For me there are two types of fictional books.
Book’s that entertain and give you a shot of adrenaline from either a fright or some plot thrill; or a dose of dopamine from some romantic encounter.
These types of writer’s are in a sense drug dealers. They provide a narrative that causes your imagination to get worked up enough to trigger your glands to give you your ‘hit’. A sort of mental masturbation as it were. (Isn’t that what the whole romance genre is?)
And like all drugs, they are very good at distracting us and numbing us from our reality for a little bit – That we are lonely. That our lives will never live up to the characters in our books. That we are anxious and depressed and we don’t know why. That our family sucks. That life is futile. Not to mention the gnawing knowledge that we are but specks of dust on a speck of dust hurtling through space.
And then there are books that come at you in the disguise of entertainment but really they are meant to open your mind to the big questions.
Why are we here?
What is the point of things?
What is the meaning of life?
Does anything matter?
What is the greatest good?
Books, that once you have read you can’t unread them. Books that are actually honest about what it means to be a human and not just portray one dimensional heroes and villains.
The Brother’s Karamazov by Dostoevsky is one of those books.
You can come for the sordid love triangle and the whodunit parricide but underneath the covers is the Magnus Opus of a writer that drank fully from the crucible of human vice and suffering and then poured it into his characters.
Just to name a few of his very own real life sufferings and ‘shortcomings’ that are in various characters in the book:
Had a toddler that died.
Had horrible seizures.
Had a horrible addiction to gambling.
Was a womaniser and adulterer.
Here is a great biography detailing this: YouTube Biography
And as for the reasons for all of these questions he argues both sides – atheism and theism (Christianity in particular) and both sides point to this book (especially Book 5) as reference. And both sides should read it to find out what they actually believe.
Not to mention:
Gregory B. Sadler
And psychology profs
Jordan B Peterson
Pretty much if you want to understand existentialism you don’t need that 4th year PHIL course – you can just read this book.
The whole thing boils down to one big question – what are you going to do with your existence and the freedom of choice that being human affords us (if such a thing exists).
According to Dostoevsky, being human means at its heart two things.
1. There is suffering (everyone suffers)
2. You can decide to be irrational (being irrational is distinctly human)
What character in TBK do you most align yourself with or are most drawn to? It can reveal a lot about yourself. It is sort of a Myers Brigg test for your soul.
His biggest philosophical statement comes from the famous line given by Ivan
“If God does not exist, everything is permitted”
It is a heavy argument because logically if this life and reality is all there is and you become non existent after you die what difference does it make what kind of a person you were alive – If you were noble and kind like Alyosha are a complete ass like his dad Fyodor. It is within this wonderful juxtaposition that all the other characters fall and must navigate in this most brilliant of books. A must read if you are human.
Come for the entertainment but leave with some philosophy.
The four men that have impacted my thinking and my faith the most throughout my life and what I learned from each one. CS Lewis It all started with a tattered copy of the Chronicles Read more…