Rowan Williams explores the intricacies of speech, fiction, metaphor, and iconography in the works of one of literature’s most complex, and most misunderstood, authors. Williams’ investigation focuses on the four major novels of Dostoevsky’s maturity (Crime & Punishment, The Idiot, Devils, and The Brothers Karamazov). He argues that understanding Dostoevsky’s style and goals as a writer of fiction is inseparable from understanding his religious commitments. Any reader who enters the rich and insightful world of Williams’ Dostoevsky will emerge a more thoughtful and appreciative reader for it.
In case that’s not enough, Michael Holquist, Professor Emeritus of Comparative & Slavic Literature at Yale, and the coauthor with Katerina Clark of a terrific intellectual biography of the famous Dostoevsky critic, Mikhail Bakhtin,  has an interesting line in his blurb on the back of the dust jacket: ‘This is a work of learning and passion, a heteroglot blend of literary, ethical, and subtle theological argument that is full of surprising local triumphs of interpretation—and that most unacademic virtue, wisdom.’ (This last remark reminds of me of the passage from Screwtape I discussed here!)
I’m generally a little suspicious of the first bearded Archbishop of Canterbury since William Laud (1573-1645), not least because of his liberal views on gay clergy.  But I tend to think that Dostoevsky may be one area where we can basically agree. Poking just a bit into the Introduction, I already see one important observation. Williams comments on the tremendous effect on Dostoevsky criticism in the West of Bakhtin’s work , concluding, ‘From the mid-seventies onward, critical work in English on Dostoevsky became in general far more sophisticated, and part of that welcome development was a new seriousness of engagement with the religious aspect of the fiction.’  This may seem obvious, but it was something I had not really thought about. The necessity of reading Bakhtin in Dostoevsky studies really has generally made critics of the latter far more sophisticated. Even in other areas of literary criticism, I often find those who do not seem to be familiar with Bakhtin or his ideas to be ridiculously naïve or simplistic. I must also give Williams some serious kudos on one other account: according to a certain reference site, citing this Russian article on the book, Williams learned Russian in order to read Dostoevsky.
My only real criticism after a first glance is an unfortunate lacuna in Williams’s bibliography: Joe E. Barnhart, ed., Dostoevsky’s Polyphonic Talent (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2005)—seemingly a natural resource for a study of Dostoevsky published by Baylor since it is a collection mostly of papers that were presented at a conference on Dostoevsky held at Baylor in 1999. 
I am pleased to note that this book also appears to be the first volume of a promising new series from Baylor under the editorship of Stephen Prickett  entitled, ‘The Making of the Christian Imagination’. Williams has penned a tantalising ‘Series Introduction’ included at the beginning of the Dostoevsky book. He concludes:
Because we are in danger of succumbing to a damaging cultural amnesia about what religious commitment looks like in practice, these books seek to show that belief ‘in practice’ is a great deal more than following out abstract imperatives or general commitments. They look at creative minds that have a good claim to represent some of the most decisive and innovative cultural currents of the history of the West (and not only the West), in order to track the ways in which a distinctively Christian imagination makes possible their imaginative achievement. And in doing so, they offer a challenge to what one great thinker called the ‘cultured despisers’ of Christian faith: in dismissing this faith, can an intellectually serious person accept confidently the simultaneous dismissal of the shifts, enlargements, and resources it has afforded the individual and collective imagination? What, finally, would a human world be like if it convinced itself that it had shaken off the legacy of the Christian imagination? The hope of the authors of these volumes is that the answer to that question will be constructively worrying—sufficiently so, perhaps, to make possible a more literary debate about faith and contemporary culture. 
Clearly this is an aim very much in keeping with my personal interest in theology and literature. I am very excited about the future volumes in this series!
 Ralph C. Wood, ‘Russia’s Gospel Writer Dostoevsky & the Affirmation of Life by Predrag Cicovacki Dostoevsky: Language, Faith, and Fiction by Rowan Williams’, Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, July/August 2009, 22.6.
 Katerina Clark & Michael Holquist, Mikhail Bakhtin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1984).
 It is largely on the basis of these views (evident here) that I can’t help but think that his upcoming recognition by St Vladimir’s Seminary is ill-advised. It is ironic that he is to speak on the Philokalia, where St Symeon the New Theologian tells us that a priest ‘should be chaste, not only in body but also in soul’ (The Philokalia, Vol. 4, trans. G.E.H. Palmer, et al. [London: Faber, 1995], p. 62).
I am genuinely a lot more conservative than he would like me to be. Take the Resurrection. I think he has said that of course I know what all the reputable scholars think on the subject and therefore when I talk about the risen body I must mean something other than the empty tomb. But I don't. I don't know how to persuade him, but I really don't.
 Williams, p. 4.
 This book includes a paper by Williams’s Touchstone reviewer, Ralph Wood, two by the great Victor Terras of Brown University (whose work I have drawn on here), as well as one poorly written and unwise paper prone to hyperbole by a certain young Orthodox convert who was, strangely, asked to say the blessing at a dinner for the presenters at Baylor.
 Pricket was lately Margaret Root Brown Professor for Browning Studies and Victorian Poetry and Director of the Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor. The Armstrong Browning Library is housed in the most beautiful building on the Baylor campus, and it was here that the Dostoevsky conference dinner was held.
 Williams, p. ix.