Posted by: Sally Ingraham | April 22, 2010

The Brothers Karamazov: Book Three

Bros Kby Fyodor Dostoevsky
translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

Obviously I can’t complain that nothing happened in this section! I’m more inclined to wonder what exactly did happen? Such mystery. Did he or didn’t he, and if he didn’t then who did? Papa Karamazov is finally offed, and all fingers point to Dmitri… There’s really nowhere else to point, and since our narrator has only provided Dmitri’s perspective (and he claims he didn’t do it of course) we are left scrambling for other answers – if we choose to seek them, and I do, I think – even though there isn’t much evidence to support any other answers.

This strikes me as odd. Dostoevsky up to this point has been pretty forthright with us, blocking out his story blow by blow, although with plenty of hints and comments like “actually, I’ll save that for later” and “but I’m getting ahead of myself”… He hasn’t left outright holes in his narrative thus far. There isn’t so much a hole here, I suppose, since we have Dmitri’s (somewhat scattered) confession of everything that happened to him during the fateful night – but in a story that is built out of multiple versions of events, as seen by it’s web of characters, to suddenly suck everything in to focus on one person is startling – and effective I must admit. I finished this section feeling more than a little claustrophobic.

So who do I entertain myself by suspecting, since I don’t feel like believing that Dmitri did the deed? Well, Smerdyakov of course – he could be faking the epileptic fit that he, after all, predicted would happen down to the very circumstances that caused it. There’s no reason to believe he stayed in bed all night! Or it could have been Ivan, so conveniently gone, but having had the idea planted in his head by that same sniveling Smerdyakov. (An aside about Smerdyakov, my favorite sneering (possible) son of Karamazov – seriously guys, he just wants to escape to Moscow so that he can follow his dream and be a cook. What a bright, cute dream in this dank, dark Dostoevsky-en nightmare…!) I’m trying to think if the timeline works out for it to have been Grushenka. Unlikely – she was too busy running off on both her current lovers for her old one. Ooo, what about our other lovely heroin, Katerina? Didn’t we leave her in a state of hysterics bridging on madness…? Just guesses. Dostoevsky doesn’t give us, or perhaps just the limited imagination of me, much to go on.

I’m mildly jealous of those out there who know the outcome of it all, you fortunate ones who have finished the book already, or just anyone who has ever read it. 🙂 I still have 261 pages to go before I find out all of the juicy details, among which are who’s theology will overcome all other arguments in the end – Ivan’s, or the Elder’s – and will we ever find out the identity of our narrator?

Thanks again to Bellezza for hosting this group read, and see you next Thursday for the conclusion of The Bros K.


  1. There’s a huge hole! It’s that line of dots across the page at the one key moment. A hole made of holes.

    Any mystery writer who did that today would be run out of the guild.

    • Oh yeah, the ‘choose your own adventure’ type dots…! I forgot they were there so physically – must have been nodding off at that point, reading too late at night… I was commenting over at Nicole’s post that the whole style of the book from a ‘mystery writer’ point of view is not my favorite. It’s too manufactured when the narrator is holding out on you, saving key clues for later and TELLING you that he’s doing that… Annoying. I much prefer when we’re all trying to figure it out together! 🙂

  2. And what else is annoying just a bit is that this is not really a mystery of material facts but a mystery of personalities and how their exposition is eventually an exposition of authorial belief. Maybe. At least that is what I think today. The whole outlining of facts served as a model of order compared to the frenetic pacing, the shrieker tendencies, the over-indulged appetites, etc. Find myself admiring how clever Dostoevsky is but not crazy for his product. Just like it. That’s it. And you know me, I want the big payoff for coughing up my chunkster dues. 🙂

    • At least some of the personalities are interesting… I’ll have to see how the rest of it pans out, but I have to agree that if I’m going to devote myself to so large a book I hope to REALLY like it. At least I’ll be able to say I’ve read it…!

    • Frances, I hope your “maybe” comes true, because that’s the payoff I’m hoping for at least. Also kind of saying, “You are clever—so why isn’t your book more awesome?” Where awesome is of course highly subjective.

  3. Don’t be jealous of those of us who may have finished it (I couldn’t stand the suspense!) or read it earlier. There will be lots to discuss next Thursday when it’s all wrapped up! Like you, I pondered the identity of Fyodor’s killer, vascillating from Dmitri to Smerdyakov to Ivan. The only one I knew it couldn’t be was Alyosha. Still, what a fascinating murder mystery, eh? I’m glad you’re still in for the ride!

    • I’m wicked stuborn! I’ll finish the thing, and so for I’m liking the 4th section – Koyla (don’t have the book with me, so I hope that’s who I mean!) is kind of adorable…! Very curious how it will get back around to Dmitri and the trial, etc. Can’t wait for next week. 🙂

  4. The emotions run so high in this part I almost feel worn out after reading! While I thought the narrator was funny in Part I, I’m finding him a little annoying now with his unnecessary comments. I’m suspicious of Smerdyakov–that broth-maker!–and what seems like a fake epileptic fit. And he would kill animals for fun when he was little. All bad signs!

    • Gosh, Smerdyakov is just aweful, isn’t he? Nothing fun about him, especially going into the next section. I still don’t know who did it, but my suspicions in relation to him grow stronger! 🙂

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