Saturday, March 12, 2011

A dog, a snake, a rooster, and a monkey.

Ivan Kramskoi, unconsolable grief, 1884

“The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky

On a lazy Sunday morning, over breakfast, I was recounting to my wife my late night reading of some early chapters from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov". I was telling her about the strange heart-breaking scene, where Dostoyevsky seemed to have inserted a depiction of his own wife and how it had struck me with its simple humanity. Anna Dostoyevskaya, makes her tragic cameo appearance between other fictional “women of faith”, who have flocked to the monastery to get some consolation from Father Zosima , the local wise man.When Zosima asks her why she is crying, the woman answers: 

"It's my little son I'm grieving for, Father. He was three years old -- three years all but three months. For my little boy, Father, I'm in anguish, for my little boy…I can't forget him. He seems always standing before me. He never leaves me. He has withered my heart”.

A few months before these lines were written, the Dostoyevskys had lost their infant boy, Alyosha, who was only 2 years and 9 months old.

This tragic loss unsettled the Dostoyevsky family just in the same way as such a tragedy would strike people today. Fyodor, we know from his wife’s memoirs, was utterly destroyed and unable to work for many weeks. Brave Anna asked a friend, the philosopher and theologian Wladimir Solovyov, to take her husband away, out of their darkened house and to travel to the Optina Hermitage “to bring him at least a little calm and to draw away his mind from melancholy thoughts”. 

During his voyage Dostoyevsky, a rather introspective religious man, must have thought incessantly about the injustice of the dead of his innocent child and why he and his wife were so terribly punished.

How could they keep living after this tragedy?

“…And if only I could look upon him one little time, if only I could peep at him one little time, without going up to him, without speaking, if I could be hidden in a corner and only see him for one little minute, hear him playing in the yard, calling in his little voice… If only I could hear him pattering with his little feet about the room just once, only once; for so often, so often I remember how he used to run to me and shout and laugh, if only I could hear his little feet I should know him! But he's gone, Father, he's gone, and I shall never hear him again”. 

I had to stop. Both my wife and I felt that we were on the brink of tears. In the strange silence that installed itself over the breakfast table, I realized that Fyodor Dostoyevsky, already in the first pages of his book, had truly touched our hearts.


Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov”, might be lauded by the likes of Freud and Heidegger as a magnificent “novel of ideas”, still it is genuine human feelings and strong poignant emotions that constitute its very core: The dead of a child, a father and a son suffering shame and humiliation, a woman viciously denouncing her rival and lover…

The vitality which explodes from these feverishly dramatized scenes, the frequently scandalous and explosive atmospheres, the passionately engaged dialogues, constantly confront the reader with a whole spectrum of strong emotions. Strong emotions indeed, for we are in Russia after all, in the turbulent Sixties of the nineteenth century, and we must adjust ourselves to the Slavic pitch of love, anger and passion.

Father “Fyodor” Karamazov is the local landlord and “The brothers Karamazov” are his three sons, half-brothers really, overgrown boys in their twenties: Dimitri better known as Misha, Ivan and Alyosha. They have returned to their small village, a handful of houses lost in the immense Russian backcountry, for an obscure question of their Mother’s heritage. The half-brothers, relate rather correctly between themselves but all three of them have a love – hate relation with their brutal father. 

In the book the brothers function as symbols, representatives of their generation, men in search of a spiritual goal and a true father, but who cannot find either. Briefly put, Misha is the sensualist, Ivan the intellectual and the young novice Alyosha is the spiritual.

There is also a fourth brother, or better it is suspected that the man –servant Smerdkayov, the child of a deceased tramp, a foundling really, is a bastard son of Fyodor. This however is not proven. His name means Stinker, just like his mother’s name. Smell is important in the book for the holiest of holy men, Father Zosima, will ooze a dreadful stench too when his corpse decomposes rather faster than normal.

The mothers of the boys, with the exception of symbolic Mother Russia, are conveniently absent in this story. They have died at a young age and the boys have been raised without mother and away of their father’s bad influence by servants and distant family. For the sake of the story one should keep in mind that there are no genuine emotional bonds between father and the sons. Rather the father – son relation has to be understood as the culturally defined social form of name, respect, social status and possible inheritance. But it is certainly not a happy “little family” thing.

The story Dostoyevsky brings us, is the story of a murder. 

"But…” adds Dostoyevsky, “…it's not an ordinary case of murder; it's a case of parricide. That impresses men's minds, and to such a degree that the very triviality and incompleteness of the evidence becomes less trivial and less incomplete even to an unprejudiced mind."

Fyodor, it is suspected, is killed by one of his sons. The action is spread over just a couple of days. The first half of the book describes the happenings leading towards the murder, the second parts recounts the arrest, the interrogation of the unusual suspect and the court case. This “whodunit” structure effectively pulls the reader through the more tedious passages in the book.

A parricide is nothing less than challenging and killing one’s own creator and that brings the book to a deeper psychological level. 

We know that people like Freud en Wittgenstein feasted on the characters of this novel. Freud even called “ The Brothers Karamazov” one of the three most important books ever written and claimed that the greatest works in world literature are all about parricide.

Father Karamazov is nothing less than the “alpha” male who bars the sexual aspirations of his son Dimitri. Indeed they are competing for one of the few available females. But there are also the power games between potential sexual partners like Misha and Grushenka or Ivan and Katarina, alternatively based on submission and humiliation, which bring other Freudian subjects to the front. The psychological mechanics for instance behind Masochism and Sadism are explained and set against each other.

Turgenev on reading “The brothers Karamazov” exclaimed that Russia now had its own Marquis de Sade and I must admit that the relation – Fyodor – Grushenka – Misha - Katerina – Ivan looks more like a devilish pentagram than a simple “ménage à trois”.


Initially, Dostoyevski had planned a novel in which “a major role would be played by children” but the loss of his son and his grieving during the short trip to the Optima Hermitage, turned his ideas towards darker, deeper subjects.

There are still children scenes rescued in the book and these subplots are easily recognizable throughout the pages of the “The Brothers Karamazov. They are not the scenes we like to see or read: poor children, solitary children, unhappy children, bullied children, tortured children, children who are driven to despair and kill their own father. These scenes, Mc Duff reminds us, are the soil, the social and spiritual climate from which the “Russian boys” must grow.

Some of the most horrible cruelties make up a terrible chapter in the book and are at the basis of the theories Dostoyevsky is going to unfold in front of us. Dostoyevsky had a collection of newspaper clippings depicting abject cases of child and animal abuse. Clippings which are still all too familiar to us for they darken on a regular basis the pages of our newspapers too. 

Evil is inherent to and even at the core of every human being.

These sickening stories of suffering innocent children topped by the early death of his beloved and innocent Alyosha, deeply challenged Dostoyevsky in his belief in God. If God was omnipotent and omni-benevolent such things could not have happened. But Evil does exist so we must conclude that the Christian omnipotent and benevolent God does not exist.

The first statement on Evil, Dostoyevsky had witnessed and experienced enough. That he could accept. The second, the non existence of God, he could not.


According to the Russian critic Mikhail Bahktin, Dostoyevsky introduced a new art form in the Brothers : The Polyphonic novel. “Dostoyevsky creates a set of characters, each endowed with a distinctive voice and worldview, who are pitted against one another in an open ended dialogue” Fyodor, his three boys and some of the more important characters, like the priest Zosima, the femme fatale Grushenka and the femme “ideale” Katarina are all “independent and unmerged voices and consciousnesses”.

The attentive reader should easily recognize these different voices and from their interaction draw his conclusions about the validity of their statements. Like in real life all voices and opinions are fully valid and there is no “authorative authorial voice” to arbitrate. Dostoyevsky does not voice his opinion in this polyphonic clashing in order to let the reader draw his own conclusions. Dostoyevsky’s opinion however is not really absent. It is in the development of the characters, and what they do and what happens to them at the time of the murder, the investigation and the court-case that clearly us show Dostoyevsky’s opinion in this grand dialogue.

This Polyphonic procedure, and the absence of the authorial opinion gives “the brothers Karamazov” a time-less edge, and allows different generations of readers to enjoy endless exercises of interpretations. The timelessness is even enhanced by the fact that Dostoyevsky mostly avoids realistic descriptions of settings and characters. The village of Skotoprigonyevsk ( Brutes – ville) that Dostoyevsky creates, looks in my mind at least, like Lars von Trier’s extremely minimal stage like set in the Dogville parable. The characters of Dostoyevsky are more symbolic of the ideas they represent than real people and Dostoyevsky is therefore often cited as one of the forerunners of Symbolism.

With his new art form Dostoyevsky has influenced other great writers. One important example is Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain and I cannot understand that most companions and critics of the Mann’s masterpiece fail to remark the huge influence of the Brothers on Mann’s book.
Mann borrows the polyphonic structure albeit within a realistic setting to bring a story and an intellectual discussion which according to me is very much a sequel to the themes developed in Karamazov. 


Dostoyevsky characters are symbolic voices of different worldviews, people driven by ideas rather than by ordinary biological or social imperatives, so it should be interesting to study them more closely.

The different brothers and the secondary characters can be defined by how they accept and live with the two earlier statements: ( a ) the acknowledgment that there is suffering in the world together with the acceptance that all of us have an evil core within ourselves and (b) their attitude towards the existence or non existence of a supernatural God. There are four types of positions: There are the humble and self-effacing Christians like Alyosha and Father Zosima, there is the self-destructive nihilist like Smerdyakov, there is the unhappy rebellious intellctual Ivan and last but not least there are Father Fyodor and Son Misha Karamazov, the sensualists .

Their positions seem to be like this:

There is a God 
There is evil and suffering 
Fyodor & Dimitry 

1. Fyodor

The murder of Fyodor does not appeal much compassion for the victim. And not surprisingly for he is really a beast of man. A cynical debauchee, arrogant, choleric, a heavy drinker and used to have things his way. Fyodor is best defined by his readiness to indulge in all his primal instincts. He is driven by Lust, endlessly pursuing carnal pleasures, acting impulsively. The fact that he might burn in hell for it he accepts: So be it. Fyodor Karamazov brings to mind William Golding’s description of “Martin Pincher”, a man whose greed for life makes it impossible for him to die, “born with his mouth and fly open and both hands to grab”

During a binge – drinking night, Fyodor Karamazov and his cronies find the girl Lizaveta, sleeping behind a whicker – fence. Lizaveta is a sad simpleton of a girl, the village – idiot, who begs herself through life. Fyodor and his buddies make fun of her, Fyodor even claims that she is as sexually desirable as any other woman and afterwards secretly returns to the spot where they found her and rapes her.

Fyodor’s sons have inherited in their blood, that crude unbridled earthly force which sits in the center of his soul, this evil, dark, animal part, this Karamazov part. 

But this “heart of darkness” this knot of animalistic passions and drives is not to be understood in an entirely negative way. This Karamazov part is after all, also the basis for our survival instinct in a competitive world, it is the sexual instinct we need for the procreation of our species. So this “ Sensual” part is both a positive and a negative force.

But, man is not only made up of this Sensual part. Dostoyevsky had seen, when in his Siberian prison, that there is an idealistic part too. We are no animals. There is honor among thieves, there is dignity in abject poverty. Men, all men, try to transcend this sensual nature, try to rise above their animal nature, try to achieve something higher. This is our “Idealistic” part. This combination of the sensual and the idealistic is according to Dostoyevsky our “ Human condition”. 

2) Misha 

Fyodor sons are defined by how they reconcile the tension between their idealistic part with the negative force from their sensual part of their soul. Dimitri ( Misha ) is very much like his father but a somewhat softer version of him. While still embracing evil and accepting punishment in afterlife, he is already trying to resist its destructive urges. Where his father is just driven by the animal sensual part, Misha already tries to resist. Misha is a fantastic character. The most flesh and blood characterization of the brothers. Says Mc. Duff “…Mitya is drawn with an intensity, passion and love that are almost unparalleled in the rest of Dostoyevsky’s writings. This Promothean, ecstatic, drunken ardent heart and fiery soul is a portrait of the universal man, unredeemed and possibly doomed for eternity.”

For example, at a certain moment Katarina, one of the major female characters, in order to save the reputation of her father, who has squandered government money, needs to borrow 5000 roubles. Dimitri who has received a part of his mother’s heritage proposes her to give the money but she has to come privately to his room to receive it. Katerina on the edge of a scandal which can cost her reputation, indulges and presents herself alone in Misha’s room. 

Misha could easily take advantage of her, but he resists and sends her away, unharmed and in the possession of the money.

But resisting this sensual urge comes at a price. Misha’s option is unsound for his behavior will prove to end in degradation and self – debasement. Katerina gets away unharmed but is shamed by the fact she had to borrow money. Misha grows a feeling of moral superiority towards her for having helped her and not having taken advantage when he could. 

Still the side-effects of his stance are not as extreme as we will see with Ivan but they are still bad enough to enable him to function as an honest social being. He is constantly on a wave of elation followed by self abasement. Misha is also quite easily caught by the Police. Together with his self-esteem, his survival instincts seem to have disappeared. 

3 ) Alyosha 

Alyosha, the youngest brother, is a deeply religious novice monk, a bit childlike, naïve . Alyosha stands for the Christian point of view and specifically the Orthodox faith with it’s virtues of humility, submission, and suffering. God of course exist and is even everything for him. Suffering however he denies. When confronted with the fact that there is suffering in the World in the equation of “the problem of evil”, he would typically react by taking a stance as to deny that “there is suffering”. Not in a literal sense of course but arguing that suffering is insignificant from his point of view. Yes, he seems to say there is suffering but you’ll get a huge reward in afterlife, a bit of suffering builds character and anyhow it is a small price to pay to be free.

Still people remark that he is both a Karamazov ( a sensualist ) in part and that he has inherited a crazy saint part of his mother. Alyosha runs around and wants to help everybody but often his presence make things worse.

The character is under developed when compared to his brothers Misha and Ivan and it is thought that the development of his character would have been the main subject of a second book.

4) Smerdyakov 

For Smerdyakov there in no Evil either and no afterlife guarded by God. There is nothing like Evil, Good, Wrong or Bad, they are just man-made concepts. In a God-less world everything goes. Smerdyakov has not come to this conclusion by himself, he has heard it from Ivan, the intellectual. Smerdyakov is the apex of the Nihilistic stance and once the wrong ideas are put in his mind, he has neither the intelligence nor the ethical reflex to comprehend them. With him , the executors of the Stalinist and Nazi dogmas peep around the corner, ready to commit their horrors.

5) Ivan 

Ivan is the most interesting and most complex character of the book. Ivan is the intellectual, he has studied, is intelligent and enlightened, but turns out to be the most tragic figure of them all. Ivan is the modern Man, Ivan is the character the existentialist will claim their own. 
Ivan is an Atheistic to begin with. Unlike his brothers he does not believe in Heaven and Hell or in afterlife. He cannot rely on, hide behind, or delegate his responsibility to a Supernatural being. Ivan has to carry his own responsibility. 

Ivan knows that there is Evil in the world and that there is evil within himself.

For Ivan, Evil within or outside him, is simply unacceptable. Contrary to the opinions of his brothers who either embrace or deny Evil, Ivan simply cannot accept to live in a world where there is suffering.

His opinion is that education, laws, social control, if organized on a rational scientific basis can stop or at least diminish the external Evil. But when trying to subdue the Evil within, his own dark Karamazov side, Ivan embarks on a mental path, follows a rational reasoning, whose mechanism will be detrimental for his mental well- being.

Reacting with horror and revulsion when confronted with his Evil impulses, Ivan recoils from it. He finds his gut level – thirst for life intolerable because it is his Karamazov part.

He fights this dark urges by trying to become a purer, more perfect sort of person. He tries in fact to rise above his own earthy sensual nature, to rise above his lower needs and drives. 

In fact he cuts himself away from the dark side of his sensual Karamazov part through self denial: One part of my identity, the sensual, I treat as not really as a part of who I am and I can transform my self at my own will. Ivan wants to be objective and impartial, he therefore severs his ties with the worldly concerns and family affairs

Dostoyevsky calls it laceration, tearing apart, breaking under strain. It is an act of self-dissociation, of self-fragmentation, an objectification of the Self.

This mechanism brings Ivan to a second order Evil: Pride, and the desire to be God and lord it over others. Ivan takes on the perfectionist stance of detachment and moral superiority

Telling others how to live their lives from one’s own superiority position. It gets even worse when one in order to look better than others, makes others look bad. 

This Laceration of Dostoyevsky results in being torn apart as an individual but also to be torn from the others. And so it is. Ivan ends up with fractured social relationship because of his idealistic perfectionism. His narcissism repels others, he gets isolated and embittered. On a personal level Ivan gets even more unhinged than his brother Misha. Swinging from feelings of grandiosity to feelings of self loathing he ends up in complete inaction. Frozen. 

Ivan quite simply cannot accept who he is. To accept life is to accept evil. This is not possible for Ivan for accepting life would make him an accomplice in the suffering of the world.

In one of the most brilliant chapters in the book, nearly at the end, Ivan is visited by the Devil. Ivan the unbeliever, the atheist even, has Mephistopheles for tea! What until now, we have failed to realize is that Ivan is as poisoned by alcohol as Lowry’s consul of Quauhnahuac. For the visit of the Devil is nothing less than a rambling fit of Delirium Tremens. Ivan, it seems, is fighting his self loathing with the bottle and with him, we are worried that he will “return his ticket” before he is thirthy. 

The chapter where Ivan meets the Devil, makes one realize that the latter is a hidden, but central character. He only peeps up once or twice but he is definitely omnipresent. We realize that behind the brother’s helplessness, their tormented humanity, lie forces that are darker and greater.

Dostoyevsky takes no judgment in the different positions the brothers take, concerning their beliefs, but what happens to them after the murder of Fyodor sums up his opinion very well.

As Guignon says: “The deep response to the different stances is found not so much in the words of any character as in the actual events of the novel.” Dostoyevsky does not say if propositions are true or false in an abstract sense, but whether the form of life they embody and express is viable or not. The reader has to wait till the end of the story to see what happens and then draw the conclusions by himself.

We understand then that Dostoyevsky wants to show the inadequacy of Ivan’s stance by displaying its destructive existential implications in actions and interactions. Ivan can save his brother and expose the real culprit, but he does not, for he is too much entangled in the web his rationalism has woven around him. He refuses to act in any way unless his action is justifiable in terms of universal valid moral principles. Ivan acts not. He will not be his “Brother’s keeper”. 

Instead of being innocent, Ivan turns out to be the most culpable of all


If you broaden the father – son relations to the broader context of the relation between the different generations of intellectual Russia of the second half of the 19th century, then you begin to understand the intellectual scope and magnitude of “The Brothers Karamazov”.

Especially the “sons” were a target for Dostoyevsky. The “sons” are the intellectuals, the people Turgenev called the Nihilists, who reject all traditional Christian values in their attempt to build an ideal society based on the imported enlightened Western principles of Scientific Materialism, determinism and....Egoism. These people planned to reengineer Russian society without the superstition of Religion.

Ivan, the intellectual stands for the ideas of the “Western Enlightenment” unfit to be implemented in greater Russia. Ivan’s story is at the same time Dostoyevsky’s critic on the ideas and politics of the communist or rationalist revolutionaries like those written down by Chernyshevsky’s in “What must be done”. Dostoyevsky reacts against the utilitarian principle of the greatest good for the greatest number , the emotion-less logic of social utility and the precepts of rational egoism acting out self interest.

There is a parallel of Ivan’s stance on a much larger societal level. If Russian society will reform on principles based solely on rationalism and materialism and where there is no place for Religion these reforms are doomed according to Dostoyevsky.

The Judeo Christian heritage brought us the finest vision of life possible for humans. Enlightenment grew out of this heritage, but when it tries to ground its moral ideals in reason rather than in faith, it will tear or lacerate the ideals out of the context in which they make sense and the reforms will end in pride of some enlightened few who will embark on a power trip.

The same mechanic as with Ivan is at work. 

There is Evil: hunger, war, analphabetism, poverty, superstition. The modern rational man cannot accept this and claiming to act out of an unbounded concern for humanity, intellectuals set himself the task to improve the human condition. Inspired by western European ideas, religion is banned from society, dismissing the fact that it is an important part of the Russian soul. This is laceration on a societal level.

An intellectual elite conjures a superior image for themselves and through self affirmation and self agrandisation, they succeed in transforming society and see themselves as benefactors of humankind.

They expect recognition as saints, as a god-like elite. But their condescending manners repel. Their selfless devotion is just pride and egoism.

Slowly but surely, this elite’s logic turns into a desire to dominate. They start treating their people as objects of pity, degrade them to cattle, animals in the herd or cogs in the machine which can be replaced or reshuffled at will. This is the society of the Grand Inquisitor, this is Stalin’s and Mao’s world. 

Just as Ivan, the isolated, uprooted and homeless outsider, cannot function, a Russian society without religion and solely based on material rationalism cannot function.

Dostoyevsky with the story of the Grand Inquisitor brings a brilliant blueprint of a society meaning to do good but ending by being bad for having cut out it’s religious part. 


The same parable brings us two interpretations of Western Christianity. The Inquisitor stands for the Catholics whose aim is to bring happiness and well-being for all. The figure of Jesus, is the Lutheran interpretation of that same Christianity. Their aim is freedom and individual dignity. But both aims cannot be reconciled into a world of total freedom and happiness for all.

For the Inquisitor stands for the Universal church state, for socialism. They force people to cooperate for their mutual benefit which can only lead to a totalitarian state.

( Mann in the Magic Mountain will try to reconcile these two stances into a single personage. The result is even more despicable as the inquisitor)

The Lutherian option does not bring solace either with its religious individualism , its harsh demand to decide by oneself what is good or bad . Only the elected will survive. The non –elected will be condemned to a life of misery and these precepts can only lead will to a war of all against all

In the chapter “The Russian Monk”, Dostoyevsky advances the East orthodox church solution of “Kenosis”, a submission to extreme humiliation and suffering.

This ‘acceptance of our fate’ Dostoyevsky proposes is not entirely fatalistic. For the fundamentally isolated individuals we all are, he proposes, contrary to what Ivan claimed and which had such dreadful consequences, to be our brothers keepers. But we should restrict our range of action to the MIR, the village or community or in other words to the community of people around us.

As long as we avoid the trap of pride and start to reorganize the whole society, it is ok.

Starting from this core of SOBERNOST, this togetherness, this belongingness to a community, one can come to a holistic connectedness to Life. Dostoyevsky reminds us that both the sacred and the profane are to be found in everyday life. Instead of waiting on a good afterlife we should work now toward a deification of the world in which we find ourselves.

“If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all- embracing love.”


“The Brothers Karamazov” really is a great book and I shudder at the idea that I could have missed it in my reading adventures. This shows the importance of literary communities like “ le Salon Literaire “ on the social network LibraryThing. Rather than aping the media, gloating over every new publication, a handful of intelligent readers are re-discovering and advising books which should not be forgotten. I take this opportunity to thank my reading buddies and TomcatMurr in particular to have recommended and guided me through this marvelous book.

When Dostoyevsky died in St. Petersburg on 9 February 1881, he had a copy of the New Testament, on his lap. Tolstoy, however, who burst into tears when he learned of Dostoyevsky's death, kept a copy of “The Brothers Karamazov” on his nightstand up to the day, nearly thirty years later, when he died at Astapovo railway station. A choice we can only approve.

The “Brothers” will get a place at the left side of Mann’s Magic Mountain, my all-time favorite. Reading Dostoyevsky’s book has especially excited me because I perceive it as a an intellectual predecessor to the Magic Mountain. Mann’s book is in many aspects a sequel to Karamazov. The Monotheistic God has disappeared from the intellectual discussion but the Grand Inquisitor is still present and as intimidating as ever. Suffering too is still present in Mann’s book, but the atheists now have the courage to look it in the face and even invite it in a dance macabre as exciting as the wild mazurkas danced by Misha and Grushenka.

The “Brothers” could have been edited to a sharper unity, it is true. Some chapters add nothing to the general development of story and some subthemes are not developed. But we know that the book was a prequel to a second one which Dostoyevsky planned to write. But he died before he could start it. 

The reactionary stance Dostoyevsky is implying through the developments of his characters is not valid anymore in the eyes of Western European readers. According to him the solution remains in embracing God in its orthodox way, to surrender or to accept what happens to us.

I cannot adhere to that opinion unless you see “this embracing of life”, not as a fatalistic acceptance of all evil and suffering in the world, but as an active form of resistance through human rights, ecological and social values, science and wisdom.

On the other hand, it is rather sobering and unsettling, that there are drama’s in our personal lives that we will never be able to avoid despite all our science and our intellect. We will always have to cope with the illness, the suffering or dying of dear ones. And for these personal sufferings we have to return to the Mater Dolorosa in the beginning of the book asking to Father Zosisma, “what to do?” 
Bliss, he says, lays in an “Imitatio Christi”; to accept suffering in meekness. 

“Accept ( your ) suffering in a Christ like peace of mind. Embrace life with all its suffering and all its joy. Surrender and accept the place you have received in the order of things. It is the great Mystery of Human Life that old grieve passes gradually into quiet tender joy”.

This is the soothing advice Zosima gives to the suffering Mother and that is how Dostoyevsky and his wife in the end will have to cope with the loss of their dear Alyosha.

Following sources gave me a better understanding of “The Brothers Karamazov”
- Charles B. Guignon : Introduction to “The Brothers Karamazov”
- Davis Mc Duff : Introductions and notes to “The Brothers Karamazov”
- The group – readings of “The Brothers Karamazov” led by Tomcat Murr in “ Le Salon Litteraire”