In the End, Dostoevsky, Too, Saw the Need for God

The Evening Standard (London, England), September 30, 2008 | Go to article overview

In the End, Dostoevsky, Too, Saw the Need for God


Byline: SEBASTIAN SHAKESPEARE

YOU can accuse the Archbishop of Canterbury of many things but at least he has impeccable taste in literature. Rowan Williams has found time in his busy schedule to publish a book on the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. Only last week he was saying Karl Marx was partly right about capitalism and that the financial markets need fresh regulation. In his new book he argues that Marx's fellow beardie Dostoevsky was pretty much right about everything. For as Camus remarked more than half a century ago, "everybody knows that Dostoevsky and not Karl Marx is the true prophet of the 20th century".

What we think of as quintessentially modern preoccupations are omnipresent in his work: terrorism, child abuse, the fragmentation of family, the secularisation and sexualisation of culture, the future of liberal democracy, the clash of cultures and the nature of national identity. He had a deeply realist view of the world and a fearless willingness to represent man in his true colours as depraved and debased.

If you want proof of Dostoevsky's universal appeal just take a look at his modern disciples. They range from Gabriel Garc?a M?rquez, who cited him along with Sophocles as his greatest mentor, to Peter Doherty, who chose Crime and Punishment as his favourite book, to Laura Bush, the American First Lady, who prefers the Brothers Karamazov (or so we're told). …

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