Monday, June 10, 2013

Go, and never return! Nikogda!

Mighty Reader and I are making our way through the 7-hour adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevski's Bratya Karamazova on DVD. We've seen five of the 12 (I think) episodes. It's not a perfect adaptation, and of course every reader of the novel is going to have his own ideas about the story, the characters, et cetera. The subtitling is also not brilliant, often slipping into literal word-for-word translations that make us laugh. But on the whole, the acting is pretty good and the production values are quite high, and 19th-century Russia is much prettier than I always imagined. But what I really wanted to say are two things:

1. The director has truly caught the frenetic nature of Dostoyevski's narrative; people fly around rooms, leaping from chair to sofa to chair, voices raised, glasses of sherry and cognac and vodka thrown back left and right, champagne flutes smashed to the floor. Excellent, I say. Characters storm from houses and across fields, marvelously angry and confused, blind to everything but their own desire and frustration, well done indeed.

2. The director, or the actors, or the screenwriter, or all of them, have captured the essential confused striving of Dostoyevski's world. Nobody is certain of the truth, and if anyone claims to be speaking the truth he knows he is probably lying to himself and his listener but that self-serving lie is all he has to build his life upon, but still he knows it's not the truth and what is necessary is, after all, some sort of certainty but none is forthcoming and so there is misery and yes, I will have another glass of vodka, spasiba vam bolshoy.

The "Grand Inquisitor" episode was well done, though quite too short. I'd have given over an entire 45-minute episode to it, instead of the 15 or so minutes it gets. As we all know, the "Grand Inquisitor" chapter of The Brothers Karamazov is one of the finest things Dostoyevski ever wrote. I couldn't hide my delight when the Inquisitor used the familiar form of address ("ti" rather than "vi") with Christ; that's something you miss if you read the book in English. I assume it was true to the book, anyway. Someday, maybe, I'll read The Brothers Karamazov in Russian. That would be a hoot.


  1. Mr. B, you make me feel slightly more guilty about starting to watch the Walking Dead series this weekend.

  2. I have a slight interest in The Walking Dead but I think it would be satisfied after one episode. Karamatzov is big fun, though. Not entirely true to the novel, but that's so rarely possible anyway. Fyodor has just turned up dead. Looks bad for Dmitri.