A New Word on the Brothers Karamazov

A New Word on the Brothers Karamazov

A New Word on the Brothers Karamazov

A New Word on the Brothers Karamazov

Excerpt

It has been said that the great Gothic cathedral, an example of which is to be found in the thirteenth-century Cathedral of Our Lady at Chartres, can never be seen or fully taken in from any single perspective or in any given light; it is manifold and changing from every point of view. The same may be said of The Brothers Karamazov, a work that breathes not the spirit of sublime belief but a God-tormented one, a spirit groping for faith.

The Brothers Karamazov stands like Chartres Cathedral. It is a work to be read, experienced, seen from many angles. Critical and scholarly literature cannot substitute for the reading of the novel. It can only suggest points of view: ways of looking, paths to an understanding of the workings of the novel as an artistic text, of its moral, psychological, and philosophical complexities and crises, of its constant search for foundations.

What marks the writings in this volume is the comprehensive nature of their grasp of Dostoevsky: on the one hand, an understanding of his artistic thought, his psychological insights, and the artistic means and materials he brings to bear on his work; on the other, a recognition of the value-oriented nature of everything that comprises his artistic effort.

“I want to speak out as passionately as possible,” Dostoevsky wrote in connection with his novel The Demons. “I want to speak out to the last word … even if my artistry perishes in so doing … but I will speak my mind.” The paradox here is that his passionate ethical and social intensity—the kind that in a lesser writer often renders the artistic endeavor lifeless— always resulted in a furious energizing of artistic thought and a revolutionary impetus toward new forms of artistic expression.

A unity of aesthetic and ethical purpose was typical of almost all of major Russian literature of the nineteenth century. “Depend upon it, the first universal characteristic of all great art is Tenderness as the second is Truth,” wrote the English critic John Ruskin. As though reformulating his thought, one of Dostoevsky's characters in The Idiot remarks reproachfully to another: “You have no tenderness: only truth; hence you are unjust” (U

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.