colin f lane

Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov. Translated by Richard Paver and Larissa Volokhonsky, Picador, 2021.

Part I

Book One: A Nice Little Family

Chapter 2. The First Son Sent Packing

Pyotr Alexandrovich Miusov

Chapter 3. Second Marriage, Second Children

"Boz": Ivan Fyodorivich

Chapter 4. The Third Son, Alyosha

Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov

'I have already mentioned that he had grown very bloated.' 'His physiognomy by that time presented something that testified acutely to the characteristics and essence of his whole life.'

Chapter 5. Elders

Alyosha / Zosima

Oh, how well he understood that for the humble soul of the simple Russian, worn out by toil and grief, and, above all, by everlasting injustice and everlasting sin, his own and the world's, there is no stronger need and consolation than to find some holy thing or person, to fall down before him and venerate him: 'Though with us there is sin, unrighteousness, and temptation, all the same, there is on earth, in such and such a place, somewhere, someone holy and exalted; he has the truth; he knows the truth; so the truth does not die on earth, and therefore someday it will come to us and it will reign over all the earth, as has been promised.'

Book Two: An Inappropriate Gathering

Chapter 1. They Arrive at the Monastery

holy fooling

"How am I bothering you, Pyotr Alexandrovich? Just look," he cried suddenly, stepping inside the wall of the hermitage, "what a vale of roses they live in!"

Indeed, though there were no roses, there were many rare and beautiful autumn flowers, wherever there was room for them. They were obviously tended by an expert hand. There were flowerbeds within the church fences and between the graves. The little house where the elder had his cell, wooden, one-storied, with a front porch, was also surrounded with flowers.

"Was it like this in the time of the previous elder, Varsonofy? They say he didn't like such niceties, they say he used to jump up and beat even ladies with a stick," Fyodor Pavlovich remarked as he went up the steps.

"The elder Varsonofy indeed sometimes seemed like a holy fool, but much of what is said about him is nonsense. ..."

Chapter 3. Women of Faith


The elder stood on the top step, put on his stole, and began to bless the women who crowded towards him. A "shrieker" was pulled up to him by both hands. She no sooner saw the elder than she suddenly began somehow absurdly screeching, hiccuping, and shaking all over as if in convulsions. The elder, having covered her head with the stole, read a short prayer over her, and she at once became quiet and calmed down. I do not know how it is now, but in my childhood I often used to see and hear these "shriekers" in villages and monasteries. Taken to the Sunday liturgy, they would screech or bark like dogs so that the whole church could hear, but when the chalice was brought out, and they were led up to the chalice, the "demonic possession" would immediately cease and the sick ones would always calm down for a time. As a child, I was greatly struck and astonished by this. And it was then that I heard from some landowners and especially from my town teachers, in answer to my questions, that it was all a pretense in order to avoid work, and that it could always be eradicated by the proper severity, which they confirmed by telling various stories. But later on I was surprised to learn from medical experts that there is no pretense in it, that it is a terrible woman's disease that seems to occur predominantly in our Russia, that it is a testimony to to the hard lot of our peasant women, caused by exhausting work too soon after difficult, improper birth-giving without any medical help, and, besides that, by desperate grief, beatings, and so on, which the nature of some women, as the general examples show, cannot endure. This strange and instant healing of the frenzied and struggling woman the moment she was brought to the chalice, which used to be explained to me as shamming and, moreover, almost as a trick arranged by the "clericals" themselves -- this healing occurred, probably, also in a very natural way: both the women who brought her to the chalice and, above all, the sick woman herself, fully believed, as an unquestionable truth, that the unclean spirit that possessed the sick woman could not possibly endure if she, the sick woman, were brought to the chalice and made to bow before it. And therefore, in a nervous and certainly also mentally ill woman, there always occurred (and had to occur), at the moment of her bowing before the chalice, an inevitable shock, as it were, to her whole body, a shock provoked by expectation of the inevitable miracle of healing and by the most complete faith that it would occur. And it would occur, even if only for a moment. That is just what happened now, as soon as the elder covered the woman with his stole.

Book Three: The Sensualists

Chapter 8. Over the Cognac



Part II

Book Four: Strains

Chapter 1. Father Ferapont

"I have taught you for so many years, and therefore spoken aloud for so many years, that it has become a habit, as it were, to speak, and, speaking, to teach you, so much so that I would find it almost more difficult to be silent than to speak, my dear fathers and brothers, even now in my weakness," he joked, looking tenderly upon those who crowded around him. Later Alyosha recalled something of what he said then. But though he spoke distinctly and in a sufficiently firm voice, his talk was rather incoherent. He spoke of many things, he seemed to want to say everything, to speak one last time before the moment of death, to say all that had not been said in his life, and not only for the sake of instruction, but as if he wished to share his joy and ecstasy with all, to pour out his heart once more in this life...

"Remember, young man, unceasingly," Father Paissy began directly, without any preamble, "that the science of this world, having united itself into a great force, has, especially in the past century, examined everything heavenly that has been bequeathed to us in scared books, and, after hard analysis, the learned ones of this world have absolutely nothing left of what was once holy. But they have examined parts and missed the whole, and their blindness is even worthy of wonder. Meanwhile the whole stands before their eyes as immovably as ever, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Did it not live for nineteen centuries, does it not live even now in the movements of individual souls and in the movements of the popular masses? Even in the movements of the souls of those same all-destroying atheists, it lives, as before, immovably! For those who renounce Christianity and rebel against it are in their essence of the same image of the same Christ, and such they remain, for until now neither their wisdom nor the ardor of their hearts has been able to create another, higher image of man and his dignity than the image shown of old by Christ. And whatever their attempts, the results have been only monstrosities. ..."

Chapter 7. And in the Fresh Air

"Schoolchildren are merciless people: separately they're God's angels, but together, especially in school, they're quite often merciless."

"Don't despise me, my good sir: in Russia, drunks are our kindest people. Our kindest people are also the most drunk."

... the poor man went on, gradually getting into a sort of confused, almost wild ecstasy. He was as if befuddled and was speaking extremely quickly and hastily, as if he were afraid he might not be allowed to get it all out.

Book Five: Pro and Contra

Chapter 1. A Betrothal

"And that suddenly struck him: why, indeed, should I help up and help him? You know, Lise, it's terribly difficult for an offended man when everyone suddenly starts looking like his benefactor ... I'd heard that; the elder told me so. I don't know how to put it, but I've noticed it often myself. And I feel exactly the same way."

Chapter 3. The Brothers Get Acquainted

"You see, my dear, there was in the eighteenth century an old sinner who stated that if God did not exist, he would have to be invented: S'il n'existait pas Dieu, il faudrait l'inventer. And man has, indeed, invented God. And the strange thing, the wonder would not be that God really exists, the wonder is that such a notion -- the notion of the necessity of God -- could creep into the head of such a wild and wicked animal as man -- so holy, so moving, so wise a notion, which does man such great honor. As for me, I long ago decided not to think about whether man created God or God created man."

"Well, first, for the sake of Russianism, let's say: Russian conversations on these subjects are all conducted as stupidly as possible. And second, then, the stupider, the more to the point. The stupider, the clearer. Stupidity is brief and guileless, while reason hedges and hides. Reason is a scoundrel, stupidity is direct and honest. I brought the case around to my despair, and the more stupidly I've presented it, the more it's to my advantage."

Chapter 4. Rebellion

"The question is whether this comes from bad qualities in people, or is inherent in their nature. In my opinion, Christ's love for people is in its kind a miracle impossible on earth. True, he was God. But we are not gods. Let's say that I, for example, am capable of profound suffering, but another man will never be able to know the degree of my suffering, because he is another and not me, and besides, a man is rarely willing to acknowledge someone else as a sufferer (as if it were a kind of distinction). And why wont he acknowledge it, do you think? Because I, for example, have a bad smell, or a stupid face, or once stepped on his foot. Besides, there is suffering and suffering some benefactor of mine may still allow a humiliating suffering, which humiliates me -- hunger, for example; but a slightly higher suffering -- for an idea, for example -- no, that he will not allow, save perhaps on rare occasions, because he will look at me and suddenly see that my face is not at all the kind of face that, he fancies, a man should have who suffers, for example, for such and such an idea. And so he at once deprives me of his benefactions, and not even from the wickedness of his heart. Beggars, especially noble beggars, should never show themselves in the street; they should ask for alms through the newspapers. It's still possible to love one's neighbor abstractly, and even occasionally from a distance, but hardly ever up close. If it were all as it is onstage, in a ballet, where beggars, when they appear, come in silken rags and tattered lace and ask for alms dancing gracefully, well, then it would still be possible to admire them. To admire, but still not to love."

"... I will not speak of grown-ups because, apart from the fact that they are disgusting and do not deserve love, they also have retribution: they ate the apple, and knew good and evil, and became 'as gods.' And they still go on eating it. But little children have not eaten anything and are not yet guilty of anything."

Chapter 5. The Grand Inquisitor

"There is no more ceaseless or tormenting care for man, as long as he remains free, than to find someone to bow down to as soon as possible. But man seeks to bow down before that which is indisputable, so indisputable that all men at once would agree to the universal worship of it. For the care of these pitiful creatures is not just to find something before which I or some other man can bow down, but to find something that everyone else will also believe in and bow down to, for it must needs be all together. And this need for communality of worship is the chief torment of each man individually, and of mankind as a whole, from the beginning of the ages. In the cause of universal worship, they have destroyed each other with the sword. They have made gods and called upon each other: "Abandon your gods and come and worship ours, otherwise death to you and your gods!" And so it will be until the end of the world, even when all gods have disappeared from the earth/l they will still fall down before idols."

Chapter 7. "It's Always Interesting to Talk with an Intelligent Man"

At seven o'clock in the evening Ivan Fyodorovich boarded the train and flew towards Moscow. "Away with all the past, I'm through with the old world forever, and may I never hear another word or echo from it; to the new world, to new places, and no looking back!" But instead of delight, such darkness suddenly descended on his soul, and such grief gnawed at his heart, as he had never known before in the whole of his life. He sat thinking all night; the train flew on, and only at daybreak, entering Moscow, did he suddenly come to, as it were.
"I am a scoundrel," he whispered to himself.

Book Six: The Russian Monk

Chapter 1. The Elder Zosima and His Visitors

"Thus I think of you: you will go forth from these walls, but you will sojourn in the world like a monk. You will have many opponents, but your very enemies will love you. Life will bring you many misfortunes, but through them you will be happy, and you will bless life and cause others to bless it -- which is the most important thing."

Chapter 2. From the Life of the Hieromonk and Elder Zosima, Departed in God, Composed from His Own Words by Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov

"for the Word is for all, all creation and all creatures, every little leaf is striving towards the Word, sings glory to God, weeps to Christ, unbeknownst to itself, doing so through the mystery of its sinless life. There, in the forest," I said to him, "the fearsome bear wanders, terrible and ferocious, and not at all guilty for that."

"Paradise," he said, "is hidden in each one of us, it is concealed within me, too, right now, and if I wish, it will come for me in reality, tomorrow even, and for the rest of my life." I looked at him: he was speaking with tenderness and looking at me mysteriously, as if questioning me. "And," he went on, "as for each man being guilty before all and for all, besides his own sins, your reasoning about that is quite correct, and it is surprising that you could suddenly embrace this thought so fully. And indeed it is true that when people understand this thought, the Kingdom of Heaven will come to them, no longer in a dream but in reality." "But when will this come true?" I exclaimed ruefully. "And will it ever come true? Is it not just a dream?" "Ah," he said, "now you do not believe it, you preach it and do not believe it yourself. Know, then, that this dream, as you call it, will undoubtedly come true, believe it, though not now, for every action has its law. This is a matter of the soul, a psychological matter. In order to make the world over anew, people themselves must turn onto a different path psychically. Until one has indeed become the brother of all, there will be no brotherhood. No science or self-interest will ever enable people to share their property and their rights among themselves without offense. Each will always think his share too small, and they will keep murmuring, they will envy and destroy one another. You ask when it come true. It will come true, but first the period of human isolation must conclude." "What isolation?" I asked him. "That which is now reigning everywhere, especially in our age, but it is not at all concluded yet, its term has not come. For everyone now strives most of all to separate his person, wishing to experience the fullness of life within himself, and yet what comes of all his efforts is not the fullness of life but full suicide, for instead of the fullness of self-definition, they fall into complete isolation. For all men in our age are separated into units, each seeks seclusion in his own hole, each withdraws from the others, hides himself, and hides what he has, and ends by pushing himself away from people and pushing people away from himself. He accumulates wealth in solitude, thinking: how strong, how secure I am now; and does not see, madman as he ism that the more he accumulates, the more he sinks into suicidal impotence. For he is accustomed to relying only on himself, he has separated his unit from the whole, he has accustomed his soul to not believing in people's help, in people or in mankind, and now only trembles lest his money and his acquired privileges perish. Everywhere now the human mind has begun laughably not to understand that a man's true security lies not in his own solitary effort, but in the general wholeness of humanity. But there must needs come a term to this horrible isolation, and everyone will all at once realize how unnaturally they have separated themselves one from another. Such will be the spirit of the time, and they will be astonished that they sat in darkness for so long, and did not see the light. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the heavens ... But until then we must keep hold of the banner, and every once in a while, if only individually, a man must suddenly set an example, and draw the soul from its isolation for an act of brotherly communion, though it be with the rank of holy fool. So that the great thought does not die..."

Chapter 3. From the Talks and Homilies of the Elder Zosima

Look at the worldly and at the whole world that exalts itself above the people of God: are the image of God and his truth not distorted in it? They have science, and in science only that which is subject to the senses. But the spiritual world, the higher half of man's being, is altogether rejected, banished with a sort of triumph, even with hatred. The world has proclaimed freedom, especially of late, but what do we see in this freedom of theirs: only slavery and suicide! For the world says: "You have needs, therefore satisfy them, for you have the same rights as the noblest and richest men. Do not be afraid to satisfy them, but even increase them" -- this is the current teaching of the world. And in this they see freedom. But what comes of this right to increase one's needs? For the rich, isolation and spiritual suicide; for the poor, envy and murder, for they have been given rights, but have not yet been shown any way of satisfying their needs. We are assured that the world is becoming more and more united, is being formed into brotherly communion, by the shortening of distances, by the transmitting of thoughts through the air. Alas, do not believe in such a union of people. Taking freedom to mean the increase and prompt satisfaction of needs, they distort their own nature, for they generate many meaningless and foolish desires, habits, and the most absurd fancies in themselves. They live only for mutual envy, for pleasure-seeking and self-conceit. To have dinners, horses, carriages, rank, and slaves to serve them is now considered such a necessity that for the sake of it, to satisfy it, they will sacrifice life, honor, the love of mankind, and will even kill themselves if they are unable to satisfy it. We see the same thing in those who are not rich, while the poor, so far, simply drown their unsatisfied needs and envy in drink. But soon they will get drunk on blood instead of wine, they are being led to that.

Part III

Book Seven: Alyosha

Chapter 2. An Opportune Moment

No doubt some other young man, who takes his heart's impressions more prudently, who has already learned how to love not ardently but just lukewarmly, whose thoughts, though correct, are too reasonable (and therefore cheap) for his age, such a young man, I say, would avoid what happened to my young man, but in certain cases, really, it is more honorable to yield to some passion, however unwise, if it springs from great love, than not to yield to it at all. Still more so in youth, for a young man who is constantly too reasonable is suspect and of too cheap a price -- that is my opinion! "But," reasonable people may exclaim at this point, "not every young man can believe in such prejudices, and your young man is no example for others." To this I again reply: yes, my young man believed, believed piously and unshakably, but still I do not apologize for him.

Chapter 4. Cana of Galilee

He did not know why he was embracing it, he did not try to understand why he longed so irresistibly to kiss it, to kiss all of it, but he was kissing it, weeping, sobbing, and watering it with his tears, and he vowed ecstatically to love it, to love it unto ages of ages. "Water the earth with the tears of your joy, and love those tears...," rang in his soul. What was he weeping for? Oh, in his rapture he wept even for the stars that shone on him from the abyss, and "he was not ashamed of his ecstasy." It was as if threads from all those innumerable worlds of God all came together in his soul, and it was trembling all over, "touching other worlds." He wanted to forgive everyone and for everything, and to ask forgiveness, oh, not for himself! but for all and for everything, "as others are asking for me," rang again in his soul. But with each moment he felt clearly and almost tangibly something as firm and immovable as this heavenly vault descend into his soul. Some sort of idea, as it were, was coming to reign in his mind -- now for the whole of his life and unto ages of ages. He fell to the earth a weak youth and rose up a fighter, steadfast for the rest of his life, and he knew it and felt it suddenly, in that very moment of his ecstasy. Never, never in all his life would Alyosha forget that moment. "Someone visited my soul in that hour," he would say afterwards, with firm belief in his words...