16 August 2016

The Brothers Karamazov

Will be away at cottage for a couple of days, where I'll be reading some more Dostoevsky (and balcony heat loss papers) so I leave you with a whole bunch of quotations from The Brothers Karamazov to ponder over. I don't need to write any more than that it is indeed true that all of humanity can be found within it's pages.

On belief:
Faith does not, in the realist, spring from miracle but the miracle from faith.

Besides, proofs are no help to believing, especially material proofs.

On general human nature:
As a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naive and simple-hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are, too. 
For love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action, rapidly performed and in the sight of all. Men will even give their lives if only the ordeal does not last long but is soon over, with all looking on and applauding as though on the stage. But active live in labor and fortitude, and for some people too, perhaps, a complete science. 

"There are people of deep feeling who have been somehow crushed. Buffoonery in them is a form of resentful irony against those to whom they dare to speak the truth, from having been for years humiliated and Intimidates by them."

Love will be sufficient only for a moment of life, but the very consciousness of its momentariness will intensify its fire

"Gentlemen of the jury," began the prosecutor, "this case has made a stir throughout Russia. But what is there to wonder at, what is there so peculiarly horrifying in it for us! We are so accustomed to such crimes! That's what's so horrible, that such dark deeds have ceased to horrify us. What ought to horrify us is that we are so accustomed to it, and not this or that isolates crime. What are the cause of out indifference, our lukewarm attitude to such deeds, to such signs of the times, ominous of an unenviable future? Is it out cynicism, is it the premature exhaustion of intellect and imagination in a society that is sinking into decay, in spite of its youth? Is it that out moral principles are shattered to their foundations, or is it, perhaps, a complete lack of such principles among us? I cannot answer such questions; nevertheless they are disturbing, and every citizen not only must, but ought, to be harassed by them.
"Yes, one day perhaps the leading intellects of Russia and of Europe will study the psychology of Russian crime, for the subject is worth it. But this study will come later, at leisure, when all the tragic topsy-turvydom of today is farther behind us, so it's possible to examine it with more insight and more impartiality than I can do. Now we are either horrified or pretend to be horrified, and though we really gloat over the spectacle, and love strong and eccentric sensations which tickle our cynical, pampered idleness. Or, like little children, we crush the dreadful ghosts away and hide our heads in the pillow so as to return to our sports and merriment as soon as they have vanished. But we must one day begun life in sober earnest, we much look at ourselves as a society; it's time we tried to grasp something of our social position, or at least make a beginning in that direction.
The man who lies to himself and believes his own lies come to such a pass that he cannot distinguish truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others.
^Although this is said to Frydor Pavlovich, it's equally applicable to Ivan and Katerina.

Speaking of those two, they're hands down my favourite characters of this novel. Here's some quotations pertaining to them. First on Katerina:
What for anyone else would be only a promise is for her an everlasting burdensome, grim perhaps, but unflagging duty. And she will be sustained by the feeling of this dirt being fulfilled. Your life, Katerina Ivanovna, will henceforth be spent in painful brooding over your own feelings, your own heroism, and your own suffering; but in the end that suffering will be softened and will pass into sweet contemplation of the fulfillment of a bold and proud design. Yes, proud it certainly is, and desperate in any case, but a triumph for you. And the consciousness of it will at last be a source of complete satisfaction and will make you resigned to everything else.

She had been firmly convinced, perhaps ever since that bow, that the simple-hearted Mitya, who even then adored her, was laughing at her and despising her. She had loved him with an hysterical, "lacerated" live only from pride, from wounded pride, and that love was not like love, but more like revenge. Oh! Perhaps that lacerated love would have grown into real love, perhaps Katya longed for nothing more than that, but Mitya's faithlessness had wounded her to the bottom of her heart, and her heart could not forgive him. The moment of revenge had come upon her suddenly, and all that had been accumulating so long and so painfully in the offended woman's breads burst out all at once and unexpectedly. She betrayed Mitya, but she betrayed herself too

Katya never had made such confessions to Alyosha before, and he felt that she was now at that stage of unbearable suffering when even the proudest heart painfully crushes it's pride and falls vanquished by grief. 
Laceration is used a lot to describe her actions, it's my favourite new word learned from this book.

On Ivan:
"Brother, let me ask one thing more: has any man a right to look at other men and decide which is worthy to live?"
"Why bring in the question of worth? The matter is most often decided in men's hearts on other grounds much more natural. As for rights - who has not the right to wish?"
I want to travel in Europe, Alyosha, I shall set off from here. And yet I know I am only going to a graveyard, but it's a most precious graveyard, that's what it is! Precious are the dead that lie there, every stone over them speaks of such burning life in the past, of such passionate faith in their work, their truth, their struggle and their science, that I know I shall fall in the ground and hiss those stones and weep over them; though I'm convinced in my heart that it's long been nothing but a graveyard. And I shall not weep from despair, but simply because I shall be happy in my tears, I shall steep my soul in my emotion. I love the sticky leaves in spring, the blue sky - that's all it is. It's not a matter of intellect or logic, it's living with one's inside, with one's stomach. One lives the first strength of one's youth.

"That the absurd is only too necessary on earth. The world stands in absurdities, and perhaps nothing would have come to pass in it without them. We know what we know!"
"What do you know?"
"I understand nothing," Ivan went in, as though in delirium. "I don't want to understand anything now. I want to stick to the fact"
"I am a bug, and I recognize in all humility that I cannot understand why the world is arranged as it is. Men are themselves to blame, I suppose; they were given paradise, they wanted freedom, and stole fire from heaven, though they knew they would become unhappy, so there is no need to pity them. With my pitiful, earthly, Euclidian understanding, all I know is that there is suffering and that there are none guilty; that cause follows effect, simply and directly; that everything flows and finds its level - but that's only Euclidian nonsense, I know that, and I can't consent to live by it! What comfort is it to me that there are none guilty and that cause follows effect simply and direct, and that I know it? - I must have justice, or o will destroy myself. And not justice in some remote infinite time and space, but here on earth, and that I could see myself. I have to believe in it. I want to see it, and if I am dead by then, let me ride again, for if it all happens without me, it will be too unfair. Surely I haven't suffered, simply that I, my crimes and my suffering, may manure the soul of the future harmony for somebody else. I want to see with my own eyes the hind lie down with the lion and the victim rise up and embrace his murderer. I want to be there when ever one suddenly understands what it has all been for. All the religions of the world are built in this longing, and I am a believer.

"I feel sick with depression and yet I can't tell what I want. Better not to think, perhaps."

"But hesitation, suspense, conflict between belief and disbelief - is sometimes such torture to a conscientious man, such as you are, that it's better to hang oneself at once."

His chapter on the Grand Inquisitor is the most famous (or should it be infamous?) chapter of this novel:
They will marvel at us and look on us as gods, because we are ready to endure the freedom which they have found so dreadful and to rule over them - so awful it will seem to them to be free.
So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find some one to worship. But man seeks to worship what is established beyond dispute, so that all men would agree at once to worship it. For these pitiful creatures are concerned not only to find what one or the other can worship, but to find something that all would believe in and worship; what is essential is that all may be together in it. This craving for community of worship is the chief misery of every man individually and if all humanity from the beginning of time.
For the secret of man's being is not only to live but to have something to live for. Without a stable conception of the object of life, man would not consent to go on living, and would rather destroy himself than remain in earl, though he had bread in abundance. 

In contrast, Alyosha is hopeful:
I am glad that my hero showed himself not too reasonable at that moment, for any man of sense will always come back to reason in time, but if love does not gain the upper hand in a boy's heart at such an exceptional moment, when will it?

You just know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory of childhood, of home. [...] If a man carries many such memories with him into him, he is safe to the end of his days, and if one has only one good memory left in one's heart, even that may sometime be the means of saving us.
Yet however bad we may become, [...] the cruelest and most mocking of us - if we do become so - will not dare to laugh inwardly at having been so kind and good at this moment.

"You know, Kolya, you will be very unhappy in your life," something made Alyosha say suddenly. [...] "But you will bless life on the whole, all the same."
^a slightly different  translation of the last quotation read in a Murakami book is what finally pushed me to read this book.

Finally, on what the Karamazov nature is was:
As a rule, between two extremes one has to find the mean, but in the present case this is not true. The probability is that in the first case he was genuinely noble, and in the second as genuinely base. And why? Because he was of the broad Karamazov character - that's just what I am leading up to - capable of combining the most incongruous contradictions, and capable of the greatest heights and of the greatest depths. [...] Two extremes at the same moment, or they are miserable and dissatisfied and their existence is incomplete.

...and if you think this post is a wall of text, wait until the post on Notes from the Underground. I'd rip out most of the entire first book to put up on my wall because pretty much every sentence is golden. 

No comments: