A.N. Wilson on Dostoevsky (as examined in Rowan Williams's new book on the Russian writer):
. . .In the conclusion to his book, Williams makes the striking claim that the fusion of incompatibilities in which so much of Dostoevsky’s work consists, creates something comparable to the traditions of icon-painting.
It is this fusion of a surrender to the claims of an independent truth and a surrender to the actual risks and uncertainties of asserting this truth in word and action that makes the entire enterprise of spiritual – and specifically Christian – life one that is marked by the decentring and critique of the unexamined self. What is so distinctive about Dostoevsky’s narrative art is that he not only gives us narratives in which this difficult fusion is enacted; he also embodies the fusion in his narrative method, in the practice of his writing, risking the ambitious claim that the writing of fiction can itself be a sort of icon.
This seems right to me, and is precisely the reason why Dostoevsky is, in my opinion, such a terrible writer. He's a religious dogmatist and a reactionary conservative who uses fiction as, in Wilson's words, "demonstrations of the areas which have to be explored if one is to make sense of any of the great questions of philosophical theology." Unsurprisingly, most of Dostevsky's novels tell us that, once we've "explored" these areas, we would be well advised to become. . .religious dogmatists and reactionary conservatives.
It is incomprehensible to me that so many readers and critics have fallen for Dostoevsky's cheap tricks (and endured the unrelenting tedium of his fiction) and declared him an "existentialist" or religious "seeker" or some other such rot. Wilson's account of Dostoevsky the journalist--the "hectoring satirist, the bombastic nationalist, the predictable anti-Semite"--has always seemed to me a perfectly obvious description of Dostoevsky the novelist as well.