• Reading The Brothers Karamazov in Burundi

      Ansell, Nicholas John; Atfield, Tom; Institute for Christian Studies (Institute for Christian Studies, 2005-10)
      In 1999, aged eighteen, I read 'The Brothers Karamazov' by Dostoevsky. I read this novel in Burundi, where I witnessed the suffering of others. The country's basic problem was civil war, which is best described in this terse note: "Rwanda, the sequel. Same story, different location. Nobody cares." The well-publicised problems in Rwanda in 1994 didn't end, they went next-door. The only thing separating the problems of those two countries was the most heavily landmined stretch of road on the planet. It was on this road, which was littered with the remains of vehicles and people, that I experienced the immediacy of 'the problem of evil'.I had hoped that the book I held in my hands on those lifetime-long hours on the road would resonate with my experience. Ivan Karamazov's accusation of the God who creates a world of atrocities seemed fuelled by an unflinching look at senseless, disteleological suffering. I had hoped that Ivan, with his face turned against God, could countenance the horror I saw. Karamazov's stance has been seen as the antithesis of theodicy, which is the attempt to reconcile faith in God with the existence of evil. This antithesis seems to overcome the distance between the experience of real suffering and the account of that suffering given by academic theodicy. Ultimately, however, that distance remains. Dostoevsky's protagonist in his railing against God connects no more with the victims in this world than a writer of theodicy does with her defence of God.