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Excerpt from

The Brothers Karamazov  

- Fyodor Dostoyevsky


At last the chairman opened the hearing of the case of the murder of the retired titular councillor Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov- I do not remember quite how he put it that day. The bailiff was instructed to bring in the defendant, and then Mitya appeared. A hush descended on the chamber , one could have heard a fly. I do not know how others reacted, but the sight of Mitya impressed me most disagreeably. Above all, he arrived looking the most dreadful dandy, wearing a brand-new-frock-coat. I later discovered that he had ordered the frock-coat especially for this day from his old tailor in Moscow, who still had his size. He wore brand-new kid gloves and a dandified shirt, collar and cuffs. With his long, arshin-spaced strides he marched in, looking directly, almost fixedly, before him, and sat down in his place with a most dauntless air. At once and without delay his defence counsel, the celebrated Fetyukovich, also came in, and a kind of suppressed rumble passed through the chamber. This was a long, dried-up man with long, thin legs, exceedingly long, pale, thin fingers, his face clean-shaven, with hair that was modestly brushed and rather short, and thin lips that were from time distorted by something halfway between a jeer and a smile. He must, by the look of him, have been about forty. His face would have been pleasant enough, had it not been for his eyes, which, though small and inexpressive in themselves, were set extra-ordinarily close to one another, seperated only by the thin bone of his thin, oblong nose. In a word, this phisiognomy had about it something sharply bird-like, that struck one. He was it coat and tails, and wore a white tie. I recall the chairman's opening interrogation of Mitya, oncerning his name , rank, etcetera. Mitya delivered his replies in a voice that was curt, but somehow unexpectedly loud, so that the chairman even jerked his head up and looked at him almost with surprise. After that a list of the persons who had been summoned to the judicial proceedings was read out- the witnesses and experts, in other words. The list was a long one; four of the witnesses were not present: Miusov, who was by now in Paris, but whose deposition had been obtained at the time of the preliminary investigation, Mrs Khokhlakova and the landowner Maksimov because of illness and Smerdyakov because of his sudden death, concerning which a police report was submitted. The news about Smerdyakov provoked a violent commotion and whispering in the chamber. There were of course many in the public who as yet knew nothing at all of this sudden episode that had involved his suicide. What they found particularly shocking, however, was Mitya's sudden outlandish behavior: no sooner had the new concerning Smerdyakov been announced than he suddenly from his place exclaimed to the whole chamber:

'To a dog the death of a dog!'

I recall that his defence counsel went rushing to his side and that the chairman addressed him with a warning that severe measures would be taken were outlandishness of this kind to be repeated. Mitya nodded his head and abruptly told his defence counsel several times, though not at all as though he felt the slightest contrition:

'I won't do it again, I won't do it again! It just came out! I won't do it again!'

And, I need hardly add, this brief episode did not work in his favour with the opinion of the jury and the public. His character had declared itself and provided its own introduction. It was under the influence of this impression that the referring clerk read out the bill of indictment.

It was rather brief, but thorough. Only the principal reasons why the said person had been brought to court, why he was to be tried, and so on, were listed. None the less, it made a strong impression on me. The referring clerk read out the document clearly, resonantly and distinctly. The whole of that tragedy seemed once again to appear before all present in vivid, concentrated manner, illumined by a fateful and inexorable light. I recall that immediately after the document had been read out the chairman of the court asked Mitya loudly and imposingly:

'Prisoner at the bar, do you or do you not plead guilty?'

Mitya suddenly rose from his seat:

'I plead guilty to drunkenness and depravity,' he exclaimed again in a voice that was somehow unexpectedly loud, almost frenzied, 'to laziness and debauchery. I wanted to become an honourable man for ever at the very second I was cut down by fate! But of the death of the old man, my enemy and father- I am not guilty! Of having robbed him- no, no, I am not guilty, and I cannot be: Dmitry Karamazov is a scoundrel, but not a thief!'

Having shouted this out, he sat down again, apparently shaking all over. The chairman again addressed him with a brief but admonitory exhortation to reply only to the questions, and not to launch upon irrelevant and frenzied exclamations; whereupon he ordered that the proceedings should begin. All the witnesses were brought in to take the oath. At this point I had a view of them all together. As a matter of fact, the brothers of the defendant were permitted to give testimony without taking the oath. Following an exhortation by the chairman and a priest, the witnesses were led away and kept separate from one another as far as possible. After that they began to be summoned out one by one.

About the book:

When the depraved landowner Fyodor Karamazov is murdered, the lives of his sons are changed irrevocably: Mitya, the sensualist, whose bitter rivalry with his father immediately places him under suspicion; Ivan, the intellectual, whose mental tortures drive him to breakdown; and the spiritual Alyosha, who tries to heal the family's rifts.

Undoubtedly the best book ever written, Dostoyevsky's all time classic highlights the themes of guilt, salvation, and religious comfort.

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