The Brothers Karamazov


The Brothers Karamazov has had a deep influence on many writers and philosophers who followed it. Admirers of the novel include Albert Einstein,[18] Ludwig Wittgenstein,[19] Martin Heidegger,[20] Cormac McCarthy[21] and Kurt Vonnegut.[22] Sigmund Freud called it "the most magnificent novel ever written" and was fascinated with the book for its Oedipal themes. In 1928 Freud published a paper titled "Dostoevsky and Parricide" in which he investigated Dostoyevsky's own neuroses. Freud claimed that Dostoyevsky's epilepsy was not a natural condition but instead a physical manifestation of the author's hidden guilt over his father's death. According to Freud, Dostoyevsky (and all other sons) wished for the death of his father because of latent desire for his mother; and as evidence Freud cites the fact that Dostoyevsky's epileptic fits did not begin until he turned 18, the year his father died. The themes of patricide and guilt, especially in the form of moral guilt illustrated by Ivan Karamazov, would then obviously follow for Freud as literary evidence of this theory.

Franz Kafka is another writer who felt immensely indebted to Dostoyevsky and The Brothers Karamazov for influencing his own work. Kafka called himself and Dostoyevsky "blood relatives", perhaps because of Dostoyevsky's existential motifs. Another interesting parallel between the two authors was their strained relationships with their fathers. Kafka felt immensely drawn to the hatred Fyodor's sons demonstrate toward their father in The Brothers Karamazov and dealt with the theme of fathers and sons himself in many of his works, most explicitly in his short story "The Judgment".[23]

James Joyce noted that

[Leo] Tolstoy admired him but he thought that he had little artistic accomplishment or mind. Yet, as he said, 'he admired his heart', a criticism which contains a great deal of truth, for though his characters do act extravagantly, madly, almost, still their basis is firm enough underneath... The Brothers Karamazov... made a deep impression on me... he created some unforgettable scenes [detail]... Madness you may call it, but therein may be the secret of his genius... I prefer the word exaltation, exaltation which can merge into madness, perhaps. In fact all great men have had that vein in them; it was the source of their greatness; the reasonable man achieves nothing.[24]

Pope Benedict XVI cited this book in the 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi.[25]

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