The Brothers Karamazov – Dostoevsky

A book about the impossibility of faith and yet the absolute necessity of it.

The pinnacle of Dostoevsky’s writing and a classic that ranks amongst the best.

Dostoevsky is a writer who wrote with honesty and clarity about the human experience. He was Christian, but had no qualms admitting the difficulty in being so. His life was by no measure easy – spent between Siberian prison and gambling addictions – making the hope and guidance found in his writing ring true.

A mini-story contained within this book is The Grand Inquisitor, which is a great read on it’s own if you are looking for a shorter read.

Should you read The Brothers Karamazov?
Yes. Straight up yes.

Notes:

  • Freedom is man’s greatest burden.
  • Miracle, mystery, authority – the three components of religious faith.
  • Take away man’s burden of freedom, give him assurance & comfort in return – then you will be his master.
  • Dostoevsky argues that Christ did not perform a miracle so obvious to his divine origins because he wanted man to love him freely, not forced.
  • As humans we cannot enjoy that which we know will end – life
  • I feel like Dostoevsky is saying that it is hard to have faith but when we do, we are better people for it.
  • Only children are saints
  • We all group up to do bad things
  • A book about the impossibility of faith and yet the absolute necessity of it.
  • I found myself wondering “what is the purpose of this character” but couldn’t find an answer. They are because they are.
  • Love/compassion reforms more than punishment/pain.
  • Dostoevsky never for an instant wants you to think the plot matters.

Quotes:

  • “The consciousness of life is higher than life, the knowledge of the laws of happiness is higher than happiness — that is what one must contend against.”
  • “The chief thing is to love others like yourself, that’s the great thing, and that’s everything; nothing else is wanted — you will find out at once how to arrange it all.”
  • “Love God’s people. Because we have come here and shut ourselves within these walls, we are no holier than those that are outside, but on the contrary, from the very fact of coming here, each of us has confessed to himself that he is worse than others, than all men on earth…. And the longer the monk lives in his seclusion, the more keenly he must recognise that.”
  • “One reptile will devour the other”
  • “She had perhaps intended to express her idea with more dignity, art and naturalness, but her speech was too hurried and crude. It was full of youthful impulsiveness, it betrayed that she was still smarting from yesterday’s insult, and that her pride craved satisfaction.”
  • “But that’s only for the moment. And what does this moment stand for? Nothing but yesterday’s insult.”
  • “believe me, Katerina Ivanovna, you really love him. And the more he insults you, the more you love him — that’s your ‘laceration.’ You love him just as he is; you love him for insulting you. If he reformed, you’d give him up at once and cease to love him. But you need him so as to contemplate continually your heroic fidelity and to reproach him for infidelity. And it all comes from your pride. Oh, there’s a great deal of humiliation and self-abasement about it, but it all comes from pride…. I am too young and I’ve loved you too much. I know that I ought not to say this, that it would be more dignified on my part simply to leave you, and it would be less offensive for you. But I am going far away, and shall never come back…. It is for ever. I don’t want to sit beside a ‘laceration.’”
  • “He looked like a man who had long been kept in subjection and had submitted to it, and now had suddenly turned and was trying to assert himself. Or, better still, like a man who wants dreadfully to hit you but is horribly afraid you will hit him.”
  • “Schoolboys are a merciless race, individually they are angels, but together, especially in schools, they are often merciless.”
  • “it’s awfully hard for a man who has been injured, when other people look at him as though they were his benefactors”
  • “know, dear boy, there was an old sinner in the eighteenth century who declared that, if there were no God, he would have to be invented. And man has actually invented God. And what’s strange, what would be marvellous, is not that God should really exist; the marvel is that such an idea, the idea of the necessity of God, could enter the head of such a savage, vicious beast as man.”
  • “believe in the Word to Which the universe is striving, and Which Itself was ‘with God,’ and Which Itself is God”
  • “I could never understand how one can love one’s neighbours. It’s just one’s neighbours, to my mind, that one can’t love, though one might love those at a distance. I once read somewhere of John the Merciful, a saint, that when a hungry, frozen beggar came to him, he took him into his bed, held him in his arms, and began breathing into his mouth, which was putrid and loathsome from some awful disease. I am convinced that he did that from ‘self-laceration,’ from the self-laceration of falsity, for the sake of the charity imposed by duty, as a penance laid on him. For anyone to love a man, he must be hidden, for as soon as he shows his face, love is gone.”
  • “In every man, of course, a demon lies hidden — the demon of rage, the demon of lustful heat at the screams of the tortured victim, the demon of lawlessness let off the chain, the demon of diseases that follow on vice, gout, kidney disease, and so on.”
  • “But the sufferings of her tortured child she has no right to forgive; she dare not forgive the torturer, even if the child were to forgive him! And if that is so, if they dare not forgive, what becomes of harmony? Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? I don’t want harmony. From love for humanity I don’t want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it’s beyond our means to pay so much to enter on it.”
  • “It’s not God that I don’t accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket.”
  • “So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship.”
  • “He heaps up riches by himself and thinks, ‘How strong I am now and how secure,’ and in his madness he does not understand that the more he heaps up, the more he sinks into self-destructive impotence.”
  • “No one is wise from another man’s woe.”
  • “You have desires and so satisfy them, for you have the same rights as the most rich and powerful. Don’t be afraid of satisfying them and even multiply your desires.” That is the modern doctrine of the world. […] And what follows from this right of multiplication of desires? In the rich, isolation and spiritual suicide; in the poor, envy and murder.”
  • “Which is most capable of conceiving a great idea and serving it — the rich in his isolation or the man who has freed himself from the tyranny of material things and habits?”
  • “Lending money means losing friends.”
  • “When all are undressed, one is somehow not ashamed, but when one’s the only one undressed and everybody is looking, it’s degrading”
  • “Young people’s games of soldiers or robbers in their playtime are also art in its first stage. You know, they spring from the growing artistic instincts of the young. […] The only difference is that people go there to look at the actors, while in these games the young people are the actors themselves.”
  • “You are going to perform an act of heroic virtue, and you don’t believe in virtue; that’s what tortures you and makes you angry.”

sebastiankade

Sebastian Kade, Founder of Sumry and Author of Living Happiness, is a software designer and full-stack engineer. He writes thought-provoking articles every now and then on sebastiankade.com

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