The Brothers Karamazov

Fictional Character

Born: November 1880
Birthplace: Fiction
Best known as: The title characters of Dostoevsky's final novel
The Brothers Karamazov are the title characters in Fedor Dostoyevsky's last and longest novel. It is by turns a family drama, love rivalry, murder mystery, legal thriller and character study of 19th-century Russia. The three brothers -- the rationalist Ivan, the hot-head Dmitri and the monastery novice Alexei (Alyosha) -- are the sons of self-centered windbag Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov. Their lives intertwine in 96 slow-developing but intensely emotional chapters, touching on the lives of landowners, servants, peasants, school children and monks in fictional Skotoprigonyevsk. Reflections on faith and unbelief, reason and fate, wealth and poverty, passion and hopelessness are offered in the observations of the unnamed narrator, a townsperson acquainted with the Karamazovs; in long speeches by various characters; and more subtly as the plot unfolds. The novel became an Oscar-nominated film in 1958, starring Yul Brynner as Dmitri, William Shatner as Alexei, Richard Basehart as Ivan, and Lee J. Cobb as the father.
Extra credit: It's pronounced "ka-ra-MA-zov"... The brothers are the offspring of two marriages: Ivan is half-brother to the other two. Another character, Pavel Smerdyakov, is rumored to be an illegitimate son of Fyodor... The setting is most likely inspired by a real town, Staraya Russa, where Dostoevsky lived while writing the novel... The brothers' names appear both formally, with the family middle name, Fyodorovich, and informally in many variations, including Vanya, Vanka, Vanechka, Mitya, Mitka, Mitenka, Mitri, Alyoshka, Alyoshechka, Alexiechik, Lyosha, and Lyoshenka. These and other character names are so famously challenging to the first-time reader that Charles Schulz brought it up in a 1964 Peanuts comic strip. Linus is reading the book when his sister, Lucy, asks, "Don't all those Russian names bother you?" "No," he says, "when I come to one I can't pronounce, I just bleep right over it!"... A California-based juggling and theatrical troupe, "The Flying Karamazov Brothers," took its name in 1975 in honor of the novel.

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