For those of you who never got through the book, I offer this poem as a summary:
Cliff Notes on The Brothers Karamazov
Dmitri, passion of the flesh; Ivan, first existentialist.
Alyosha: saintly protagonist, but more a neutral foil,
flat as a Eucharist. Body, soul, and spirit, in other words.
Smerdyakov: bastard half-brother, schizoid dandy,
epileptic son of the village idiot, Lizaveta,
whom Fyodor fucked on a drunken dare.
He later became his cook.
“He makes the best fish soup!”
Fyodor liked to say.
Fyodor: lecherous buffoon, proverbial garden party skunk
as in the scene he made at Father Zossima’s funeral.
Evil clown-- or is he evil? He is pure in a way,
purely offensive unapologetic hedonist narcissist,
lacking external reference save his pleasure;
"An insect!” Ivan calls him while despising
his own Karamazov nature.
Here: It’s all about three thousand rubles,
the sum Dmitri thinks his father owes him,
the sum Dmitri owes Katerina to save his honor,
the sum Fyodor offers Grushenka to stain her own—
(Katerina already calls her “That creature!”)
Fyodor never pays Dmitri nor does Dmitri pay Katerina,
nor does Grushenka ever whore for her reward.
Instead, Smerdyakov kills Fyodor
while blaming Ivan for complicity
based on some vaguely worded conversations.
I’ve studied these and Ivan is innocent
but half-believes in his own guilt;
then Ivan only half-believes
in anything, which is his suffering.
From his sickbed Smerdyakov confesses
to Ivan, producing from a sock the rubles
Fyodor intended for Grushenka.
Later he hangs himself.
Ivan brings the bloody currency to the trial,
the prosecution laughs: “He could have gotten them anywhere!”
Smerdyakov’s confession proves hearsay—
without brain fever Ivan would have anticipated this.
“Psychology is a double-edged sword,” the defense thunders
but it won't save poor Dmitri from conviction
because his former fiancée’, Katerina,
betrays him on the stand, fearing for Ivan.
Ivan recovers enough to plan Dmitri’s escape
by railroad; Alyosha concurs, telling Dmitri,
“Imprisonment is not the suffering meant for you.”
p.s. Grushenka never forgives Katerina—
I skipped Ilusha’s death scene (from tuberculosis)
and the dog that Kolya rescued whom Ilusha feared
he’d murdered by a method Smerdyakov
had taught him— (putting a needle in a scrap of food.)
p.p.s. It’s too big a book to fit into a poem,
in a book, even: eight hundred pages
of prostrations, sufferings, humiliations,
prostrations, forgivenesses and miracles--
the greatest being how an author can sustain
such fever pitch of feeling for so long,
leaving me drained on my fourth reading.
Finally, I wonder if Father Zossima’s embarrassing decay
(some had expected his body not to stink after death)
was a prophecy of Lenin’s preservation.
This was published and de-published by August Highland's once ambitious M.A.G.
Have a Black Russian on me,