Literature

The thing about reading Dostoyevsky…

…Is that it is a serious investment of a reading effort, but an incredibly worthwhile at that.

For the past week I have been counting down to Monday, September 10th – the day I start my first full time job, start commuting, learning new things, being generally tired all the time. You know, the works. Coincidentally, I have put myself on a time limit to finish reading The Brothers Karamazov by then. As I should have realized earlier, that’s not how it works with F. Dostoyevsky.

He has written four major novels and many shorter works. Out of the four, Demons is the darkest and most political; The Idiot is the most entertaining; Crime and Punishment most philosophical (the plot is exceedingly simple but the book stretches on for an engaging 551 pages); and lastly, The Brothers Karamazov is the epitome of the author’s combined storytelling and writing abilities. What Atlas Shrugged is to Ayn Rand, The Brothers Karamazov is to Dostoyevsky. (I promise that you will see Rand-related posts later, it is inevitable). If this novel is an aggregation of everything that the man can do, it will not yield to time limits. I continually find myself putting it down and re-thinking the chapter I just finished, re-assessing the loyalties I have towards various characters, thinking of more ways each situation might play out. The story is just so incredibly vivid. In these books, no detail is superfluous. No character is forced. The reader is forced to live the story, not simply read and understand it. It is a tiring read, but at the end of every chapter you feel as you have accomplished something.

As a word of appreciation for Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, the wonderful translators, I enjoy the end notes as much as the text sometimes. The story has the needed comic relief. And they don’t miss the tongue-in-cheek humour that Dostoyevsky sprinkles his story with when he makes the most abominable characters ardent followers of his real-life literary adversaries. Poor Turgenev.

So as I’ve been trying to force myself into experiencing the strife-filled, grief-ridden, and socially complex story on a speed-reading schedule, I realized that I cannot. I am halfway done the novel, and I will take my time reading the rest; let this be an exercise in slow reading.

Slow reading can work much like slow art; this will be a topic to discuss for another day, but for now you should check it out for yourself and see what you think. What a great concept!

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