I regret not reading The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoevsky) years earlier. I was always intimidated by its immense length. After having tackled Les Miserables several years earlier however, I felt prepared.
My first impression was that the story moved very quickly and in a very entertaining manner. Although the book is quite long, the main story takes place in a relatively short period of time, and encompasses only a reasonable number of main characters.
I was surprised –perhaps unreasonably –at how much the book was oriented around questions of philosophy and theology. In fact, my one complaint against the realism of the book was how many characters seemed to have fully developed theological positions they were eager to argue over at the drop of a hat. Perhaps that is true to the Russian character of that era. At any rate, it was perfect for someone of my tastes and interests.
I had long heard Dostoevsky referenced as a forefather of existentialism, but I never realized how strongly he was influenced by his Christian beliefs. Since those two factors are combined with a strongly humane perspective, I would not hesitate to call The Brothers Karamazov the paradigmatic exemplar of a Christian Existential Humanist novel. Filled with psychological insight, wit, and a sometimes lurid plot, the book makes a strong case for the value of faith even in the presence of the cruel absurdities of the world.
For a taste of the book at its most memorable, follow this link to “The Grand Inquisitor“, a chilling fable told by one of the characters of the book, an nihilistic atheist, which advances the argument that the Christian church would unhesitatingly murder Christ again in the event of his return.