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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A long-sought book, though just written
Overall this book is proving highly stimulating, helping me to see not only Dostoevsky's fiction more clearly but also my own. Often I have to read passages more than once to chase the meaning, but unlike John Jones's volume on the same subject the meaning does eventually give itself up. The argument steadily and convincingly advances, and my chief disagreement so far is...
Published on 17 Feb 2009 by Mr. DM Hendtlass

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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard going!
This book was recommended when I chose a book by Timothy Radcliffe. I thought that probably meant that it would be equivalent "weight". To be honest -- being a scientist with theological interests, rather than a person with literary skills and knowledge (particularly regarding Russian authors), I was often out of my depth.

I appreciate that that is my...
Published on 23 May 2009 by P. MCCOLLUM


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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A long-sought book, though just written, 17 Feb 2009
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Overall this book is proving highly stimulating, helping me to see not only Dostoevsky's fiction more clearly but also my own. Often I have to read passages more than once to chase the meaning, but unlike John Jones's volume on the same subject the meaning does eventually give itself up. The argument steadily and convincingly advances, and my chief disagreement so far is with the author's portrayal of Prince Myshkin, which has prompted me to re-read The Idiot. Any lover of Dostoevsky's novels will find this a rewarding well of deep insights.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard going!, 23 May 2009
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P. MCCOLLUM - See all my reviews
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This book was recommended when I chose a book by Timothy Radcliffe. I thought that probably meant that it would be equivalent "weight". To be honest -- being a scientist with theological interests, rather than a person with literary skills and knowledge (particularly regarding Russian authors), I was often out of my depth.

I appreciate that that is my problem,and not necessarily the author's. I found that the book did raise profound issues, and it was interesting to see how much Doestoevsky was up to speed on theological matters of his day. I can't imagine an English author seeing as much space to exploring the consequences of being God-anchored or a convinced atheist, against the uncommitted stance. It was also interesting to see how Dostoevsky endeavoured to avoid both collectivism and individualism in exploring the "real".

If you like hard mental work, this might be the book for you! (Perhaps not for anyone looking for an entre to a Russian author.)
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dostoevsky by Rowan Williams, 11 Feb 2012
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This review is from: Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction (Paperback)
In this study Archbishop Williams shows us he is a
literary critic of the highest order. A thorough
knowledge of the major novels is assumed. For those
who have this knowledge, there is insight on virtually
every page . In the course of close reading, the author
uses his knowledge of theology and the Christian east
to tease out Dostoevsky's evolving religious thinking.
Rowan Williams knows the secondary literature on
Dostoevsky in both Russian and English and engages with
this scholarship in fertile ways. For readers of Dostoevsky
the book is an essential study. A great book in the true
sense.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stimulating and considered, 28 April 2014
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Jeremy Walton (Sidmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction (Paperback)
Like other reviewers, I was directed to this book by Timothy Radcliffe's excellent What Is the Point of Being a Christian?. I read - and greatly enjoyed - most of Dostoevsky's best-known works (Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, Devils, The Brothers Karamazov, and Notes from the Underground) a long time ago, but (or maybe hence) was a little hazy on the details of the plots and characters. Not like Rowan Williams, who's intimately familiar with the texts and the historical and academic literature about their author (he even steps in at one point (p45) to give his own translation of an significant phrase from Karamazov).

However, although it's essential for the reader of this book to have at least some familiarity with the stories (for example, the parable that Ivan Karamazov tells about the Grand Inquisitor's encounter with Christ), I wouldn't necessarily say it was crucial that they refresh their memories of all the details before tackling this, because the author works hard to tease out the ideas that he's interested in. These are indicated by his title, and his observation that "Faith and fiction are deeply related - not because faith is a variant of fiction in the trivial sense but because both are gratuitous linguistic practices standing over against a functional scheme of things" (p46). The second part of this sentence takes a bit of unpicking (in fact, it takes the whole of the rest of the book to do so), but the first part - about faith being a variant of fiction - is startlingly eye-catching, even to those readers who are struggling to progress beyond the trivial.

If they do, they'll encounter the author's main thesis: an analogy between the fictional world and characters which Dostoevsky creates in his stories, and ideas and beliefs about the way our world has come into being, our purpose in it and the consequences of the choices which we make. Even if we're comfortable with the notion of being like characters in a story created by another, this is a heavy burden for Dostoevsky to bear (the analogy would clearly be a lot shakier if we substituted the name of another author - Dan Brown, say - and their fictional world), but Williams thinks he's up to the task because of the richness and complexity of his works, which he explores in depth here. Along the way, he considers ideas about free will, spirituality, charity, love, forgiveness and sacrifice; in spite of the density of the writing which caused me - in spite of paying close attention to the text - to lose my way occasionally, I found these resonated with me and stimulated unlooked-for insights. The patience and effort required to read this book is, in the final analysis, a valuable investment.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 8 Nov 2014
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This review is from: Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction (Paperback)
Wonderful book very challenging and imaginative would take re reading several times as so profound and enriching.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars DISAPPOINTING ..., 6 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction (Paperback)
I have read all of Dostoevsky's novels and chose to buy Rowan Williams' book on the grounds that he would, as a result of his vocational experience, have something valuable to say about the novels. I hesitate to disagree with the majority of the reviews here (and to write a negative review about a book by such a gifted and clever man) but I have to say that this is one of the worst critical works I have ever read - and I've read a lot of them over the years for reasons I won't go into here.

The discussion is convoluted, obscure and woolly in general organisation and, at a sentence level, in style. It is as if the author is engaged in a protracted meditation and has thought enough about the complex subject matter to understand its difficulty but not enough to devise a way of writing that will enable him to explain, clarify and communicate this difficulty. Perhaps Dr Williams needed to do another two or three drafts before handing the work to the publisher, and to concentrate, while refining the text, on the values of communication and clarity of argument - the reader-facing virtues, really.

At a more basic level, some of the mishandling of punctuation which contributes much to the painful obscurity of the text could have been corrected at this point. The author is addicted to semi-colons and colons (without having any real syntactical need for them) and omits commas for parenthesis where they are really needed to make the sense as clear as possible. He also uses quotation marks without giving a reference and has allowed various solecisms, vulgarities of style and even the odd spelling mistake to carry forward into the final text.

The end result of this, I am sorry to say, is an irritating and unnecessarily dense piece of writing, the sense of which dissolves before your eyes the closer you look and the more you reflect on the meaning (or, usually, several possible meanings) of each sentence.

Please do another draft, Dr Williams. I await it eagerly.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tough but rewarding, 3 July 2012
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This review is from: Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction (Paperback)
Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction by Rowan Williams is a fantastic book for people who want a deeper understanding of Dostoevsky's works.
Before I read this book, I read all of Dostoyevsky's major novels and various short stories.

Rowan Williams has a thorough understanding of both theology and philosophy which is necessary for his analysis throughout Dostoevsky's novels.
He goes through the themes and ideas which constantly come up in Dostoevsky's novels which the reader may not pick up (i certainly didn't), such as the demonic being a state where human decisions do not exist, essentially where free will does not exist, which is evident in Ivan's poem of the Inquisitor (Brother's Karamazov), but also in 'Demons', 'Crime and Punishment' and according to Williams, Prince Myshkins inability to act undertake the perfect role of Christ which eventually leads to destruction (The Idiot). There are many more ideas which crop up in Dostoevsky's novels, which readers generally don't pick up on and Williams delivers these concepts to us.

Williams provides a thorough analysis of Dostoevsky's novels which shows evident research of different writers which have written of Dostoevsky, where much material is implemented and built upon. Williams quotes many other writers and also Dostoevsky himself to justify the concepts within the novel.

Although the writing by Williams is extremely heavy going, requires a lot of patiences and re-reading over to understand. I certainly found it difficult to read and go through, especially since I don't study English literature, theology, or English based subjects.

I would only recommend this book to extreme Dostoevsky fans, the average reader would probably be frustrated by the complicated content and writing style unless he/she has a keen interest in Dostoevsky. Williams does refer back to many passages in the novels and the reader will be lost unless they remember these parts of the novels, the reader definitely should refresh their minds of all the intricate details in the novel and every sequence that it runs through before reading this book. A lot of preparation is required before reading the book, but a Dostoevsky fanatic shouldn't have a problem with that haha.

For those who will persevere and go through this book will be glad they did, where the knowledge and new understanding gained from the book will certainly be rewarding.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rowan Williams, 1 Nov 2010
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This review is from: Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction (Paperback)
This book was bought as a gift and the recipient has said how wonderful she found the book. Rowan Williams has a gifted mind and produced a work of lasting worth. Amazon delivered the book very quickly and was much appreciated.
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Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction
Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction by Rowan Williams (Paperback - 14 Dec 2010)
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