The Single Greatest Moment in Russian Literature

Or, possibly, the literature of any nation. Or, possibly even, any possible literature of any possible nation:

Убил отца не ты.

“It wasn’t you who killed father.”

Years & years ago, I “taught” The Brothers Karamazov at the University of Chicago, and was quite taken with it.

Just now, I’ve been revisiting the book, in an audiobook performance of the Magarshack translation, as I drive into and back from work. The line I’ve just quoted, from Book 11, Chapter 5, is, in context, so brilliant, so devastating, and so completely unexpected…I’m lucky I didn’t crash my car.

3 thoughts on “The Single Greatest Moment in Russian Literature

  1. Pingback: The Single Greatest Moment in Russian Literature | Reaction Times

  2. Ivan fears that he is himself the real murderer.- but he’s not sure. He desperately wants to believe that it was Dmitri, and not Smerdyakov, who struck the fatal blow.

    If it was Dmitri, then he (Ivan) was merely a passive observer.

    But if it was Smerdyakov, then he (Ivan) was the prime mover.

    Alexei doesn’t know the whole story, but somehow he knows both that Ivan fears that he is himself the real murderer – something that Ivan has never admitted to anybody – and that it isn’t true.

    Clear as dirt?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s