The Brothers Karamazov: Choose your fighter

I’ve started reading ahead for my August read-along (I encourage you to do the same!) and immediately, the contrasting of the three brothers – one “sensual”, one “intellectual”, and one “spiritual” – puts me in mind of modern pop culture properties that encourage you to identify with one character above all others. From the babysitters club (I’m a Mary Ann) to Sex and the City (a Miranda), women in particular are encouraged to “pick a team” or “choose a fighter”. I’m intrigued by how this will play out with our Brothers K, especially with the narrator not-so-subtly telling us that Alyosha, the spiritual one, is the hero.

I’m more used to Dostoyevsky novels having one main character whose main characteristic is being depressed

But before you can choose a brother, you have to choose an edition to read. I touched on this in the announcement post, but now that I’m reading alternately from three editions, I can provide a little more guidance, especially the one I was sleeping on:

Penguin Classics: Translated and introduced by David McDuff, this is a pretty bare-bones edition. Literally, it’s a flimsy paper back and I don’t know how well it’ll stand up to being carried around for the next two months. It’s also a bit light on extra material: no character list, an introduction focusing on the biographical and historical context, some further reading (I want to know who actually uses this section) and that’s it. The translation is… fine, though I’ve had to read some sentences multiple times, and some word choices strike me as off (e.g. the father’s death is “fishy”, where it is “dark” or “gloomy” in other translations).

Everyman’s Library: I missed this one in my intro post. A very sturdy and attractive hardcover, I randomly picked this up from the library and it looks like no one’s cracked it open since they acquired it. Translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky, it beings with a short introduction by Dostoyevsky scholar Malcolm V. Jones that seems a bit more balanced and readable that McDuff’s, and importantly, it includes a character list. I’m actually finding the P&V translation pretty readable (sometimes they are overly formal, IMO).

Don’t count this edition out!

Bicenntenial Edition: I’m reading this as an ebook, so I don’t know how sturdy the paperback is. I’m not a huge fan of the cover art though; I am a basic bitch who prefers random 19th century paintings for my classics. This one’s also translated by P&V, but they updated their 1990 translation for Fyodor’s 200th birthday. There’s a note about that, plus a full introduction by Richard Pevear (I didn’t read it all, he’s not my fav introducer), and a character list.

Of course you can read the Garnett translation on Project Gutenberg, or as a cheap ebook, though her translations aren’t thought to be that great, and it’s missing the “note from the author” for some reason.

Anyway, if my Mary Ann/Miranda trend continues, I should end up identifying with intellectual, atheist Ivan. For now, choose your edition, or do as I do, and go back and forth between two (or more!).

This… seems like something Ivan might actually do?


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