surrounding the characters so central to the human predicament that the story is timeless.
And what a story: It is (among many things) a satire of human corruption, a meditation on faith and religious institutions in an age of skepticism, a murder mystery involving love triangles, a courtroom thriller and in the end a testament to the goodness and bravery humans are capable of.
The story follows the lives of old man Karamazov, a filthy penny-pinching lech and his three sons. Each son represents a different side to the Russian character: Dimitri the spoiled lout (or the prodigal son), Ivan the tortured intellect, and Alyosha the spiritual searcher.
Alyosha, Dostoevsy says, is our hero. And he does represent a certain Christian ideal. He, in the end, stands for brotherhood and meekness in the face of temptation. These qualities, no doubt, are what Dostoevsky suggests will preserve and redeem the Russian nation. All around Alyosha is the carnage caused by people who are not awake to this truth -- and they wallow in suffering.
This book, the last Dostoevsky wrote, also presents an intricate political/religious landscape. We see Russia on the brink of socialist forment, and the church is not spared in the skepitism of characters like Ivan, who, in the 'Grand Inquisitor' chapter, presents the most spine tingling critique of organized religion I've ever read.
But, after 800 pages Brothers Karamazov is a book that burns so brightly and is so capable of moving a reader that the book's cost will seem paltry and the reader who comes through will find his or her knowledge of the human soul expanded. A+.
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Before you dedicate many hours to reading this masterpiece, you must be sure you select the appropriate translation for your reading style. The Pevear translation - although highly acclaimed - may make it difficult for most readers to grasp the essence of this beautiful story, and therefore I would almost always recommend the McDuff version ahead of the Pevear.

The Brothers Karamazov presents the same challenge for every English translator; namely, Dostoevsky took pride in creating distinct voices and syntax for each of his characters, and most translations have sacrificed the syntax and voicing to make it more readable - in the process losing much of the tone of each character. Pevear's translation is known for being the truest to the original, as it replicates the syntax with an almost academic precision. However, in being so true to the syntax and voicing, Pevear leaves sentence structures that are so unfamiliar-sounding to the native English speaker as to be disruptive. Many times as I read this translation I found myself jolted out of the flow of reading because the phrasing felt so awkward. As an example of a difficult sentence:

Pevear: "These occasions were almost morbid: most depraved, and, in his sensuality, often as cruel as a wicked insect, Fyodor Pavlovich at times suddenly felt in himself, in his drunken moments, a spiritual fear, a moral shock, that almost, so to speak, resounded physically in his soul.
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Format: Paperback
I think I am going to read this wonderful book again. There is so much life and passion in it, that reading it again will definitely enrich my soul even further.
I want to tell you how this novel changed my life. It was recommended to me by a Russian Orthodox priest who considered it the best source of Russian Orthodox spirituality in literature. So I read it. I read it because at the time I was striving to become a true Orthodox Christian myself. The result, however, turned out the opposite: I lost any faith I ever had in the truth of the Church and all its dogmas. This book gave me an idea that if there is God, it is certainly not what we are taught He is.
I think that in this work Dostoevsky reached the very height of what I would call "a war with oneself". He created this unforgettable contrast between what he wanted to believe (and, indeed believed at times) and what he actually was going through in his spiritual search, which were probably indescribable spiritual torments of doubt. I now have this indelible image of Ivan confiding in Alesha, arguing with Satan and, at last, denying God himself in his search for the truth. It was he, who stirred my whole being and it was Dostoevsky himself speaking through Ivan with the most profound sincerety and desperation.
On the opposite, Dostoevsky introduces Alyosha, who didn't doubt, but just loved and believed. This young man, according to Dostoevsky's plan, is a prototype of Jesus Christ himself, a man in whom the truth is open within, a man through whom one can truly feel God's love. It is a fascinating character, although, Dostoevsky depicts him in the light of Christian Orthodoxy, as an example of TRUE spirituality, as opposed to any other spirituality.
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