I know, I know. I usually do a book review combined with a recipe inspired by said book. Well, that's not going to work this month because I royally messed up the recipe I tried for The Brothers Karamazov, September's book of the month.
I tried to make kvass, a Russian fermented rye bread drink. Ideally, this drink is nonalcoholic, though sometimes it has a low (0.5 to 1%) alcohol content. Given that I don't drink, I wanted mine to be nonalcoholic. As it turned out, I did something wrong and it ended up being about 1 to 2% alcoholic. And it didn't taste very good. So not only did I make booze, but I made bad booze.
Needless to say, I will not be publishing the recipe for you all to try. You're welcome.
Sometimes things just don't turn out the way we'd like them to. And no, I'm not just talking about kitchen misadventures.
Fyodor Dostoevsky has been an author that has fascinated me for some time. There was something unique in his writings that I couldn't quite figure out where it came from, so I did some reading on his background.
His father was a cruel man who died unexpectedly...quite possibly murdered by his own serfs. Fyodor spent several years in a Siberian prison and as a forced serviceman in the army for being part of an anti-government group. He suffered from epileptic seizures, was almost constantly in debt, and his first wife of seven unhappy years died of consumption. Spiraling into more debt and gambling, he married for a second time, this lady somehow managing to help him put his life back together. He had four children, only two of which survived to adulthood.
After reading this, suddenly so many pieces of his writing made sense.
Fyodor Dostoevsky is known for writing psychologically complex characters and pushing farther into themes of religion and politics than most writers were (or are) willing to go. If you've read multiple stories by him, you may notice that he also had something of a fixation on the word "spite."
The general plot of the story is patricide, both the events leading up to and taking place after this incident. It serves as the central point of the story, but, like the murder in Crime and Punishment, it isn't so much the crime that is the focus of the book, but the ideas and people surrounding it.
At first glance, Alyosha is the spiritual and faithful character who loves all and works to heal the problems within the Karamazov family. The father and Dimitri are the exact opposite: sensualists who love only themselves and bring pain upon all those around them. Ivan is the tortured intellectual who denies the existence of God and yet cannot be happy with this conclusion.
But, as the book progresses, you realize that each of these characters is not exactly as they seem. They are all connected by the "Karamazov way." Dimitri is not as depraved as you would think, and the father is not, in fact, a complete idiot. Alyosha and Ivan, though seemingly having exactly opposite religious beliefs, both have the same questions about the world and it's fallen state.
Each Karamazov has within them the same draw to the dark, perverted side of life, but they each also have (or had) a sense of right. Each sit at difference points on this spectrum, Alyosha closest to the pure side and the father completely over in the depraved side.
One of my favorite parts of the book, and one that I think sums up one of the main conflicts for Ivan and Alyosha's beliefs, is this one:
"I accept God and am glad to, and what's more I accept His wisdom, His purpose -- which are utterly beyond our ken; I believe in the underlying order and the meaning of life; I believe in the eternal harmony in which the say we shall one day be blended....Yet, would you believe it, in the final results I don't accept this world of God's....I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for...at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts...that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened with men -- but though all that may come to pass, I don't accept it. I won't accept it."
The Brothers Karamazov is one of the few books that made me underline passages, put notes in the margins, and go back and reread sections. Here is a book that asked all of the difficult questions without trying to answer them a tidy, perfect way. Rather, points are made, countered, and questioned in such a way that it forces the reader to really think about what they believe and why they believe it.
Dostoevsky is one of the authors that inspired me to approach Christian fiction in a new way: Ask the hard questions. Don't shy away from the confusing parts of the faith. Christians are not perfect and shouldn't be portrayed as such. Believing in no way means not questioning. I applied these concepts to Skies of Dripping Gold and was excited about the results. Dostoevsky, C.S. Lewis, and Douglas Adams (don't ask) were largely helpful in my discovery of my own style of Christian fiction.
For those of you who are like me and have a curious mind full of oh so many questions, The Brothers Karamazov is certainly a book to consider reading. That being said, this is a Dostoevsky novel and it is Russian literature, which is pretty much synonymous with very dark and difficult, so proceed with caution.
It's a book I'm very glad I read and one that I mean to revisit. Have you read this novel or others by Dostoevsky? Please tell me what you thought! I'd love to hear about your favorite Russian novels.
Peanut Brittle Inspired by Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyLessons from Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: The Importance of Never Giving Up
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