The Intimidating Book Club: The Brothers Karamazov, Books XII-Epilogue

West End Library

The Intimidating Book Club: The Brothers Karamazov, Books XII-Epilogue

We devoted and sometimes not-so-gentle readers of The Intimidating Book Club are neither too proud nor afraid to ask ourselves the hard questions while we do our reading: Why is War and Peace so long? What is George Eliot’s real name? Isn’t Don Quixote super annoying? What’s up with Captain Ahab anyway, is he crazy or what?

Whether riding the waves of a good day or simply limping by in life, we intrepid readers will always find joy in wrestling with the difficult questions that any good work of literature raises. This is why we saw it fit for our final discussion on The Brothers Karamazov to ask a question about a question.

Ahem. Precisely--just what are eternal questions and what does Dostoevsky mean by them?

Let me explain.

In Book XI, Ch. 9 of The Brothers Karamazov, prosecuting attorney Kirillovitch is described thus: ". . . poor Ippolit Kirillovitch unexpectedly revealed that at least some feeling for the public welfare and 'the eternal question' lay concealed in him."

If we go several chapters back in this book, we’ll encounter more of the same. Indeed, it is in Book V, Ch. 3, during a conversation between brothers Ivan and Alyosha where Ivan states: 

". . . we in our green youth have to settle the eternal questions first of all. That’s what we care about . . . [we] are talking about nothing but the eternal questions now. In this stinking tavern, for instance, here, [people] meet and sit down in a corner. They’ve never met in their lives before and, when they go out of the tavern, they won’t meet again for forty years. And what do they talk about in that momentary halt in the tavern? Of the eternal questions, of the existence of God and immortality."

What are eternal questions? How does The Brothers Karamazov attempt to resolve them?

On January 25, 2022, 18 participants gathered virtually via Webex to discuss for two hours these questions and more. It was a wonderful way to tip our collective hats and bid a fond farewell to the five months we spent reading and discussing The Brothers Karamazov section by section. My sincere gratitude to the participants for their engagement, camaraderie, and enthusiasm. As for me, I may not be too scared to ask hard questions, but there is one eternal question that always eludes me: What’s for dinner? Much like the thoughts and interpretations mined from reading long and all-absorbing novels, the possibilities are endless.

Learn more about The Intimidating Book Club here. Read other blog posts about this novel here, here, and here.

--My Nguyen