I finished The Brothers Karamazov. Something happened at the end. Fetyukovich, Dmitri’s lawyer, stepped to the plate and delivered his closing statements. Then there was the captain at Ilyusha’s funeral. Out of nowhere, shit suddenly got real. So real, what I suspect was supposed to be the real emotional coda of the novel, Alyosha’s speech at the stone, was completely forgotten once I closed the book. I’m not going to say Fetyukovich and the Captain completely transformed this novel for me, but I’m definitely left staggering, wondering what the hell just happened.
To me, Fetyukovich was really the only “believable” character; he was the only one who looked at this whole situation and said, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” And his impassioned closing arguments suddenly illuminated so much of the themes in Infinite Jest and some of DFW’s more empathetic works. “Oh, so that’s where ‘This is Water’ came from…” I want to quote some of what he said, but that would mean copying in about five pages of text.
And then the Captain’s grief at Ilyusha’s funeral. That was real, all too real. Here’s the backstory: just before Dostoevsky began writing The Brothers Karamazov, his youngest son died at the age of three. From what I’ve read, Dostoevsky was deeply affected, and he used BK to work through his grief. (Alyosha Karamazov is named after this son.) Knowing this, going into that funeral chapter and reading how the father behaved…that was real. Too real. I had to close my office door (I finished the book at work) just in case the realness made my eyeballs work up a sweat. Holy shit, it was real.
So where does that put me on this book? Too soon to tell right now maybe. I’m very ambivalent about it. When I told Amanda about it, she asked me if I was a believer now. My response:
To trudge through 700 pages of filthy trash to glimpse a brief ray of light like that? The metaphor is too strong.
Yeah, I’m thinking now that that response was probably too cynical. But the feeling is still there: there’s a lot of infuriating stuff to work through before that final cathartic release. But what if that infuriating stuff is necessary for the big payoff? I don’t know, man, but maybe this book is the 19th Century Russian rough draft for Stairway to Heaven.