My Catholic men’s book club is reading The Brothers Karamazov. My Bantam paperback is 936 pages. I’m on 28. We’re supposed to have the first 200 pages finished by Wednesday.
Fortunately, I read it many years ago, so I can fake the discussions. I even researched a few things and assembled a list of interesting facts that I can contribute, thereby deflecting suspicion that I didn’t get through the first 200 pages:
8. It takes place in Russia.
7. Dostoyevsky didn’t write it in a day.
6. No characters are transgender.
5. It’s rumored that Khloe Kardashian hasn’t read it.
4. Dostoyevsky didn’t release a single section of the book on his blog.
3. The Bantam Book edition had to be translated from Russian because Dostoyevsky didn’t write it in English
2. It reinforces negative stereotypes of Turks, Circassians, Jews (who are occasionally referred to disparagingly as “Yids”), and non-traditional families (e.g., using the term “bastard” to refer to children born outside of the traditional patriarchal home).
1. The narrative is patriarchal, western-centric, and otherwise written from the perspective of the favored half of the power binary and Dostoyevsky didn’t even know it.
Six Unverified Facts
6. Amazon bought the rights and, elated with The Rings of Power’s success, cast black men in the role of the Karamazov brothers but quickly realized its offensive mistake and canceled production.
5. The Rating Guild in 1880 classified it “MA-14” for its portrayal of smoking and drinking, sex, and frightening/intense scenes.
4. #dostoyevsky was the number one trending topic on Twitter in 1880.
3. Harvey Weinstein idolized Fyodor Karamazov and modeled his life on him.
2. Dostoyevsky almost re-wrote the book as The Daughters Karamazov but didn’t think it would sell. Dostoyevsky experts think that, if he’d seen the success of the all-female cast of the Ghostbusters remake, he would’ve changed his mind.
1. Dostoyevsky started production of a 3-million Tik Tok video series of the novel but died before he could make any meaningful progress on it.
Five Interesting Facts
5. Like many classic 19th-century novels, the book was released in serial form through The Russian Messenger.
4. Dostoyevsky considered it his life’s masterwork and, acting consistently, died four months after its publication.
3. Fr. Zosima is based on a real-life monk, Tikhon of Zadonsk, whom the Russian Orthodox Church canonized in 1860. Dostoyevsky may have felt a personal connection with him because he shared many of Dostoyevsky’s personality shortcomings: nervous ailments, bouts with hypochondria, anger, and hostility toward others. Tikhon was also the butt of mockery and derision at his monastery, which Dostoyevsky often was as a writer.
2. Dostoyevsky’s initial title was “The Russian Monk.” It’s a reference to Fr. Zosima’s disciple, Alyosha, who was the third Karamazov son and the man that the first sentence of the massive novel identifies as the book’s hero.
1. Dostoyevsky’s portrayal of the Catholic Church in “The Grand Inquisitor” ranks among the most unflattering of all time, but Dostoyevsky was very close to the Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, who believed in the primacy of the Papacy and may have converted to Catholicism (the evidence isn’t clear). Solovyov, incidentally, was a mysterious genius who was interested in everything mystical, even seeking kabbalistic lore from Bedouins in the desert who nearly killed him because they thought he was an evil spirit.
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