Dostoyevsky's last and greatest novel, The Karamazov Brothers (1880) is both a brilliantly told crime story and a passionate philosophical debate. The dissolute landowner Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov is murdered; his sons - the atheist intellectual Ivan, the hot-blooded Dmitry, and the saintly novice Alyosha - are all at some level involved.
Bound up with this intense family drama is Dostoyevsky's exploration of many deeply felt ideas about the existence of God, the question of human freedom, the collective nature of guilt, the disatrous consequences of rationalism. The novel is also richly comic: the Russian Orthodox Church, the legal system, and even the authors most cherished causes and beliefs are presented with a note of irreverence, so that orthodoxy, and radicalism, sanity and madness, love and hatred, right and wrong are no longer mutually exclusive. Rebecca West considered it "the allegory for the world's maturity", but with children to the fore.
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