Which Karamazov Brother are You?

By BookNerd June 2, 2009


I love The Brothers Karamazov. Everyone should read this book, once when they're young and Alyosha-like (hopeful) and later when they've seen a bit of the world (after some Ivan-like reading or some Dmitri-like drunken humiliations).

Ever since I saw the recent Czech film, The Karamazovs, based on Dostoevsky's novel (and playing in SIFF this week), I've been trying to find a "Which Karamazov Brother Are You?" quiz on Facebook--or anywhere.

Quickly, the brothers, in case you don't know them: Alyosha (the youngest), Dmitri (the oldest), Ivan (middle-child), and Smerdyakov (unclaimed/illegitimate).

I have yet to find my quiz. What I did find:

1) About a million Lit 101 quizzes and academic papers, if you feel like geeking out on that.

2) a guitar-pop duo from Seattle called Ivan and Alyosha.

3) Loads of other Facebook quizzes, including: What Simpsons character are you? Which monster are you? What type of car are you? How dirty is ur mind? What crap do you secretly want from my shitty apartment?

So, I came up with the quiz myself.

Which Karamazov Brother Are You?
Which of the following statements best describes you:

A. I'm a pretty successful management type, even though I spend most of my waking hours totally wasted. I enjoy a good fight. I find myself doing really inappropriate things in the name of true love. I hate my father, and I probably killed him.

B. I've read a lot, and am a fan of logic. I find it nearly impossible to believe in redemption, any god, or any person. I love to get into long-winded arguments about why human salvation is a joke. I hate my father, and I probably killed him.

C. I am always trying to figure out where I fit in. My health isn't great, but my cooking is excellent. I like to joke around, but my family doesn't always get where I'm coming from. My father doesn't take me seriously, even though I take care of him. I probably killed him.

D. I am a generally hopeful person, and easy to get along with. I like to see the best in others and try to understand their struggles. I'm also a bit shy. There's no way that I killed my father.

The Karamazovs, the Czech movie that sent me off on this crazy tangent, is not a dusty period-film adaptation of the book at all. Instead, it's a cool, ambitious, multi-faceted project—much like the novel itself.

The premise: A company of Czech actors is trucked in from Prague to Nowa Huta, the industrial area outside of Krakow, Poland, built during Stalinism ("the workers were to overrun the intellectuals in Krakow," one of the characters jokes in the film).

The theater company is in Krakow for a theater festival, which is taking place in different areas within the factories. In the film, the actors are "rehearsing" the scenes from the play, and a few factory workers are watching along with the crew. Rather than just showing the play from beginning to end, though, director Petr Zelenka intersperses scenes from the play with scenes of the actors getting ready or walking around to see other productions. The overall effect of the play within the film is a layered exploration of all the themes Dostoevsky is working with—family strife, guilt and consequence, salvation, forgiveness, class inequities.

So, let's get back to the quiz. Which Karamazov brother are you?

A. Dmitri
B. Ivan
C. Smerdyakov
D. Alyosha

And, if you're curious, which Karamazov brother am I?

Personally, I've always wanted to be an Alyosha—faith in humanity, faith in a higher power/purpose, caretaker of the world. But I'm pretty solidly Ivan (ruled by logic) with a hint of Dmitri (inept hedonist brute). Ivan-types are smart though: I have always surrounded myself with Alyoshas.

Go see The Karamazovs--or even better, get a copy of the book. Even if you have to carry it around with you all summer.

The Karamazovs plays at the Harvard Exit June 3 at 9:15 p.m. and June 7 at 11 a.m.
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