An extraordinary book, which enables us to consider the nature of God in the 21st Century through the lens of Dostoevsky's novels. The current rash of books hostile to religious faith will one day be an interesting subject for some sociological analysis. But to counter such work, is a book of the profoundest kind about the nature and purpose of religious belief.
Terrorism, child abuse, absent fathers and the fragmentation of the family, the secularisation and the sexualisation of culture, the future of liberal democracy, the clash of cultures and the nature of national identity - so many of the anxieties that we think of as being quintessentially features of the early twenty first century and on, are present in the work of Dostoevsky - in his letters, his journalism and above all in his fiction.
The world we inhabit as readers of his novels is one in which the question of what human beings owe to each other is left painfully and shockingly open and there is no place to stand from which we can construct a clear moral landscape.But the novels of Dostoevsky continually press home what else might be possible if we - characters and readers - saw the world in another light, the light provided by faith. In order to respond to such a challenge the novels invite us to imagine precisely those extremes of failure, suffering and desolation. There is an unresolved tension in Dostoevsky's novels - a tension between believing and not believing in the existence of God.
In "The Brothers Karamazov", we can all receive Ivan with a terrible kind of delight. Ivan's picture of himself we immediately recognise as self-portrait. The god that is dead for him is dead for us. This Karamazov God of tension and terror is often the only one we are able to find. This extraordinary book will speak to our generation like few others.
Dostoevsky by Rowan Williams was published by Continuum in October 2009 and is our 41866th best seller. The ISBN for Dostoevsky is 9781441183880.