Pevear & Volokhonsky Translation of The Brothers Karamazov.

 Every now and then I read a book that I believe should be on every Christian thinker’s bookshelf. Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov is one such book. It is not an exaggeration to say that The Brothers Karamazov might possibly be one of the greatest novels of all time.

Warning: Plot spoilers follow… 

Dostoevsky’s description of the tragic Karamazov brothers and the murder of their father provokes questions about God’s sovereignty, the place of suffering in our world, human depravity, and redemption through pain.

I have decided not to give a description of this book’s storyline. There are many places where one can find the story. I will say that there are sections of this book where the theological questions are so profound and well-treated that the reader feels he must read them several times to fully feel their force.

The Brothers Karamazov is a long book (almost 800 pages). Pevear and Volokhonsky’s translation is, undoubtedly, the easiest to read in English, but even the good translation cannot overcome some of the slow-moving moments where the novel labors in details. Many Karamazov fans (and I am one of them) love the extra details, as the information helps to better form each of the unforgettable characters.

Who, after reading this book, can forget Fyodor Karamazov, the wicked and sensual father? Or Ivan, the cold rationalist son who has abandoned his belief in God? Or Dmitri, the well-intentioned son who is held captive to his own base desires? And of course, Alyosha, the good son who trusts in God but is powerless to stop the murder of his father? And these are just the Karamazovs. Dostoevsky’s descriptions of Katerina, Grushenka, Father Zosima and Smerdyakov are just as compelling.

The Brothers Karamazov is not for the faint of heart. It is, at times, difficult to read. At other times, its story is captivating. And, as always in Dostoevsky’s works, the depth of thought behind the philosophical questioning is what makes the book stand out. If you have time to read and you love classic literature, buy the book and read it all. If you don’t have time, but would like a taste, I suggest you at least read “The Grand Inquisitor” chapter.

written by Trevin Wax. © 2007 Kingdom People Blog

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0 thoughts on “Book Review: The Brothers Karamazov”

  1. Ron says:

    What a wonderful book! This was my first Dosteovsky (as i couldn’t bring myself to finish Crime and Punishment in High School…He was to much for me in 10th grade!). Chuck Colson made several references to it in “How Now Shall We Live?” and I decided to tackle it. I would suggest getting the expensive copy with a real good translation. Mine was the Penguin Classic and it was aweful and at times it seemed it wasn’t proof-read! I List this with Lord of the Rings as my two favorite books of all time.

    I enjoy your blog, and it’s good to see that more people are tackling the great authors, even though we may have discarded them in AP English Class!

  2. trevinwax says:

    Hi Ron,

    Nice to hear from you.

    I agree about getting a good translation. It makes all the difference. I read the book in college, but the translation bothered me. When I picked up the more expensive one, Dostoevsky’s world came alive in a new way.

    This is one of the books that gets quoted and cited in speeches and writings all the time. And for good reason!

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, husband to Corina, father to Timothy, Julia, and David. You can follow him on Twitter. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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