Dostoevsky is one of my favorite authors. Not because I’m familiar with much of his work, because I’m not. I’ve only finished one book by him, “Crime and Punishment”–but that was enough. “Crime and Punishment” is such a powerful book and easily one of my favorites. But now I’m in the middle of another one of his novels, considered the seminal piece of his writing career “The Brothers Karamazov”. I still can’t pronounce the title, but so far the book has met, shook hands, and sprinted past all my expectations.
One similarity I’ve noticed between this book and “Crime and Punishment”, is that Dostoevsky uses pathos to draw affection to his protagonists; you are so moved with compassion and pity for the character, that you are eager to see them succeed.
And this may not be a coincidence. They say you can only write about what you know, and Dostoevsky certainly didn’t have the easiest of lives. First his father was murdered when he was a child. Then Dostoevsky was sentenced to death when he was about my age– a sentence that was eventually commuted to imprisonment in Siberia. He was later released, but he suffered other losses, like the loss of his son and wife, (which are alluded to in Karamazov). Then he fell into enormous debt. Not from situations outside his control, but from excessive dissipation, especially gambling. He can’t be revered for the self-decadency of his later lifestyle, but the understanding of the hand he was dealt growing up, conjures up feelings of nothing but pathos, pity; and I think this may be one of the strongest themes he applies to his novels. That “the tides of fortune, no man can tell”, placing oneself in perspective to the misfortunes of another, you may just find a hero or a great man– in the seemingly lowliest of persons.