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Life Defining Books

February 10, 2013

crime and punishmentFor anyone in love with the written word, we all have a few books that changed our whole perspective on the world. That helped to define and shape the person we have become. It is not just the book in itself, but the time at which we read it, the perspective we were coming from. We were ready for that book just when it happened to come along.

Some of the novels of Dostoyevsky stand out in my personal memory. Almost marking out different eras in my development. First I read Crime and Punishment. I was a student at this time, and the attitudes of Raskolnikov were something I could greatly appreciate. The effect his crime comes to have on his conscience over time. Second, came, The Idiot. I was no longer a student, but just a lonely person in the world with no goal in life. I had seen the limits of pursuing an education, but I had yet to see any value in the practical world of work.  As such I could identify with the Prince Myshkin character. A wandering innocent lost soul, with a naive understanding of the practical world, just trying to take his first steps in it.

Thirdly came, The Brothers Karamazov. This one I read when I was resigned to the reality I was going to have to deal with, come up against, and fight with for the rest of my life. I knew there was no longer a way back. Only a way forward. And this book, as a result appealed greatly to me, due to its portrayal of the different brothers and how they are committed to their lifestyles, and how they conflict with each other as a result. You can’t help but feel for the older brother, Dimitri, trapped in an impulsive way of acting that gets him in trouble all the time. Yon can only sympathise with the intellectual cynicism of the middle brother, Ivan, calmly sitting back and judging all around him, even himself. And you find yourself rooting for the younger brother, Alyosha, to succeed in bringing the family back together, with his religious optimism.

So there, through three books by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, is an example of how the right book seems to come along at the right time for you to read it. It is part of what makes some books so defining of the person you end up becoming.

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