The Brothers Karamazov: Tackling the Intimidation

By Emily Shirley

“Some of Dostoevsky’s most intriguing and teasing fugues of obsessive reflection… explore the balance between the liberty to say what we like, protesting about the reduction of language to mathematical clarity or certainty, and the necessity to say what can be heard[1].”

Few authors move the hearts and engage the minds of readers like Dostoevsky. In addition to thrilling storylines, he offers an intellectual journey that is sure to please readers of all ages and backgrounds. Out of Dostoevsky’s works, The Brothers Karamazov is generally considered his most significant. This novel explores the relationships between a forgetful father and his three remarkably diverse sons. Filled with suspenseful sections, convicting passages, and timeless truths, The Brothers Karamazov is guaranteed to please any reader who is willing to commit to a thorough reading. To the reader who is having a hard time committing to such a long novel, allow me to make the following suggestions:

  • Do not read alone. No matter how interesting the material, if we do not have friends or classmates reading alongside of us, we will often lack consistency in our reading. This is especially true when you are first beginning a novel as long as The Brothers Karamazov.
  • Schedule a time for reading. Reading, much like other leisurely activities, is often pushed aside or forgotten during the course of our day. Because of this, many novels collect dust on our shelves with a bookmark comfortably resting between the 20th and 21st page. Setting a time each day (or each week) for reading helps to promote consistency.
  • Combine reading with other enjoyable activities. When I began reading The Brothers Karamazov, I discovered that I was most consistent with my reading when I instituted a sort of “reward” system. In the mornings, I would only permit myself to drink coffee while I was reading, and I coupled my nightly cup of tea with reading as well. This system served as both a motivation and a reminder to read.

Reading a Russian novel is not easy, but it is undoubtedly a project worth committing to. The Brothers Karamazov, while initially intimidating for many, has become a favorite for readers of all ages. The enduring values and lessons contained within its pages make this novel worth every hour spent reading it.

[1] Rowan Williams, Dostoevsky: Language, Faith, and Fiction, (Waco, TX: Baylor UP), 2008.

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