American Inquisitions 

Fyodor Dostoevsky published the first installment of The Brothers Karamazov in February, 1879. The novel was the culmination of a decade of ideological strife, during which Dostoevsky had noted a steady slide toward populism. Socialism, the passion of Dostoevsky’s youth, was an enthusiasm still on the march. The author of The Brothers Karamazov was a devout Orthodox Christian and a conservative, a reactionary perhaps. He poured the expansive politics of his era into The Brothers Karamazov and especially into a phantasmagoric chapter — often read on its own — titled “The Grand Inquisitor.” For the past one hundred and forty years, this text has been mined for clues to modern politics. In the verdict of Lionel Trilling, “it can be said almost categorically that no other work of literature has made so strong an impression on the modern conscious- ness.” Modern consciousness was never more receptive to “The Grand Inquisitor”

Thank you for reading!

To continue reading this article you must be a subscriber and be logged in to this site. If you already have a subscription, please log in now.