Set in 19th century Russia, The Brothers Karamazov (Russian: Братья Карамазовы) is the last novel written by the illustrious author Fyodor Dostoyevsky who died a few months before the book's publication.
The deeply philosophical and passionate novel tells the story of Fyodor Karamazov, an immoral debauch whose sole aim in life is the acquisition of wealth. Twice married, he has three sons whose welfare and upbringing, he cares nothing about. At the beginning of the story, Dimitri Karamazov, the eldest son who is now a twenty-eight year old war veteran, returns to his home town to claim the inheritance left to him by his dead mother. Fyodor is none too pleased to see him as he hates to part with money. The middle brother Ivan, a cold and unemotional man, is called in to settle the dispute but he fails. The youngest son, Alyosha, a gentle and learned soul is training to be a monk in a nearby monastery. He suggests that they consult the famous monastic elder Zosima who could work out a satisfactory solution.
The plot winds through an amazing labyrinth of twists and turns, with the characters of the three brothers becoming more and more apparent to the readers. As different aspects of a human being, the three are completely different, yet bound by the irrevocable ties of common ancestry. The true hero of the story is the gentle Alyosha, whose spiritual journey and wonderfully humane qualities of kindness and compassion remain with the reader for ever. As one of the most compelling and fascinating explorations of the human heart, The Brothers Karamazov remains one of the world's greatest literary creations. A novel of great length (it is divided into twelve volumes) and breadth, its sheer scale and scope captures the imagination of readers.
The book has had an enduring influence on writers all over the world. It was admired and loved by renowned intellectuals like Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Sartre, Camus, James Joyce, Franz Kafka and a host of others. Pope Benedict XVI referred to it in his 2007 encyclical. It has been extensively adapted for stage, screen, TV and translated into many world languages.
Dostoyevsky was one of literature's greatest observers of the human mind. His writings were shaped by his own experiences of political activism, imprisonment, questioning of faith and finding spiritual enlightenment towards the end of his life. The novel is as relevant today as when it was published in 1880 and though it is deeply complex, it was also strangely prophetic as it foretold the events that would take place under the Soviet Regime.