As I ride the fence between lower and middle class with my all-but-dissertation resume while police pepper-spray protesters and Sylvia Nasar critiques Marx, I realize that I have been reading Dostoevsky’s intersections of social strata for two months. Like my dive into Kittler a couple of years ago, my summer reading was compelled by an indistinct memory of scholastic enjoyment. In high school, I experienced Crime and Punishment I through the lenses of Psycho, Law and Order, and Columbo. Today, I perceive Dostoevsky’s work through Tolstoy’s A Confession, Dallapiccola’s Il Prigioniero, and snippets of Hoggart and Foucault.
In July upon reading Notes from the Underground for the first time, I discovered that Dostoevsky had had trouble with censors (similar to Shostakovich, another of my favorite Russian artists) and had been imprisoned. Unaccustomed to first person perspective, I was struck by the frequent self-analysis and occasional addresses to the fictional readers. I noted the realism of the character’s insatiable lust for exerting power and displaying prestige. I relished his ruminations on achievement, reason, and the romantic.
The Romantic pastoral beauty of The Peasant Marey and the elaborate context of An Honest Thief prepared me for the characters, settings, and dialogues of The Brothers Karamozov. Having read a third of the tome, I realize why Alexei is the “hero”: people are documented through his presence and (mis)understood through his immaturity and goodwill. I would need several weeks and numerous readings to grasp the episodes about the relationships between church and state, between active love and faith, between the poor and (dis)grace. For now, I will finish the book while savoring the depth of character development through speech and the achronological and tangential realism of the narrator’s memory.