The Brothers Karamazov

Once you have seen it, you can’t unsee it!

Before we begin, let me put it clear, that it is a huge book, say about 800 pages. If you are new to Dostoyevsky, I would like to alert you to start with his short stories, then ‘The Notes From The Underground’ and finally his novels. This is to understand the style of his writings and set the mood before you get into his magnanimous works. It’s a reality, to get acquainted with Dostoyevsky; you got to make gradual moves with a solid plan.

Even the ‘Crime and Punishment’, which I considered to be his best, is a tree, where the ‘woods’ being ‘The Brothers Karamazov. Keep a notepad to track the names of the characters; Russian names still remains a puzzle for me. Some of the character gets multiple names, even pet names, and the more variety in the name, and then we are informed that the more important the character is.

This was the last novel written by Dostoyevsky. This book surely got influenced by his age, the proof – the obvious leanings towards spiritual and religious avenues. There is this character, who reminds us about Dostoyevsky’s son, who died very young because of epilepsy. In a way, the rebellion and posing questions against religion and god was his (Dostoyevsky’s) way of venting out his anger and frustrations.

The books name suggests that it is about a family, I guess a dysfunctional family will be more apt, consisting only males. This is where I adore Dostoyevsky, for the cleverness, he excluded a daughter among Karamazov because women bring healing into the household and put it into a more civilized place.

Let me walk you through the book and what my understanding or what was communicated by Dostoyevsky to me, the reader. For me it was all about human sufferings. Who are we? Why do we do things? What it means to be a human being? In a balanced way this book criticizes religion. Religion doesn’t hold the answer for all our questions and sufferings.

There is a scene where the two brothers IVAN (Atheist) and ALYOSHA (Religious) gets into a debate. Here IVAN asks why children are put into suffering. If god is a good person, why would he wish to see them suffer? They have just started their lives, might not have even committed a sin. For this question ALYOSHA don’t have any answer. 

The book is also about picking up the evils that had been sawed across the society, a society that fights for materialistic needs. Reading along you will be convinced that ignorance is bliss and knowing too much will put you trouble. It is not the sinner who gets punished; sometimes innocent one’s get punished for some other person’s wrong doings (Dimitri’s character reveals a lot in this perspective). Guilt only comes into picture if you knowingly do something. No one is saint or pure evil, one has to constantly battle to keep the balance.

The Book assures that it is okay to be less smart and be good than being smart, successful and bad. Dostoyevsky attempts to take his countrymen to the good old days of their childhood. We must preserve childhood’s innocence that we lose while growing up. I guess reading helps, to preserve that childlike innocence, to an extent. 

My Favorite (Disturbing) chapter from the book is, ‘The Devil, Ivan’s Nightmare.

Karamazov Brothers also deals with child’s suffering, voices against bullying and the impact the insulting words could have on the tender minds. The main characters, we can divide them into four philosophies. I am pretty sure; this book will demand your Re-readings, each time from the angle of each character/philosophy they profess. To understand life and human being better, and to be more compassionate and empathetic, This is the sole reason why one must read ‘THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV’.

Once you have seen it, you can’t unsee it! I envy those who are going to read it for the very first time, to experience the narrative and get enlightened by the school of thoughts taught by the one and only Fyodor Dostoyevsky!

Happy reading.

My Discovery of Zola

Realism to Naturalism, my search unearthed the master of Naturalism, Emile Zola!

Literary realism is a movement that depicts reality by portraying mundane everyday experiences as they are in real life. It primarily deals with the life course of middle and lower classes. The shift happened during the ninetieth century, which took an alternative narrative from the usual one, which was about exotic and poetic romanticism.

The roots of literary realism lie in France. The two prominent figures were Honore de Balzacand Gustave Flaubert, who adopted and gave wings to realist narration. The change occurred because then the works of Romanticism were thought to be exotic. Even though they celebrated the uniqueness and impermanence of every human life by living their lives through emotional experiences, it lost the connection with real world.

Once realism started gaining momentum, that was the exact time when George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) published ‘Middle March’, a study of provincial life in 1871.

There are about 6 types of Literary Realism,

  1. Magical Realism: One Hundred Year of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967)
  2. Social Realism: Les Miserables (1862)
  3. Kitchen Sink Realism: Room At The Top (1957)
  4. Socialist Realism: something created and adopted by the communists.
  5. Naturalism
  6. Psychological Realism: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyvesky (1866)

I have explored all other kinds of realism except Naturalism. So this new opportunity pushed my curiosity to widen the horizons to learn more about and get acquainted with Naturalism.

Naturalism is considered to be the extreme form of realism influenced by Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, was said to be founded by Emila Zola, the French writer. Naturalism explores and investigates all social and environmental phenomena in the belief that nothing exists beyond the natural world. Here super naturals and spiritual experiences are negated and the focus shifts on to that explanation that comes from the law of the nature.

Then I realized that I have already read some works that can be categorically called as Naturalism. Then I wasn’t aware of the literary branch I was exploring through my readings. Till then I was observed into English and Russian literature marvels, this discovery of Naturalism opened an avenue, a secret door to French Literature as well.

I decided to begin with the works of the father of Naturalism, Emila Zola. I was not at all disappointed. I bought The Entire collection of Emila Zola on my Kindle, and I was excited to explore the new world of literature with the fascination of a child. I began with his short stories and it gave me the satisfaction of a piping hot meal, or like indulging a perfectly baked cake, delicious!

Almost through the short story collection, now I am eager to read his novel, and it is kind of cool off period for me to make a decision on what am I going to pick? Should I begin with his early novels or should I jump into the literary series consisting of 20 books called ‘Rougon-Macquart.

I guess I will be picking the 20-book series after completing his novel called ‘Therese Raquin’, the novel which undoubtedly put him in the map of French Literature.

And here we come, my discovery of Emila Zola and the journey into the best of works on Naturalism. It all started with reading an article about Realism, through which I detected naturalism on my radar. It is an immense discovery of an author who pioneered this literary movement. Like I always believed, we don’t pick books, they pick us, that too only when we are ready to accept them. My moment with Naturalism and Emila Zola had just begun!

Three Books I Recommend to Educate Yourself on Feminism

Women’s Day Special

Every year come 8th March we celebrate International Women’s Day. Every year we celebrate womanhood and her power and how she is equal if not superior but we do it for one day. The next day we go back to the all common, all natural means of our unidentified, if not conscious systems of patriarchy. The mother wakes up two hours early to manage the house before going to work, the dad comes home to find his cup of warm tea ready for him, that girl over there keeps worrying about the size of her skirt that suddenly went short and what her teachers are going to say, the boys will obviously and willingly be obliged to look at her legs while she is already conscious and fidgety, the thirty-five year single woman will be looked down upon, and the man of the same age will be recommended for being too serious in his work, the pink infants will be given dolls and the blue ones cars, the list goes on. We know the drill. Not every house and every human is same, but there is this underlying upbringing that still needs correcting, irrespective of gender, caste, sex, nationality.

Obviously, I don’t have a solution that might work overnight. But I do have a few books that I strongly recommend for everyone to read (again, irrespective of every caste, creed, gender or nationality). If only you just read it, understood it and implemented it!

Book 1

Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language

By Amanda Montell

I won’t bore you with the blurb. If you are still reading this I have a feeling you won’t be lazy enough to look it up and actually read a bit about the book. Modern English is what evolved over time, just like humans. And the gist of it is, the language itself sometimes become casually sexistand not all-inclusive which is basically the problem. This book is the solution.

I cannot sum it up for you here, and neither will I try. But at the same time I will mention how essential it is to actually understand the problematic use of words like slut and bitch and pussy and dick because while in the past it didn’t mean what it means today, it does leave an insignificant impact in our mind. What happened? Over time, the language changed just like they stopped using ain’t and nought and thee and thou. But technically it is right to use all those words too. How? READ THE BOOK! The book isn’t just about how slangs work today, it includes the usage of pronouns and the LGBTQIA+ and how standards for men and women differ.

If you think about it, they are just small things but then why should they remain. Why? Why should someone who doesn’t identify as men go through different standards? Why should men tell that periods are or aren’t such a big problem? Why are they mansplaining? How can one assume sex is a key factor for only one gender? Why should language itself be masculine? How can someone get to dehumanize someone else? Who gave them the right to interrupt me while I am speaking? Who gave them the right to be sexist?

So while actions are problematic, language is too. And while words and grammar may change over time, something that is not acceptable today, maybe in the future. Being conscious of how it affects our society is the only way to it. With this book the writer deconstruct language.

Book 2

Dear Ijeawele, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

By ChimamandaNgoziAdichie

Okay, I’ll admit I still have problems with pronouncing the name sometimes and yes I am not ashamed of it. But I never had problems understanding the book I am talking about. When I first read it a couple of years back I wanted to take a pencil and mark every single line in the book, that’s how significant I found it. Yes, she speaks about very basic things and the simplest of things that hint at patriarchy and yes she brings out how to overcome them. But what really helped me in marking this as too important a book to ever forget was that it talked about how to bring up a child into this world as someone who does not fall into the standards of patriarchy, who is a feminist irrespective of the gender. Telling the world what to do with a child and how to bring them up in not a gender-biased way was the best thing, I felt like that is an answer right there, make that a curriculum in every school and every child will have some sense in them before they know right from wrong. With this book you are not just changing yourself, you are changing the generations to come. What exactly more could I ask for?

Everyone should read it, even if you are not planning on children now, even if you don’t ever plan to raise another human being, you should read this, that’s that. I love it more than any other book because it changes you and it changes the future generations, it changes the root of how and what we think on so many issues, it changes the general norm, thus making an effort on changing something that we have miserably failed at doing for so many ages.Read it now. Set aside any book that you are reading currently (okay, I know that sounds harsh) just take a break then, but read it, please!

Book 3

Vagina: A Re-education

By Lynn Enright

If you cringed at the sound of the book then you should definitely read this one. If you have a vagina then you should be reading this. If you don’t have one you still need to be reading this, period!

The book is part memoir and part practical guide to the vagina, breaking myths and empowering women by finally explaining to them the truths of their own body. It is simply sad that today, in 2022 we still have no proper sex education in most schools. And the ones that do have are small session of uncomfortable, rushed, and partial truth, if not a misinformed class. And even then the stress is always on male genitalia, male pleasure. Women are either misinformed about their own anatomy or either scared to death about sex. If you ask a person to mention the parts of a man’s genitals, they are likely to go into heavy details, naming every part almost accurately, but if you do so with a woman’s organs, there is likely to be confusion and embarrassment, on everyone, irrespective of their gender. Why?

Studies show that talking about sex and educating teenagers about it, reduce the urgency and the teen pregnancy rate at the same time. It obviously reduces the threat to sex, threat to life and even educates the generation. Then why exactly is it so hushed? Obviously, it does not say much on our part that we need books to educate ourselves on women anatomy instead of open discussions with teachers and doctors and parents but this could be a start. Read! With this I come to the end. However it is just a start on how we can empower generations to come by being open to discussions, giving them the truth and not residing in our home old traditions. I say it again, it does not say much on our part that we need books to acknowledge feminism in general, but that people are speaking up and are willing to read says something, I guess. If you have read this far, don’t stop now, read the books and spread the word.

Note: Moushmi is also a published author, who got 3 books to her credit. They are 1. POSIES 2. 03:21 AM: An Ode to Rust & Restlessness 3. Resignation of an Angel, Available on Amazon.

Becoming A Kindle Addict

From Paperbacks To Kindle – A Journey.

I know many won’t digest the idea of kindle and ebooks, their excuses would be the feel of touching a real book, the smell of it, etc etc. I am sorry mate you are pathetic if you are still stuck to those illusions. Well hold the bricks before you throw them at me, listen to my reasoning or rather the journey and decide. As of now keep that brick down, it won’t be a comforting experience to hold weight and grudge while I takes you through my journey, the journey that made me a Kindle Addict. 

 When I started off I was also like many of the so called readers. I adored the used books, their color, and their time travel. It was my dad who introduced me to reading English books and about the device called Kindle Ebook reader. When I was uprooted from my native ( Malayalam Media School ) to the city I call Las Vegas of South Asia, Chennai, I was thrown into a whirlwind where I had no clue, because I had Malayalam as my second language while rest of the subjects were in English, and the language was truly foreign to me. It was my Dad who insisted that it could be drubbed by hard work; he was a man of positivity and hopes. He gave me 50 rupees, to buy the used books so that I could read and become acquainted with the language, at that point I was little aware that he was handing over a key to endless possibilities and probabilities. That’s how I embark upon the journey into the English literature.   

After considerable amount of reading and with time, I became close to a book vendor. He had a small set up of used books that included mostly dog eared academic books, at the roadside. His knowledge about the authors was spellbinding; I looked at him with a child like excitement. The bond was so good that I used to assist him by selling books when he had his lunch. That bonding helped me to take a book from his collections and I replaced it for the previous purchase I made.  Like barter, after that point books were exchanged for books, no money involved. And it was my favourite outing on my bicycle which was scheduled once a week.  

Life started to blossom into springs even during the autumns, why not? when your best friends are books, casting tons of magic with words.

As days went on after graduations I got placed into the banking sector. To my surprise reading was still pushing me harder to fight back and knock off the challenges life threw at me consistently. If it were not for books, I don’t know I would have lost the battle long ago and probably wouldn’t be writing about these in this article. 

I remember it vividly, the day, when Dad came back from one of his official trips; he was trying to explain about a device for reading. He discovered this device during his train journey. I had no clue, I suggested that it must be an iPad, which has multiple uses, and obviously I’m not going to sacrifice my kidney to get that unaffordable device from apple. Dad being my Dad was not convinced, we carried forward that topic to discuss it over the chai and pakodas made by mom, and it was raining. 

Following Sunday dad was shouting Eureka Eureka almost I doubted that he got possessed by Archimedes, the ancient Greek Mathematician, but the difference was, it was in Malayalam, which went like, Eda! Eda! Ithanu Njan Paranja Sadanam!! Which loosely translates into, this is the device that I indicated on that day! He was surely excited. I looked into the Sunday times; into the newspaper he was holding towards me as a proof that solved a murder mystery. 

That was the advertisement for Amazon Kindle Devices, the very basic variant cost about 5999/-

It was love at first sight; I was completely drawn into its magic. The next strategic move was Window shopping! The sales executive was so excited, he explained everything about the device, which made me feel like owning this is everything. 

 Now I know the target, the next move was crucial, saving ‘the money’ to own one. I informed dad that I am planning to buy one of the devices he introduced. He said nothing but smiled. Mom was furious, she thought I am getting an unwanted member that doesn’t fit into our lower middle class households, and she insisted investment in gold is the wisest, the usual malayalayee’s mentality. We weren’t surprised; me and Dad exchanged the looks and said nothing, never squabble with a woman, especially Mom!  

After two months of waiting, I owned the basic variant, it really meant the world to me, and my reading experience was enhanced to a new horizon. The reading pace increased drastically, I carried it to wherever I went. The best part is you find it surprisingly captivating that you can almost have an ebook of any time period of which the paperbacks aren’t available for. You can shop at the comfort of your living room, sipping a cup of tea, Tada! The book is delivered to your device in less than 60 seconds. There are so many advantages, one will discover only after owning and experiencing it. Am not against paperbacks, but Ebooks are economical and the diversified searching takes you to surrender yourself to books and authors you have never heard about. 

Two years back I upgraded my Kindle to PaperWhite and still it has not lost its charm. I do buy used books but the ratio is like 2:8 to kindle. It is going to be seven years, I lost my Dad, and sometimes I find him, if not then keep trying, to find him in each bit of words I devour, I dedicate this article to the Man, the Super Human, who introduced me to many good habits, one of them to the world of English literature and Kindle.