About the Book

Book Protagonist: Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov
Publication Date: 1880
Genre: Classic, Crime Fiction, Philosophical Fiction

Historical Context

The Brothers Karamazov

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

'The Brothers Karamazov' was Fyodor Dostoevsky's final book. Almost like he knew he was nearing the end of his life, he penned down what many experts and critics consider to be one of the greatest pieces of literature ever made.

The Brothers Karamazov‘ came after Dostoevsky had already published a string of literary masterpieces such as Notes From the Underground (1864), Crime and Punishment (1866), and The Idiot (1869).

In his previous works, Dostoevsky tackled issues on the human condition, such as existentialism, rationalism, and religion, all pertinent to the problems of 19th century Russia.

Dostoevsky was a forerunner of realism in the modern novel, and Notes from Underground (1864), as well as his subsequent works, fall under this category. Realist writers, such as Honoré de Balzac in France, Charles Dickens in England, and Nikolai Gogol and Dostoevsky in Russia, reexamined the novel’s basic purpose. Realism centered on “genuine” people, such as city inhabitants, prostitutes, poor students, humble craftsmen, and other characters that had previously been ridiculed or used as comedic relief. Before realism, ordinary life was regarded as beneath literature, which was supposed to transcend the banal. Dostoevsky’s writing, which is frequently regarded as the pinnacle of realism, tries not to transcend reality but to depict it in all its complexities.

About Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky is regarded as one of the finest writers and literary psychologists of the twentieth century. Dostoevsky was born in Moscow in 1821, the son of a doctor, and received his education both at home and at a boarding school. Dostoevsky’s father enrolled him in the St. Petersburg Academy of Military Engineering when he was a little boy, and he graduated in 1843. Dostoevsky had always wanted to write, so he quit his job as a sub-lieutenant to devote his time to it. Poor Folk (1846), his debut work, was an instant hit with critics.

Early Life

Dostoevsky’s early worldview was impacted by his encounters with social injustice. Dostoevsky became engaged in socialist organizations at the age of twenty-six, owing to his hostility to the institution of serfdom. Dostoevsky’s political views were shaped by his experiences as a young lad when his father was murdered by his serfs while he was at school. The time Dostoevsky spent in prison was another event that had a profound impact on him and was reflected in his writing. Dostoevsky was imprisoned on April 23, 1849, for his involvement in a gang that illegally printed and distributed socialist propaganda. Dostoevsky was sentenced to death for membership in the gang after spending eight months in prison and was led, along with other group members, to his execution.


‘The Brothers Karamazov‘ compiled previous unfinished works of Dostoevsky such as Life of a Great Sinner (1869), Drama in Tobolsk (1874), and Sorokoviny (1875). Dostoevsky was also influenced by the death of his 3-year-old son, Alyosha, who died of epilepsy. Consequently, he made the protagonist of this book to be named Aloysha, and he possessed character traits Dostoevsky most admired. At the time of this tragedy, Dostoevsky visited the Optina Monastery in Kozelsk, Russia, from where he got the inspiration to write extensively on the life of Father Zosima and his mentorship of Aloysha.


‘The Brothers Karamazov’ takes place in the turbulent years following the end of serfdom in Russia in 1861. In Russian intellectual history, the 1860s were a turbulent time. The elimination of serfdom was just one of the outcomes of Western European liberalism and socialism’s influence on Russian society. During this time, radical political movements rose to prominence, including the People’s Will, which killed Tsar Alexander II in 1881, the same year Dostoevsky died. Ivan and Rakitin, for example, are intelligent characters that embody these beliefs.

Influence of The Brothers Karamazov

The impact of this seminal work from Fyodor Dostoevsky is far-reaching. Notable historical figures such as Vladimir Putin, Albert Einstein, and Sigmund Freud have praised the book as one of the greatest books ever written.

Writers such as Haruki Murakami, Virginia Woolf, Kurt Vonnegut, Cormac McCarthy, and Frederick Buechner have also spoken highly of the book and how it has influenced them as writers.

Philosopher and writer Franz Kafka also praised the work for its influence on his worldview, especially regarding topics such as existentialism. The character of Ivan Karamazov influenced the writings of popular 20th-century writers like Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. The author of the famous book, ‘Brave New World’, Aldous Huxley, referenced the Grand Inquisitor story in his book. The American novelist and Nobel Prize laureate William Faulkner called ‘The Brothers Karamazov‘ the greatest piece of literature next to Shakespeare and the Bible.

Adaptations of The Brothers Karamazov

The influence of ‘The Brothers Karamazov‘ on popular culture cannot be overstated. A lot of Hollywood films tried to adapt the book into a film, some based loosely on the plot, while others followed the book to the letter. The first adaptation was ‘The Brothers Karamazov‘ which was a silent film produced in 1915 and directed by Victor Tourjansky. Subsequent adaptations were in German.

  • Die Brüder Karamasoff (1921, directed by Carl Froelich)
  • Der Mörder Dimitri Karamasoff (1931, directed by Erich Engels & Fyodor Otsep, starring Fritz Kortner, Anna Sten)
  • I fratelli Karamazoff (1947, directed by Giacomo Gentilomo)
  • The first major motion picture adaptation was produced in 1958 by Richard Brooks, starring Yul Brynner and William Shatner.
  • A Russian miniseries was produced in 2009 and was said to have followed the book closely. Japanese spinoffs have followed as well.

Legacy of Fyodor Dostoevsky

Dostoevsky’s name has come to be associated with psychological depth. His heroes’ complexity and contradictoriness have made systematic psychological theories look superficial in comparison for years. Many thinkers, including Sigmund Freud, have attempted to claim Dostoevsky as a forerunner. Dostoevsky’s perception of evil and love of freedom has made him particularly relevant in a century marked by world wars, mass murder, and authoritarianism. His writings gave rise to at least two modern literary genres: the prison camp book and the dystopian novel (works like Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four). Friedrich Nietzsche, André Gide, Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, André Malraux, and Mikhail Bulgakov, to name a few, were all profoundly influenced by his ideas and stylistic innovations.


What year was ‘The Brothers Karamazov‘ published?

It was published in 1880. Actually published serially from 1879-1880.

Where was ‘The Brothers Karamazov‘ written?

 Dostoevsky composed much of the book in Staraya Russa, a town in Novgorod Oblast, Russia. Staraya Russa is a popular vacation resort, and Dostoevsky felt at home and relaxed in such an environment.

What genre is the ‘The Brothers Karamazov?’

It is philosophical/theological fiction. It can also be described as psychological fiction, as most of the subjects tackled in this book are relevant to issues soft the human psyche.

What company published ‘The Brothers Karamazov?’

It was published by The Russian Messenger.

What language was ‘The Brothers Karamazov‘ published in?

It was published in the Russian language and has been translated into more than 170 languages.

How long did it take Fyodor Dostoevsky to write ‘The Brothers Karamazov?’

It took Dostoevsky nearly two years to complete the book.

Charles Asoluka
About Charles Asoluka
Charles is an experienced content creator, writer, and literary critic. He has written professionally for multiple reputable media organizations. He loves reading Western classics and reviewing them.
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