My vote goes to Crime and Punishment. The main reason is the simplicity and beauty of the plot. We have a central character—he commits a crime in the heat of passion, and then he spends the rest of the novel contemplating the ramifications of his action. During that time, the novel covers the fundamental topics of life: justice, mortality, good, evil, etc.
The Brothers Karamazov is complex in structure. It’s narrates the history of an entire family as opposed to one person. So it’s easy to become lost during the story, trying to remember what happened to which character. You almost need an Excel spreadsheet to follow along. It has some nice moments, for sure (The Grand Inquisitor” chapter being the most famous). But the reader has to work for these gems.
In my opinion, less is more. So if you have to chose one of Dostoevsky’s novels to begin with, make it Crime and Punishment. You’ll find it straightforward and beautifully written.
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4 thoughts on “Crime and Punishment or The Brothers Karamazov?”
I read both of these books just after I finished university as well as The Idiot. I also read at that time the complete works of Zola, Tolstoy, Virgil, Homer, Julius Caesar, ….. My powers of concentration must have been far greater than today; I recently tried rereading The Idiot and gave up. On your question I much preferred Crime and Punishment as much a philosophical read as a novel as it focused on “regret over ones crime etc” being the greatest punishment of all. As a side story, Dr C and I went to London for a weekend at that time to see a stage performance of Brothers Karamazov, which she hadn’t read so I thought she would enjoy it. Bloody hell, it was impossible to follow, only 3 actors, no scenery and only ONE prop …. a fur coat! The actors kept switching roles and the only way to tell the father of the two brothers was that HE would be wearing the fur coat. Dr C has never forgiven me! She’s laughing now as I remind her of that weekend 40 years ago.
Dr. B, I am trying to get through “The Idiot” now as well and it’s a real struggle. So I concur with you on that point And I can only imagine the disaster that a theatre performance of BK would render. It’s a story that does not, or should not, even transfer over to that medium.
Of the two i have only read Crime and Punishment so an informed vote isn’t appropriate. I should read TBK, though.
Elspeth, THK is a very tough read. It’s by no means a page turner….