February Classic: The Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I am reading and listening to “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky and I am I loving my pick for February’s classic book. 

I was first introduced to Dostoevsky while at UWI Mona when I did the course Philosophy in Literature with poet and philosopher Dr. Earl McKenzie. If I recall correctly, the course had two Dostoevsky works, “The Brothers Karamazov” and “Notes From Underground.” At the time I was very keen on exploring existentialism and as such I ignored the Karamazovs. 

Following Dr. McKenzie’s recommendation I did read the short story within the novel, “The Grand Inquisitor.” Over a decade later, I am now reading what is considered to be Dostoevsky’s best work and I at the point in the novel where Ivan Karamazov shares the tale of the Grand Inquisitor, his “poem in prose” which he shares with his younger brother Alyosha. 

For anyone interesting in trying out Russian literature but not quite ready to jump right into one of the long novels, the poem in prose of the Grand Inquisitor is a good starting point. Here is a link to that excerpt from the Literature Network.  The Grand Inquisitor is a parable of sorts wherein, Jesus the Christ returns to earth and stops in Seville, Spain and is arrested by the Grand Inquisitor. Jesus is sentenced to be death by burning. The centre of the story is the conversation where the Grand Inquisitor explains to Jesus how his return interferes with the mission of the church. 

I am so taken in by this philosophical debate on the conflicts of religious faith, morality and doubt.  

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