The Karamazov Brothers

By Fyodor Dostoevsky; Ignat Avsey | Go to book overview
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EVEN as I begin to relate the life story of my hero, Aleksei Fyodorovich Karamazov, I feel somewhat perplexed. The reason is this: although I refer to Aleksei Fyodorovich as my hero, I know very well that he is by no means a great man, and I foresee inevitable questions such as: What makes this Aleksei Fyodorovich so special; why have you chosen him as your hero? What exactly has he done? Who has heard of him, and in what connection? Why should I, the reader, spend my time studying the history of his life?

This last question is the most important, and all I can say is: perhaps you'll find out for yourself from the novel. But what if my readers should read the novel and fail to find out, fail to agree that there is anything remarkable about my Aleksei Fyodorovich? I say this because, sadly, that is precisely what I foresee. To me he is remarkable, but I very much doubt whether I can convince the reader of this. The point is that, in a sense, he is a man of action, but one of indeterminate character, whose mission is undefined. Still, it would be strange in times like ours to expect to find clarity in anyone. One thing, however, is indisputable: he is an odd, not to say eccentric, figure. But oddity and eccentricity, far from commanding attention, are calculated to undermine reputations, especially at a time when everybody is striving to unify what is disparate and to find some kind of common meaning in our universal chaos. And in most cases the eccentric is the very essence of individuality and isolation, is he not?

Should you not agree with this last thesis, however, and reply, 'It is not so', or 'not always so', then I might perhaps take heart over the significance of my hero, Aleksei Fyodorovich. For not only is an eccentric 'not always' a man apart and isolated, but, on the contrary, it may be he in particular who sometimes represents the very essence of his epoch, while others of his generation, for whatever reason, will drift aimlessly in the wind.

Now, I would not have indulged in these tedious and obscure explanations, I would simply have got on with my story, without


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