Monday, January 30, 2012

Dostoyevsky in Doses

I have been assigned “Crime and Punishment” on two occasions in my education. The first time was in 10th grade and the second was in graduate school. In tenth grade I didn’t even make it to the murder. In seminary I made it well into the second part, but Dostoyevsky is such a genius writer I was too disturbed by the first person narration from an insane man. I felt like I was going crazy. Maybe the rest of the class and the professor felt the same way because, as I recall, we never did anything with the book and I didn’t have to finish.

For the past several years I have been taking a different approach to “The Brothers Karamazov.” Every January I pick it back up and carry on from wherever I made it the year before. The nice thing about Dostoyevsky is that he divides his material up nicely. He was a serialized author, but it is as if he knew that his writing needed to be consumed in small chunks. “Karamazov” has parts, books, and chapters.

A lot of really smart people have called this book one of the greatest pieces of literature. I haven’t read enough of all the books ever written to make that assessment, but it is an important book. Much of the stories being told in popular culture are influenced by it. More importantly, the ideas that Dostoyevsky explores are the same things we debate and question today—but he comes to some pretty good conclusions. His take on religion predates that video going around the web by about twelve decades.

If you haven’t read “Karamazov” you ought to, even if it takes you years. Now maybe I’ll try “Crime and Punishment” again…

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