The Brothers Karamazov
Written by: Fyodor Dostoevsky
Narrated by: Simon Vance
Length: 19 hrs and 12 mins
Release Date: 01-15-09
I’ve been thinking about reading some classic literature for some time now, and what better book to start with than The Brothers Karamazov. There’re multiple audiobook versions available, both abridged and unabridged, so you’ll have lots of choice of how to consume it. I went for the 2009 abridged edition narrated by Simon Vance. It’s almost 20 hours long which is the perfect sweetspot for me. The full version is something like 40 hours long, so…
Unlike your typical abridged audiobook, this one seems to shorten things on word and phrase level rather then cut out whole scenes or chapters. A word removed here, change of phrasing there and it all adds up with the end result being about 50% shorter than the original. It’s more of a compression than an abridgment. Sure, you’re loosing some of the feel of the original, but you’re presented with a carefully crafted piece, not some hack job. The famous The Grand Inquisitor chapter is still there in all of its glory, for example.
The Brothers Karamazov is a thought-provoking, deep and engaging story about the human condition. It has some amazingly intriguing insight about the role of the church and why there’s evil in the world. By the end of the book I was deeply moved. It’s such a masterpiece. If you manage to make it through the whole thing you’ll be in for some deep wisdom. Surprisingly for a book that’s quite wordy and ponderous, the bit near the end has quite a bit of action and I found myself very excited, almost sitting on the edge of my seat. There’s no doubt in my mind that the court scene at the end is absolutely brilliant. To be honest I started the book with some doubts creeping in that it’ll be too boring and I won’t finish it. Boy, was I wrong! By the end there was a lump in in my throat and I was actually trying not to tear up. It’s a truly unforgettable story and perfectly narrated, too. I’ll be shopping for a paper copy because that’s just one of those books that you want to have on your bookshelf and pick up occasionally to highlight quotes and put them up on your wall.
The Brothers Karamazov is an amazing work and I wish more people to read it without being intimidated by its size. This audiobook will certainly make it more accessible and easy to digest. Somehow, they’ve managed to include every character, every scene, every philosophical elaboration without making it seem rushed out or forced. The pacing keeps a steady rhythm the whole time.
And what a performance by Simon Vance! I’ve read that he’s a 19th century novels narrator with no real competition and now I can confirm that this man does an outstanding job! He’s probably very good too with more modern books too, it’s just that I haven’t got the chance to listen to any of them yet. It’s like he has a different voice for every character not just for the sake of it but really contributing to the whole greatness of the novel.
If you are impressed by this edition as much as I was, you’ll be more than happy when you tackle the unabridged version. But in the mean time this one will certainly leave an impression in your mind. Also it’s a good audiobook to pick up if you’ve read the original before and want kind of a quick review. It doesn’t feel like a simple review, though. It feels like Dostoevsky.
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