The Brothers Karamazov


The Brothers Karamazov has had a deep influence on many writers, philosophers, and public figures over the years. Admirers of the novel include Albert Einstein,[19] Sigmund Freud,[20] Ludwig Wittgenstein,[21] Martin Heidegger,[22] Cormac McCarthy,[23] Kurt Vonnegut,[24] Haruki Murakami,[25] Vladimir Putin,[26] Frederick Buechner[27] Laura Bush,[28] and Hillary Clinton.[29] C. P. Snow, writing about Einstein's admiration of the novel, wrote, "The Brothers Karamazov - that for him in 1919 was the supreme summit of all literature. It remained so when I talked to him in 1937, and probably until the end of his life."[30] 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 Dostoevsky's own neuroses. Freud claimed that Dostoevsky'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, Dostoevsky (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 Dostoevsky'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 Dostoevsky and The Brothers Karamazov for influencing his own work. Kafka called himself and Dostoevsky "blood relatives", perhaps because of Dostoevsky'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".[31]

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.[32]

The existentialist philosopher and Nobel Prize-winning author Albert Camus centered on a discussion of Ivan Karamazov's revolt in his 1951 book Rebel. According to the philosopher Charles B. Guignon, the novel's most fascinating character, Ivan Karamazov, had by the middle of the twentieth century become the icon of existentialist rebellion in the writings of Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre.[33] An important part of the novel is the poem The Grand Inquisitor, told by Ivan, which is one of the best-known passages in modern literature because of its ideas about human nature, freedom, power, authority, and religion, and for its fundamental ambiguity. A reference to the poem can be found in Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World Revisited and David Foster Wallace's novel Infinite Jest.

Joseph Stalin had read Dostoevsky since his youth and considered the author as a great psychologist. His copy of The Brothers Karamazov reveals extensive highlights and notes in the margins that he made while reading the work, which have been studied and analyzed by multiple researchers.[34][35] The Russian politician and the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has described The Brothers Karamazov as one of his favorite books.[26]

According to Serbian state news agency Tanjug, Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić described Fyodor Dostoevsky as his dearest novelist. He also said that "The Brothers Karamazov may be the best work of world literature".[36]

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is said to have read The Brothers Karamazov "so often he knew whole passages of it by heart.”[37] A copy of the novel was one of the few possessions Wittgenstein brought with him to the front during World War I.[37] Martin Heidegger, the seminal figure of existentialism, identified Dostoevsky's thought as one of the most important sources for his early and best known book, Being and Time.[38] Of the two portraits Heidegger kept on the wall of his office, one was of Dostoevsky.[33] In an essay on the novel written after the Russian Revolution and the First World War, Nobel Prize-winning author Hermann Hesse described Dostoevsky as not a "poet" but a "prophet".[39] The acclaimed novelist W. Somerset Maugham included The Brothers Karamazov in his list of ten greatest novels in the world.[40] The Pope Benedict XVI cited this book in the 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi.[41]

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