The Intimidating Book Club: The Brothers Karamazov, Books 10-11

West End Library

The Intimidating Book Club: The Brothers Karamazov, Books 10-11

Are eyeglasses Satanic? Surely not! But perhaps the narrator in The Brothers Karamazov thinks so.

When Satan pays a visit to Ivan in Book 11, Ch. 9 of The Brothers Karamazov, he forgos wearing a watch. (Swatch shareholders the worldover can now breathe a collective sigh of relief). Satan’s disregard for punctuality is quite in contrast with his affection for sight, however: he is described in this chapter as sporting a “tortoiseshell pince-nez on a black ribbon.”

It is interesting, then, to compare this detail with the vision requirements of another arguably diabolical character: Smerdyakov, the unsociable, well-dressed servant for Father Karamazov. In a previous chapter, Ivan sees Smerdyakov wearing glasses, and is displeased. “This trifling thing,” reports the narrator, “suddenly redoubled Ivan’s anger. A creator like that wearing glasses!”

So what do we have here? It doesn’t seem a coincidence that Dostoevsky took care to apply the same medical device to two debatably evil characters. But why? 

On December 28, 2021, 18 loyal and insightful participants gathered virtually via Webex for two hours to discuss this opening question and more. Lest you are swayed to think, though, that your Warby Parkers are the devil’s own calling cards -- trust me, they’re not. Eye-health, no matter what your belief system, is extremely important.

Learn more about The Intimidating Book Club here. Read other recaps of this book here and here.


-- My Nguyen