Well, that was pretty great. I have no idea why I stopped reading this novel halfway through 20+ years ago. It is also surprisingly timely in its themes, I discovered. Or perhaps "timely" is not the right word. Possibly what I really mean is timeless, which is the mark of great literature. The Brothers Karamazov is great literature.
Dostoyevsky was a prideful nationalist, a lover of Mother Russia who despised and mistrusted Western Europe, America, Catholics, Jews, Protestants, revolutionaries, republicans and just about anything that wasn't the Russia in which he grew up. He was however clear-eyed enough to see that the Russia he loved was a madhouse, that the typical Russian soul was a soul of opposing extremes: loving and hating, selfish and charitable, crude and cultured, looking forward with hope and backwards with despair while looking forward with despair and backwards with nostalgia. All of it, all at once. What Dostoyevsky's nationalism blinded him to is that his extreme souls are not confined to Russia; they're everywhere; they're all of us. Or many of us. The Brothers Karamazov was, I think, meant to be Dostoyevsky's grand commentary on the state of the Russian people in 1880, a warning to his beloved nation that it was in danger of losing its moral compass, or perhaps that it had lost its moral compass and had best find it again, and a promise or a hope that this was possible. A remarkable book, this. Truly great literature.
The reference to Crime and Punishment in the defense attorney's summation was unexpected and made me laugh, too. I like things like that, you know.