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The Idiot by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, Fiction, Classics

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Just two years after completing Crime and Punishment, which explored the mind of a murderer, Dostoevsky produced another masterpiece, The Idiot. This time the author portrays a truly beautiful soul—a character he found difficult to bring to life because, as he wrote, "beauty is the ideal, and neither my country, nor civilized Europe, know what that ideal of beauty is.” The Just two years after completing Crime and Punishment, which explored the mind of a murderer, Dostoevsky produced another masterpiece, The Idiot. This time the author portrays a truly beautiful soul—a character he found difficult to bring to life because, as he wrote, "beauty is the ideal, and neither my country, nor civilized Europe, know what that ideal of beauty is.” The result was one of Dostoevsky’s greatest characters—Prince Myshkin, a saintly, Christ-like, yet deeply human figure. The story begins when Myshkin arrives on Russian soil after a stay in a Swiss sanatorium. Scorned by St. Petersburg society as an idiot for his generosity and innocence, the prince finds himself at the center of a struggle between a rich, kept woman and a beautiful, virtuous girl, who both hope to win his affection. Unfortunately, Myshkin’s very goodness seems to bring disaster to everyone he meets. The shocking denouement tragically reveals how, in a world obsessed with money, power, and sexual conquest, a sanatorium is the only place for a saint. 


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Just two years after completing Crime and Punishment, which explored the mind of a murderer, Dostoevsky produced another masterpiece, The Idiot. This time the author portrays a truly beautiful soul—a character he found difficult to bring to life because, as he wrote, "beauty is the ideal, and neither my country, nor civilized Europe, know what that ideal of beauty is.” The Just two years after completing Crime and Punishment, which explored the mind of a murderer, Dostoevsky produced another masterpiece, The Idiot. This time the author portrays a truly beautiful soul—a character he found difficult to bring to life because, as he wrote, "beauty is the ideal, and neither my country, nor civilized Europe, know what that ideal of beauty is.” The result was one of Dostoevsky’s greatest characters—Prince Myshkin, a saintly, Christ-like, yet deeply human figure. The story begins when Myshkin arrives on Russian soil after a stay in a Swiss sanatorium. Scorned by St. Petersburg society as an idiot for his generosity and innocence, the prince finds himself at the center of a struggle between a rich, kept woman and a beautiful, virtuous girl, who both hope to win his affection. Unfortunately, Myshkin’s very goodness seems to bring disaster to everyone he meets. The shocking denouement tragically reveals how, in a world obsessed with money, power, and sexual conquest, a sanatorium is the only place for a saint. 

30 review for The Idiot by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, Fiction, Classics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I’ve been trying to review this book for over a week now, but I can’t. I’m struggling with something: How do I review a Russian literature classic? Better yet, how do I review a Russian literature classic without sounding like a total dumbass? (Hint: It’s probably not going to happen.) First I suppose a short plot synopsis should be in order: The Idiot portrays young, childlike Prince Myshkin, who returns to his native Russia to seek out distant relatives after he has spent several years in a Swi I’ve been trying to review this book for over a week now, but I can’t. I’m struggling with something: How do I review a Russian literature classic? Better yet, how do I review a Russian literature classic without sounding like a total dumbass? (Hint: It’s probably not going to happen.) First I suppose a short plot synopsis should be in order: The Idiot portrays young, childlike Prince Myshkin, who returns to his native Russia to seek out distant relatives after he has spent several years in a Swiss sanatorium. While on the train to Russia, he meets and befriends a man of dubious character called Rogozhin. Rogozhin is unhealthily obsessed with the mysterious beauty, Nastasya Filippovna to the point where the reader just knows nothing good will come of it. Of course the prince gets caught up with Rogozhin, Filippovna, and the society around them. The only other Dostoevsky novel I’ve read was Crime and Punishment, so of course my brain is going to compare the two. Where Crime and Punishment deals with Raskolnikov’s internal struggle, The Idiot deals with Prince Myshkin’s effect on the society he finds himself a part of. And what a money-hungry, power-hungry, cold and manipulative society it is. I admit that in the beginning and throughout much of the novel I felt intensely protective of Prince Myshkin. I got pissed off when people would laugh at him or call him an idiot. Then towards the end of the novel, I even ended up calling him an idiot a few times. Out loud. One time I actually said “Oh, you are an idiot!” But then I felt bad. Poor Prince Myshkin. I think he was simply too good and too naïve for the world around him. Now here is where my thought process starts to fall apart. There’s just so much to write about that I can’t even begin to write anything. There were so many themes that were explored in the novel such as nihilism, Christ as man rather than deity, losing one’s faith, and capital punishment among other things. And I haven’t even mentioned Dostoevsky’s peripheral characters yet, which, like those in Crime and Punishment, are at least as interesting, if not more interesting than the main characters. My favorite character was Aglaya Ivanovna. She was so conflicted with regard to her feelings about the prince and loved him in spite of herself. I had mixed feelings toward Ganya. I mostly disliked him, but I grew to like him more towards the end. The entire novel was much like a soap opera, but a good soap opera, if that makes sense. Well, at this point I’ve been moving paragraphs around for far too long, and I realize there’s no way this review will do the book any justice. I wanted to write about the symbolism of the Holbein painting and how I love that in both Dostoevsky books I've read he references dreams the characters have, but I just have too many questions and not enough answers. Instead I'll just say that it was truly an excellent read and definitely worth your time.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    If Raskolnikov was the charismatic murderer whose side I took despite myself when he killed an old woman out of greed and broke down psychologically afterwards, Prince Myshkin is the supposedly good, childlike Christ figure whom I failed to like at all. Just do make it clear from the beginning: I liked the novel just as much as Crime and Punishment and Notes from Underground, and I found it just as compulsively readable. The cast of characters is magnificent. My sole problem is the character of If Raskolnikov was the charismatic murderer whose side I took despite myself when he killed an old woman out of greed and broke down psychologically afterwards, Prince Myshkin is the supposedly good, childlike Christ figure whom I failed to like at all. Just do make it clear from the beginning: I liked the novel just as much as Crime and Punishment and Notes from Underground, and I found it just as compulsively readable. The cast of characters is magnificent. My sole problem is the character of Myshkin. We are not a likely pair to hit it off, of course. He is a religious fanatic, whose conviction is so narrow-minded that he hates other variations of Christian dogma even more than atheists: “Yes, that’s my opinion! Atheism only preaches a negation, but Catholicism goes further: it preaches a distorted Christ, a Christ calumniated and defamed by themselves, the opposite of Christ! It preaches the Antichrist, I declare it does, I assure you it does!” - I am an atheist, but strongly in support of tolerance and respect beyond the narrow boundaries of one’s own convictions. So I will give Myshkin a pass on his fanaticism, knowing full well he wouldn’t give me one, considering his reaction when he heard his benefactor had converted to Catholicism. He is a Russian nationalist, believing in expanding Russian dogma to the West: “Not letting ourselves be slavishly caught by the wiles of the Jesuits, but carrying our Russian civilisation to them, we ought to stand before them and not let it be said among us, as it was just now, that their preaching is skilful.” - I believe in global citizenship and consider nationalism to be the greatest evil in world history. But I will give him a pass on that one, knowing the historical framework in which it was uttered. He is proud of his lack of education, and does absolutely nothing to enhance his own understanding, despite having leisure to spend all day studying. I believe in lifelong learning to develop as a human being. But I will give him a pass on that one, knowing he suffers from epilepsy and maybe from other conditions as well, which might make learning impossible for him. He is an elitist, openly rejecting equality and democracy in favour of his own, idle class: “I am a prince myself, of ancient family, and I am sitting with princes. I speak to save us all, that our class may not be vanishing in vain; in darkness, without realising anything, abusing everything, and losing everything. Why disappear and make way for others when we might remain in advance and be the leaders?” - I am for equality and democracy, for a classless society without any privileges. He is utterly afraid of female sexuality and almost pathological in his attempt to ignore the fact that it exists, admiring childlike behaviour and the inexperienced beauty of virgins. - I am a grown-up woman. I will let all of that pass, there is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to identify with that as much as with a raving murderer, right? What I can’t accept is his posturing as a “truly good”, almost holy person. That is too much. His social ineptitude, his lack of imagination, his literal-mindedness, his prejudices - all of that might be fitting the time and place where he lives, but it is not objectively good. In fact, I don’t see any goodness in him at all. Even Raskolnikov, poor, and under supreme stress, was able to spontaneously give his last money to a desperate family to finance a funeral. Myshkin does nothing helpful with his fortune, which conveniently fell into his over-privileged lap. On the contrary. He uses the money to cruise in the Russian upper class society and to mingle with distinguished families. He doesn’t work, and isn’t even remotely interested in anything to do with actual progress in society. Instead, he gives credit to whoever happens to be in the room with him at the moment, without engaging or giving any active help, and he changes his mind when another person steps into the room. Critics are eager to call this his “innocence” and gullibility, and to use it as proof that he is a “better person” than the characters who have motives and agendas for their actions. Since when is cluelessness a virtue? And what if he is not an idiot? If you for one second step out of that thought pattern, you can also call his change of mind hypocrisy, or opportunism, or fear of conflict, or flattery. Some might call it Christian meekness. I call it condescension. Myshkin is incredibly one-dimensional in his value system, fearing sexuality and human interaction. To compensate for his fears, he puts himself “above” them, looking down on “weak” people, forgiving and pitying them. But what right has he to “forgive” other people for engaging in conflicts that are caused by his own social ineptitude? If I could see in Myshkin a person who is on the autistic spectrum, I would feel compassion for him and be frustrated that his community is not capable of helping him communicate according to his abilities. But whenever that idea comes to mind, the big DOSTOYEVSKY LITERARY CRITICISM stands in the way. Under no circumstances am I to forget that Dostoyevsky truly saw in Myshkin a Christlike figure, and that he himself was committed to orthodox Christian dogma to the point of writing in a letter (in 1854): “If someone proved to me that Christ was outside the truth, and it was really true that the truth was outside Christ, then I would still prefer to remain with Christ than with truth.” Well, to be honest, I think that is precisely what this novel shows. Dostoyevsky, the brilliant realist writer, writes a story containing the truth of social life as he has accurately observed it, and his Christ is moping around on the fringes, causing trouble rather than offering ethical guidelines. He is absolutely passive, incapable of one single motivated, proactive good deed. Only criminals and ignorant peasants invoke the name of Christ in the novel. The educated people with whom Myshkin mingles are concerned with their own nervous modernity. They act like neglected children, drawing negative attention to themselves to make the (God)-father figure notice them. But he remains silent, ignoring even his most cherished child, the one he sacrificed for all the others, - Christ. It is Holbein’s dead Christ, brutally shown in his human insignificance, that stands as a symbol for the religious vacuum in the novel, a Christ figure that can make people lose their faith, as Myshkin admits himself. The characters argue and discuss their respective positions on philosophy and religion throughout the long digressive plot, and Myshkin mourns earlier times when people were of a simpler mind: “In those days, they were men of one idea, but now we are more nervous, more developed, more sensitive; men capable of two or three ideas at once … Modern men are broader-minded - and I swear that this prevents their being so all-of-a-piece as they were in those days.” That is what he says to Ippolyt, a poor, cynical 18-year-old boy dying (but not fast enough) of consumption. When the young man asks Myshkin how to die with decency, the idiotic Christ figure doesn’t offer him his house or moral support, even though he knows that Ippolyt is in a conflict with Ganya, with whom he is currently staying. No, help can’t be offered, just this: “Pass us by, and forgive us our happiness”, said Myshkin in a low voice.” Oh, the goodness of that (non-)action. Another telling situation occurs when Myshkin receives the clearly confused general Ivolgin, in a state of rage, whose Münchhausen-stories of meeting Napoleon are evidently hysterical lies. Even the idiotic Myshkin understands that something is wrong with the general, but he lets him rave on, encouraging him in his folly. If that was all, I could argue that two fools had met, and that Myshkin couldn’t be expected to show compassion and try to calm down the ill man (who has a stroke in the street shortly afterwards, supported by the “malignant” atheists rather than the Christian elitist characters). But Myshkin is not a fool in that respect, just a passively condescending man. His reaction is outrageous: “Haven’t I made it worse by leading him on to such flights?” Myshkin wondered uneasily, and suddenly he could not restrain himself, and laughed violently for ten minutes. He was nearly beginning to reproach himself for his laughter, but at once realised that he had nothing to reproach himself with, since he had an infinite pity for the general.” Right! How convenient for you, Prince! And you suffer so much when others laugh at your inadequacies. I have an infinite pity for you, Sir! But I won’t raise a finger to help you, all the same. Because being a completely innocent little idiot, I don’t know how to do that. Which leads me to my last comment on the character of Myshkin, who repeatedly was compared to Don Quixote in the novel. He is NOT AT ALL LIKE THE DON! Don Quixote has more imagination and erudition than his contemporaries. Myshkin has none at all. Don Quixote actively wants to change the world for the better. Myshkin wants to passively enjoy his privileged status. Don Quixote is generous and open-minded. Myshkin is aloof and uninterested. Don Quixote has a mission. Myshkin floats in upper class meaninglessness. Don Quixote loves his ugly Dulcinea. Myshkin can’t choose between the two prettiest girls in society, but wants them to remain children to be able to worship them as virgins. So, who were my favourite characters then? As often happens to me while reading Dickens as well, I found much more satisfaction following the minor characters. Kolya, Ippolyt, Lebedyev, Rogozhin, Aglaia, Nastasya - all these people experiencing Russian society in the process of moving towards modernity are affected by one or several of its aspects. They try to deal with modernity ad hoc, without a recipe, and suffer from confusion. Aglaia! When she says she wants to become an educator, to DO something, she shows the spirit of future entrepreneurship, including women in active life. When she goes from one emotional state to another, not willing to be a negotiable good in her parents’ marriage plans, a piece of property moving from one domestic jail to another, she is a true hero. But she embraces the idea of ownership and control, and in order to own Myshkin, she acts out a despicably arrogant farce in front of a vulnerable rival, using as a weapon her privilege and chastity. A flawed but interesting character for sure. She would have been utterly unhappy, had she reached her goal. Kolya! Trying to navigate his hysterical environment and to build bridges between his family’s needs and the society they depend on, and to support parents, siblings, and friends with actions rather than words, he is a truly good person. Rogozhin! Blinded by passion but capable of sincere feeling and fidelity, he is a true lover, yet driven to madness and criminal behaviour. He admits to his crimes and accepts the following punishment. Nastasya! The abused child who takes out the punishment on herself, like anorexic or self-harming young girls nowadays, convinced that the harm done to them is a sign of their own filthiness. Myshkin drives her over the edge with his condescending pity and forgiveness - by enforcing her idea of guilt and worthlessness. As if Myshkin had any right to claim superiority! He seals her fate when he remains completely passive in the showdown between her and arrogant, impertinent Aglaia, and then creates an atmosphere of self-sacrifice during the wedding preparations: “He seemed really to look on his marriage as some insignificant formality, he held his own future so cheap.” So what am I to make of my reading of the Idiot? What is the ultimate feeling, closing the book after days of frenzied engagement with the characters? I loved the novel, hated the main character (but I’ll FORGIVE him, of course, feeling PITY for his suffering), and am prepared for another Dostoyevsky. Let the Devils haunt me next!

  3. 5 out of 5

    P-eggy

    There are many reviews of this book making out that Prince Myshkin was Christ-like, a truly good man who lived for the moment. A holy idiot, or more accurately, wholly idiot indeed is what he really was. Why did they think Dostoyevsky entitled the book, The Idiot if he meant 'The Man who was Innocent and Really Good" or "The Man who was like Jesus"? The title wasn't any kind of irony, it was about an idiot. Prince Myshkin had spent years in a sanitarium for his epilepsy and returns to Russia wher There are many reviews of this book making out that Prince Myshkin was Christ-like, a truly good man who lived for the moment. A holy idiot, or more accurately, wholly idiot indeed is what he really was. Why did they think Dostoyevsky entitled the book, The Idiot if he meant 'The Man who was Innocent and Really Good" or "The Man who was like Jesus"? The title wasn't any kind of irony, it was about an idiot. Prince Myshkin had spent years in a sanitarium for his epilepsy and returns to Russia where he trusts untrustworthy people, falls for all their plots where he is the patsy, and falls in love with a rather uppity girl who returns his affections and then when it comes to the moment, chooses another woman for all the wrong reasons and thereby ends up rejected by both. He is the very definition of an idiot, he never, ever learns and what intelligence he has he doesn't put to working out the truth of a situation and what he should do to benefit himself. He always falls for the next plot, the next plan, the next person with a glint in their eye for how they can use him to further their own ends. And he goes just like a lamb to the slaughter. Sadly, the debacle, written in a time when not even the word 'neurology' had been invented, let alone the science, is rather idiotic. On getting drawn into a crime committed by a man mad in every sense, crazy and angry, his epilepsy degenerates into a mental illness so deep he crosses over into another land. Bye bye gentle idiot. I was glad to read of you, I'm glad I didn't know you.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    861. Идиот = The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoevsky The Idiot (Russian: Идиот, Idiot) is a novel by the 19th-century Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It was first published serially in the journal The Russian Messenger in 1868–9. The title is an ironic reference to the central character of the novel, Prince (Knyaz) Lev Nikolaevich Myshkin, a young man whose goodness and open-hearted simplicity lead many of the more worldly characters he encounters to mistakenly assume that he lacks intelligence and insigh 861. Идиот = The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoevsky The Idiot (Russian: Идио́т, Idiot) is a novel by the 19th-century Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It was first published serially in the journal The Russian Messenger in 1868–9. The title is an ironic reference to the central character of the novel, Prince (Knyaz) Lev Nikolaevich Myshkin, a young man whose goodness and open-hearted simplicity lead many of the more worldly characters he encounters to mistakenly assume that he lacks intelligence and insight. In the character of Prince Myshkin, Dostoevsky set himself the task of depicting "the positively good and beautiful man". The novel examines the consequences of placing such a unique individual at the centre of the conflicts, desires, passions and egoism of worldly society, both for the man himself and for those with whom he becomes involved. The result, according to philosopher A.C. Grayling, is "one of the most excoriating, compelling and remarkable books ever written; and without question one of the greatest." تاریخ نخستین خوانش: در سال 1974 میلادی عنوان: ابله؛ نویسنده: فئودور داستایوسکی؛ مترجم: مشفق همدانی؛ تهران، کتابهای جبیی، 1341؛ در چهار جلد؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، صفیعلیشاه، چاپ سوم 1348؛ در چهار جلد؛ چاپ پنجم 1356؛ چاپ دیگر 1362؛ چاپ بعدی 1366؛ چاپ دیگر: 1396، در دو جلد؛ شابک: 9789645626929؛ تهران، امیرکبیر، چاپ سوم 1393؛ در سه جلد؛ شابک: 9789640015896؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان روسیه - قرن 19 م عنوان: ابله؛ نویسنده: فئودور داستایوسکی؛ مترجم: سروش حبیبی؛ تهران، چشمه،1383؛ چاپ سوم 1385؛ چهارم 1386؛ ششم 1378؛ هفتم 1388؛چاپ هشتم 1389؛ چاپ نهم 1390؛ در 1019 ص؛ چاپ یازدهم 1393؛ شابک: 9789643622114؛ مترجم: منوچهر بیگدلی خمسه؛ تهران، ارسطو، 1362؛ در دو جلد؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، گلشائی؛ 1368؛ در دو جلد؛ تهران، نگارستان کتاب؛ 1387؛ در دو جلد؛ شابک: 9789648155839؛ مترجم: نسرین مجیدی؛ تهران، روزگار، 1389؛ در 920 ص؛ شابک: 9789643742768؛ مترجم: کیومرث پارسای؛ تهران، سمیر، چاپ چهارم 1395؛ در 640 ص؛ شابک: 9789642200986؛ مترجم: آرا جواهری؛ تهران، یاقوت کویر، 1395؛ در دو جلد؛ شابک: 9786008191063؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، پارمیس؛ 1392؛ در دو جلد؛ شابک: 9786006027623؛ چاپ دیگر 1396؛ در 826 ص؛ شابک: 9786008708094؛ مترجم: اصغر اندرودی؛ تهران، ناژ؛ 1394؛ در دو جلد؛ شابک: 9786006110158؛ مترجم: پرویز شهدی؛ نشر به سخن، 1396؛ در دو جلد؛ شابک: 9786007987407؛ مترجم: میروحید ذنوبی؛ تهران، آهنگ فردا، 1396؛ در 838 ص؛ شابک: 9786007383728؛ مترجم: امیر رمزی؛ تهران، آریاسان، 1396؛ در 838 ص؛ شابک: 9786008193760؛ مترجم: آرزو خلجی مقیم؛ تهران، نیک فرجام، 1395، در 784 ص؛ شابک: 9786007159316؛ چاپ دیگر: 1396؛ در 838 ص؛ شابک: 9786007159514؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، سپهر ادب، 1395؛ شابک: 9789649923963؛ در دو جلد؛ مترجم: مهری آهی؛ تهران، خوارزمی؛ 1395؛ در 1075 ص؛ شابک: 9789644871566؛ مترجم: عباس سبحانی فر؛ تهران، آنیسا، 1396؛ در 839 ص؛ شابک: 9786008399728؛ مترجم: علی صحرایی؛ تهران، ابر سفید، 1392؛ در 536 ص؛ شابک: 9786006988085؛ پرنس «میشکین»، آخرین فرزند یک خاندان بزرگ ورشکسته، پس از اقامتی طولانی در «سوئیس»، برای معالجه ی بیماری، به میهن خویش بازمی‌گردد. بیماری او، رسماً افسردگی عصبی ست، ولی در واقع «میشکین»، دچار نوعی جنون شده‌ است، که نمود آن بی‌ارادگی مطلق است. افزون بر این، بی‌ تجربگی کامل او در زندگی، اعتماد بی‌حدش نسبت به دیگران را، در وی پدید میآورد. «میشکین»، در پرتو وجود «روگوژین»، همسفر خویش، فرصت می‌یابد که نشان دهد، برای مردمی واقعاً نیک، در تماس با واقعیت، چه ممکن است پیش آید. «روگوژین» این جوان گرم و روباز و با اراده، به سابقه ی همحسی باطنی، و نیاز به ابراز مکنونات پیشین، در راه سفر، سفره ی دل خود را، پیش «میشکین»، که از نظر روحی نقطه مقابل اوست، می‌گشاید. «روگوژین» برای او، عشقی را، که نسبت به «ناستازیا فیلیپونیا»، احساس می‌کند، بازمی‌گوید. آن زن زیبا، که از نظر حسن شهرت، وضعیت مبهمی دارد، به انگیزه ی وظیفه شناسی، نه بی اکراه، معشوقه ی ولی نعمت خود می‌شود، تا از آن راه حق‌ شناسی خود را، به او نشان دهد. وی، که طبعاً مهربان و بزرگوار است، نسبت به مردان، و به طور کلی نسبت به همه کسانیکه سرنوشت با آنان بیشتر یار بوده، و به نظر می‌آید که برای خوار ساختن اوست، مه به برتری خویش می‌نازند، نفرتی در جان نهفته دارد. این دو تازه دوست، چون به «سن پترزبورگ» می‌رسند، از یکدیگر جدا می‌شوند، و پرنس نزد ژنرال «اپانچین»، یکی از خویشاوندانش، می‌رود، به این امید که برای زندگی فعالی که می‌خواهد آغاز کند، او پشتیبانش باشد، و رخدادهای دیگر… ا. شربیانی

  5. 5 out of 5

    Adam Dalva

    A terrific novel - very worth reading - but lacking the thrust and pleasures of BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, which is one of my favorite books. It is, perhaps, the most difficult novel to evaluate with the Goodreads star system, because it is both very, very great, and not particularly good. When the action soars - in searing, autobiographical moments, with sequences of epilepsy, fits, executions, and long social sequences - there is really nothing like it. An outdoor party scene with the (overly) noble A terrific novel - very worth reading - but lacking the thrust and pleasures of BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, which is one of my favorite books. It is, perhaps, the most difficult novel to evaluate with the Goodreads star system, because it is both very, very great, and not particularly good. When the action soars - in searing, autobiographical moments, with sequences of epilepsy, fits, executions, and long social sequences - there is really nothing like it. An outdoor party scene with the (overly) noble Prince Myshkin will stick with me forever, as will the cursed love between Nastasya Fillippovna and Rogozhin. The idea of a pure man misunderstood by an impure society is wonderful, but THE IDIOT reads more like a sequence of thematic parables than a novel. I've been taught, and I teach, the iceberg theory of writing. The author should know more about her characters than she is willing to show (90% below water, 10% visible.) This iceberg is almost totally submerged. The main action - the stuff I was dying to see - too often occurred BETWEEN parts of the novel. I have never experienced such exciting exposition in my life - but I saw almost none of that excitement on the page. Structurally, this makes it somewhat disastrous, and it feels rushed, as if Dostoevsky was so eager to plumb the depth of philosophy that he forgot to provide us with a plot. This makes the book fascinating, but a very, very slow read. I am very grateful to have read it; I was rarely grateful to be reading it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    The Idiot is a remarkable literary feat; a true accomplishment. It not only shows and represents true human complexity, but it births it, both in the inner workings of its passionate characters, and in the overall story. It's replete with patient, mind testing issues that spring the reader’s level of understanding back-and-fourth; yet its emotional intensity is felt throughout. It speaks truth of our striving human conditions; our emotions which only know the truth of their existence in the mome The Idiot is a remarkable literary feat; a true accomplishment. It not only shows and represents true human complexity, but it births it, both in the inner workings of its passionate characters, and in the overall story. It's replete with patient, mind testing issues that spring the reader’s level of understanding back-and-fourth; yet its emotional intensity is felt throughout. It speaks truth of our striving human conditions; our emotions which only know the truth of their existence in the moment; yet it is a true and pure novel, like the heart of our unusual but endearing hero, Prince Myshkin: our idiot. Nobody brings the drama like Fyodor: nobody. Yet despite all the exclamation points and the excessively passionate characters -- who all seem to speak with great clarity, with penetrating philosophical insight -- Dostoevsky novels still feel very real to me. Despite its great entertainment value and all the outbursts from its characters, very real emotional boundaries are pushed in very natural, all encompassing ways. What The Idiot bespeaks is something about life that is so real and true that the novel, while very intense, feels completely unexaggerated. Dostoevsky novels don’t take place in, but are a world of both utter emotional madness and pure genius. And they display how the two are often inseparable: "He fell to thinking, among other things, about his epileptic condition, that there was a stage in it just before the fit itself (if the fit occurred while he was awake), when suddenly, amidst the sadness, the darkness of soul, the pressure, his brain would momentarily catch fire, as it were, and all his life's forces would be strained at once in an extraordinary impulse. The sense of life, of self-awareness, increased nearly tenfold in these moments, which flashed by like lightning. His mind, his heart were lit up with an extraordinary light; all his agitation, all his doubts, all his worries were as if placated at once, resolved in a sort of sublime tranquility, filled with serene, harmonious joy, and hope, filled with reason and ultimate cause." These characters, none of them were "all bad" or "all good"; in fact there was not one single character in this entire novel that I didn't feel both sympathy and contempt for, at various stages. The Idiot is epic. The way it played out will have my mind reeling for weeks, I know. And I like that. I like that a lot. "But I'll add though that there is something at the bottom of every new human thought, every thought of genius, or even every earnest thought that springs up in any brain, which can never be communicated to others, even if one were to write volumes about it and were explaining one's idea for thirty-five years; there's something left which cannot be induced to emerge from your brain, and remains with you forever; and with it you will die, without communicating to anyone perhaps, the most important of your ideas."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    Prince Myshkin, 26, arrives in St. Petersburg, Russia by train, "The Beautiful Man" has too much compassion for this cynical age. He believes every person, trusts all, feels the pain of the suffering unfortunates, thus has no common sense. Simple? Gullible? An idiot? Or a Saint? That question only you can decide. Set in the 1860's, the sick prince (he's an epileptic, like the author of this novel) alone, frightened, no relatives or friends or money, in the world, but with a desire to see his bel Prince Myshkin, 26, arrives in St. Petersburg, Russia by train, "The Beautiful Man" has too much compassion for this cynical age. He believes every person, trusts all, feels the pain of the suffering unfortunates, thus has no common sense. Simple? Gullible? An idiot? Or a Saint? That question only you can decide. Set in the 1860's, the sick prince (he's an epileptic, like the author of this novel) alone, frightened, no relatives or friends or money, in the world, but with a desire to see his beloved native land, again. That he hardly remembers, having lived in Switzerland, treated by a kindly Doctor Schneider, without charge for years. However meets two men that will be friends or enemies (in the future), inside his train compartment. Rogozhin, a young man who can't control his emotions, very unstable, just inheriting a vast fortune, eager to show the whole city, it. And Lebedev , a minor clerk the kind of gentleman who knows everything about Petersburg's important people. Myshkin, doesn't even have proper clothes for the cold, late November day as he steps down into the unknown metropolis. Nevertheless he has valuable information received from the well informed Mr. Lebedev . Seeing General Epanchin retired, his wife has the same name as our "hero," maybe some kind of relation? With difficulties, servants are such doubters and have good reason to be, Myshkin finally gets in the house's family quarters. Meeting the three beautiful daughters of the general, and his volatile and scary wife, Lizaveta. Falling in love with the youngest, prettiest daughter Aglaia, she's 20, very immature, has crushes on every handsome suitor she's introduced to. The inexperienced prince, also loves Nastasya a kept woman he sees soon after, the best looking female in the country. He wants to save this lady, from a life of inevitable degradation and doom, the eternal triangle. Later entering society, they the ruling class look at him, the eccentric Myshkin closely, an oddity a childish fool, not suitable for them as a friend. Yet these citizens have no real ones, themselves ... Good fortune comes to Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin, he inherits a lot of money, unexpectedly, when he goes to Moscow. A letter tells him, naturally he gives away most of it to people, who say the prince owes them money. And the "poor", those asking for a little help, how can he refuse? Fleeing Moscow, the ill man goes back to the Russian capital, the two women in his life, are there. Rents a villa in the suburbs from Mr. Lebedev , invites the consumptive boy that he befriended, Ippolit, ( an unpleasant youth) to stay during his last days and still earns no respect, from anyone ... The "Idiot", has proposed marriage, to both of his loves!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    We tend to view innocence as an uplifting cleansing virtue. Contact with it is supposed to improve the soul. But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, in company, my five year old son will blurt out something I don’t want outsiders to know and I end up blushing! His innocence causes me discomfort. I also remember that little girl from Aleppo who every day updated online the situation in the besieged city. Imagine the reactions of Assad’s regime to her online posts. Would they have been won over We tend to view innocence as an uplifting cleansing virtue. Contact with it is supposed to improve the soul. But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, in company, my five year old son will blurt out something I don’t want outsiders to know and I end up blushing! His innocence causes me discomfort. I also remember that little girl from Aleppo who every day updated online the situation in the besieged city. Imagine the reactions of Assad’s regime to her online posts. Would they have been won over by her innocence? No way! They would have been made deeply uncomfortable by her innocence. They would have wanted to shut her up. The idiot here has a similar effect on Russian society. Dostoevsky’s idea was that if Christ returned to 19th century Russian society he would be treated as a simpleton, an idiot. So he has created a character who always endeavours to be honest, to tell the truth as he sees it. He has a “noble simplicity and is boundlessly trusting”. His innocence though causes as much hatred as admiration, more anarchy than goodwill. He makes you realise there are many situations in life where a lie is preferable to the truth if the boat isn’t to be rocked. Because there’s nearly always something expedient in a lie, especially in what we call white lies. There’s usually some personal gain to be had from shunning the truth. Usually these are small private lies; sometimes bigger, more public lies, like Trump denying climate change because it’s in his financial interests to take this stand. He doesn’t want to look at images of innocent nature devastated by oil spills from leaking pipes. One of the most interesting things I learned while reading this is how the novel has evolved for the better since the 19th century. As brilliant as this is there’s a lot of rambling waffle, as if all the characters are on amphetamines and don’t know when to shut up. Dostoevsky resorts to rather cheap tactics too – a character arrives breathless with the urgency to convey news but instead of getting to the point embarks on a completely different discourse and finally decides now is not the time to share his news. Or the narrator will coyly tell us he doesn’t know what two characters spoke about when they were alone together, even though on the previous page he told us what a character thought in the privacy of his own mind. I wondered if this was mischief on the part of Dostoevsky or just sloppiness. Apparently this was serialised and Dostoevsky was under great duress when he wrote it. Also, all the women are bonkers. They’re so volatile and capricious that it’s impossible to know what they want. They seem to be overloaded with stoppered sexual energy. Sexual emotions, in Dostoevsky’s novel, seem to deny the female characters access not only to innocence but also measured reflection, a subtext I wasn’t entirely comfortable with. The women sometimes confused the clarity of the theme of this novel. And ultimately it’s the sexual jealousy of an essentially innocent young woman that causes the concluding mayhem. This is not a seamless great read. It can be baggy, chaotic, digressive but the best bits are simply brilliant and overall I found it a tremendously edifying read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Em Lost In Books

    I have been trying to fill this review box ever since I finished this book. After writing and rewriting about this book, I think I have finally come close to what I feel about this book. I don’t think I can ever do justice to the beauty of this book but I still wanted to write few things about it. I started reading this novel last year. Put on pause twice, then finally finishing it this month. I was so relieved not only because I managed to read it, but also because it is one of those books that I have been trying to fill this review box ever since I finished this book. After writing and rewriting about this book, I think I have finally come close to what I feel about this book. I don’t think I can ever do justice to the beauty of this book but I still wanted to write few things about it. I started reading this novel last year. Put on pause twice, then finally finishing it this month. I was so relieved not only because I managed to read it, but also because it is one of those books that are still a treat to read even after 150 years of its publication. Story revolves around Prince Myshkin who arrived in Russia from Switzerland. There he meet Rogozhin on the train and befriends him. Then he went to see his distant relatives General and meet family. Here he sees a picture of Nastasya Fillipovna and falls in love with her. Things get complicated when he proposes her and she rejects him for Rogozhin, who is also madly in love with her. On the day of marriage she elopes to be with Rogozhin. Myshkin finds love in Agalaya but all hell loose breaks when once again Nastasya decides that she is still in love with the Prince. In Prince Myshkin, Mr. Dostoyovesky created a beautiful soul. A man who is free of deception, lies, concoction, and brutally honest. A man who always put others before his own happiness. A man whom no one can hate even if one tries they fail miserably and end up falling in love with this simpleton. So many times I felt so angry when people called him mad, fool, idiot, because they failed to see the beautiful heart that the Prince had. Then one can’t blame them for we always hate people who are too good and have the qualities that we don’t possess. We want to be clever but hate it when outsmarted by cleverer person. But our prince is beyond all this, he just love and think highly of others even if those very people are trying to drag him down. And that’s the reason they find it so hard to begrudge him. While the prince has no vile motives, the two leading ladies of the novel have intentions that were hard to grasp upon for me. One minute they were madly in love with Prince, but in the next moment they would leave him and tell him that they don’t love him. They could not bear the thought of him being with another, oh how they made sure of it. One kept running away from him, and the other kept him on the edge with her own confusion. They drove him mad and how I wanted him to leave both of them to their fate and go some other place where he would get peace of mind but they would not let him walk away. Dostoyovesky has written a stunning story that evoked so many emotions in me. I found myself teary, laughing, distressed, full of hatred, scared, angry, and sad on behalf of the prince. I don’t think one will get to meet a person like Prince in real life but it is easy to see the goons that surround him in everyday life. His characters are deeply flawed, impulsive, and dense but at the same time they make me understand (or at least I tried to) how human nature works. I absolutely loved this book, and I am definitely reading his other works but I think I will still take another year to get out of this world.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Do you answer ‘yes’ to any of the following questions? 1. You ever sleep in another person’s house for the first time, not wanting to turn on a light to see your way to the toilet, and run into a wall? 2. You ever been in a public building at night and the power fails, and you run into a wall? 3. You ever been camping with an overcast night and straggle into the woods to take a pee, and run into a wall of shrubbery? 4. You ever been in a leadership reaction course, blindfolded, and run into a wall? 5 Do you answer ‘yes’ to any of the following questions? 1. You ever sleep in another person’s house for the first time, not wanting to turn on a light to see your way to the toilet, and run into a wall? 2. You ever been in a public building at night and the power fails, and you run into a wall? 3. You ever been camping with an overcast night and straggle into the woods to take a pee, and run into a wall of shrubbery? 4. You ever been in a leadership reaction course, blindfolded, and run into a wall? 5. You ever been deployed to Qatar in the transition billeting tent at night, not wanting to disturb all the soldiers with your mag-light, and run into a tent wall? What do these questions have in common? 3 things. One, you’ve lost your primary sense--eyesight. Two, you’ve run into something through which you can’t pass. Three, to continue you must turn east or west. This is exactly how I felt when I read The Idiot. Lost, in a strange place, against a barrier. (preview: it’s all about the translator, paragraph 10) Then I agonized for a week about posting a review of a piece of monolithic literature to which I award only 2 stars. How the hell, dude, can you award 2 stars to an uber-classic? Did you forget it was Dostoevsky? Do you realize that among your 56 friends on Goodreads that 2 stars is the lowest anyone has rated it? You missed something; you’re ignorant! And I truly subjected myself to several good harangues. I reread the lengthy, academic foreword and afterword. I thought deeply about the book. I stretched my mind, my cognitive abilities, each time against a wall. I was really concerned about your opinion of me, as a reader, as a consumer of serious literature, as a trustworthy, balanced critic of dense writing. Then it appeared to me, like a turn in the dark. Screw you!! I’m not writing this for you. I write reviews to capture how I feel about a specific novel at a particular place and time in my life. It’s completely fair to award 2 stars to Dostoevsky. At this particular time in my life--as I realize the Deepwater Horizon oil spill may have been overblown by the media, as I decide whether or not to delete my Facebook account, as I realize Obama’s economic plan is an absolute failure with unemployment remaining above 9% for the next 12 months and home values not rebounding for 36 months, as I wonder if next will be as tough as the previous year raising my 3 young kids--at this particular time in my life, I didn’t very much enjoy The Idiot. This is where I’m at in time and place with The Idiot, and I’m so glad to capture feelings other than a middling 3 stars (which is sometimes a rounding error). 2 stars is harsh, but fair. I read Crime and Punishment twice, and think The Brothers Karamazov one of the best 5 books I ever read. I’ve been under the spell of Dostoevsky for nearly half my life. So my lean this week into The Idiot was a disappointment. Here’s what the author said about the book: “There’s much in the novel...that didn’t come off, but something did come off. I don’t stand behind my novel, but I do stand behind my idea.” Authors sometimes give themselves a giant pat on the back, but couch it in self-deprecating language. As if to say the ideas in the novel were so august, so pantheon, so divine that their ability to define or make sense of these ideas with terrestrial words resulted, simply, in a spatchcock of human themes. Ignore the writing. The message is in the idea. Come on, Fyodor, we all know you write like an immortal. The Idiot is brimming with philosophical inquiry into people’s lives, society, culture, and history. Immutable, transcendent ideas about which Russian writers always grapple. The authors of the foreword/afterword reveal and underscore dozens of themes in the book. They discuss mechanics and perspectives and symbols. They discuss Russian history and the Russian concept of suffering, and how these were adroitly parsed among the characters. And how the characters themselves represented the unique attributes--in splinter form--of the Russian whole. Well that’s all great. You read it and take from it what you want. I found it tangled, hard to follow, uninteresting. The characters were so weighed down by being representatives of the Russian whole that they failed to be engaging characters by themselves. And so unlike Dostoevsky, I found not a single sentence worth transcribing here. In 660 pages, wow, nothing worth remembering. How unfulfilling. Certainly nothing like THIS powerful, euphonic sentence. (Important) Because I know Fyodor can bring the noise, it leads me to believe that the translation is faulty, dated. Indeed, I read the version translated originally in 1913 by Olga Carlisle. It’s the staid, orthodox version. Perhaps if I read the translation by Larissa Volokonsky, then I would’ve been in measure with the writing. She won the 2002 Efim Etkind Translation Award for her work on The Idiot, for Chris’akes!! Swoon. Cuss. Paradise Lost! Alas, I won’t reread The Idiot. It’s just too long...and me, I’m too slow a reader. I’ll read The Possessed in a couple years. The experts call it a more traditional story on par with CAP and TBK. Dostoevsky is too fine a writer to abandon, and so I won’t. Another problem I had with the Carlisle translation was the melodramatic interpretation of character staging. Let me, for example, open the book to page 580--a random choice--and list every instance on both pages where the character staging is electrified. ...got up rather late and immediately recalled... ...first moment she burst into tears... ...the prince at once reassured her... ...he was suddenly struck by the strong compassion... ...Vera blushed deeply... ...she cried in alarm, quickly drawing her hand away... ...went away in a strangely troubled state... ...her father had hurried off... ...Koyla ran in, also for only a minute... ...in a great hurry... ...was in a state of intense and troubled agitation... ...was deeply and violently moved... ...poor boy was thunderstruck... ...quietly burst into tears... ...he jumped up... ...hurriedly inquired about... ...added in haste... ...was predicting disaster... ...was asking pointed questions... ...with a gesture of vexation... ...accursed morbid mistrustfulness... ...in the form of an order, abruptly, dryly, without explanation... ...suddenly turning around... ...and feverishly looked at his watch... Remember, this came from a total of 1200 printed words. The entire book is similarly charged. I got tired of reading all this ‘juiced’ action. Did Dostoevsky intend 660 pages of melododrama, or was this a translator’s interpretation? I got robbed, man. Bad translation. The review stops here.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Martine

    Are there countries in the world which are more likely to produce depressing literature than others? If so, Russia must be pretty much top of the list. I have yet to read a Russian novel which ends well for all the protagonists. I can only think of a few in which things end well for even a few of the protagonists. And Dostoyevsky of course loves his tragedies. The Idiot is one of them. While it's not as tragic as, say, Crime and Punishment, nearly all of its protagonists come to a sticky end, an Are there countries in the world which are more likely to produce depressing literature than others? If so, Russia must be pretty much top of the list. I have yet to read a Russian novel which ends well for all the protagonists. I can only think of a few in which things end well for even a few of the protagonists. And Dostoyevsky of course loves his tragedies. The Idiot is one of them. While it's not as tragic as, say, Crime and Punishment, nearly all of its protagonists come to a sticky end, and as always, they meet plenty of drama and intrigue on their way there. And it's all classical Russian drama and intrigue, which is to say it's full of passion, obsession, sudden mood swings, tantrums and hysterical fits. In short, The Idiot is a book full of histrionics, but I love it, because for one thing, there's something grand about all those huge emotions, and for another, Dostoyevsky is such a good writer that he gets away with making his characters behave like Greek gods. Every time I read a book of his, I come away wishing he had written his own version of Greek mythology. I'm sure it would have been an astonishing read. As for the book at hand, it's a book about society -- more specifically, about a modern society that is so corrupt and materialistic that a good man simply cannot survive in it. In The Idiot, that good man is Prince Lyov Nikolayevitch Myshkin, who has spent most of his life in a Swiss hospital because of his epileptic fits, and now returns to the country of his youth. Although many people call him an idiot, Myshkin is not actually stupid; he is just innocent and naïve, and likely to forgive those who have trespassed against him as he is sure they meant no harm. Needless to say, there are those who dismiss him as an inconsequential figure or try to take advantage of him, but he also wins over a lot of people with his innate goodness and refusal to think ill of others. He's a Christ-like figure, but was Christ allowed to live in the society he lived in? He wasn't, and neither, sadly enough, is Myshkin, one of Dostoyevsky's more likeable protagonists. Because Russia, to which Dostoyevsky devotes some choice paragraphs, is too jaded for people like him -- too corrupt and too, well, Russian. But The Idiot is not just a novel about a corrupt society. Ultimately (and this is probably why I like it so much) it's about love. About the different ways in which people love each other. About loving out of pity. About loving against reason. About mad, obsessive, possessive love. About angry love. About humiliating love. About corrupting love and the fear of love. About the things people do for love, the mistakes they make in the name of love, and the love they simply fail to notice because their eyes are directed elsewhere. At the heart of the book is a fascinating love triangle (or is it a quadrangle? or even a pentagon?), which makes it incredibly romantic despite all the ugly stuff that is going on at the same time. It doesn't have a happy-ever-after ending, but there's something terrifically grand and romantic about the ways in which the various lovers end, and I like that. It's realism with a dose of Romanticism with a capital R, and it works. As always, Dostoyevsky's characterisation is superb. His naïve hero is pitched against a fabulous cast of sophisticated nobles, desperate wannabes, highly strung concubines, passionate schoolgirls, mad stalkers, dramatic nihilists, and so on. Many of the characters are larger than life, yet you somehow believe them, because let's face it, Russia is the kind place that could spawn these people, isn't it? By and large, the characters are well drawn, and if many of them are either unsympathetic or a tad capricious, so be it. There is enough passion, grandstanding and back-stabbing going on between them to keep things interesting, and plenty of twisted love, too. The only thing I dislike about Dostoyevsky (and the one reason why I'm not giving The Idiot five stars) is his tendency to go off on tangents just when something exciting is about to happen. In The Idiot, he relates the events of an evening, tells us that the hero will have a secret and obviously important meeting with the girl he loves in the morning, and then, rather than relating the events of the next morning in the next chapter, proceeds to spend four chapters (some sixty pages altogether) telling the reader what happens at the Prince's house late at night, none of which has anything to do with the upcoming meeting with the girl. I'm sure I'm not the only reader who felt cheated there. Other than the tangents, though, Dostoyevsky is a superb writer, and The Idiot is as fine an example of classic Russian literature as you're likely to find anywhere (provided you like long dialogue and slightly mad characters). I'd give it 4.5 stars if I could, but in the absence of half stars, four will have to do. (And for those of you who care about translations: I read the Bantam version by Constance Garnett and was quite happy with it.)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “Don’t let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex and varied than our subsequent explanations of them.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot At once 'The Idiot' is a complicated, beautiful and yet ultimately a somewhat flawed novel. Written shortly after 'Crime and Punishment', it seems like Dostoevsky wanted to invert Raskolnikov. Instead of a mad killer, Prince Myshkin the 'Idiot' is an innocent saint, a positive, a beautiful soul and holy fool motivated by “Don’t let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex and varied than our subsequent explanations of them.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot At once 'The Idiot' is a complicated, beautiful and yet ultimately a somewhat flawed novel. Written shortly after 'Crime and Punishment', it seems like Dostoevsky wanted to invert Raskolnikov. Instead of a mad killer, Prince Myshkin the 'Idiot' is an innocent saint, a positive, a beautiful soul and holy fool motivated by helping those around him. He is a Christ in an un-Christian world, a tortured Don Quixote. Dostoevsky is able to use Prince Myshkin's spiritual intelligence and Rogozhin's passion to illuminate the main problems and idocyncrasies of Russian society. But the story still falls a bit short of perfection. It literally falls between 'Crime and Punishment' and 'Brothers Karamazov'; failing to achieve the simple greatness of 'Crime and Punishment' and the complex greatness of 'Brothers Karamazov'. Like Myshkin himself, the novel's intent is nearly perfect, but the execution is just a little off, a little unstable. That doesnt mean I didn't love it. As a novel I adored it. I was both taken by and frustrated with Prince Myshkin. Perhaps my favorite parts of this novel fall into the scenes where Dostoevsky is focused on a painting or an execution. He isn't content with a superficial look at the world. He examines things for depth and poignance that actually left me shaking. He studies Holbein's grotesque 'The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb' with a patient, detailed eye that at once appears to capture the whole life and death of Christ. He describes the beheading of John the Baptist; looking for details of his face in that still and eternal second before his execution. In this Dostoevesky is recreating his own near execution and the horror and magnificence that death (or a near death in Dostoevsky's case) brings to a person's fragile, beautiful and flawed life.

  13. 4 out of 5

    William2

    Here's Dostoyevski's mode of proceeding, and it's maddening. One, here's what I'm about to tell you; two, now here I am actually telling it to you; and three, now let's review what I've just told you. Every point is handled thus. The tedium! Nevertheless, it's D so I forced myself to read most of it. In the end the book fell heavily from my hands and I woke.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    This book disappointed me. I never thought I would be saying this with regard to a book by Dostoyevsky, but it's true. Perhaps this is only because I’ve been spoiled by reading The Brothers Karamazov, which even admirers of The Idiot will likely admit is a much stronger work. Yet I was not merely unimpressed by this work, but was often greatly frustrated by it. To be concise, I found The Idiot to be a rambling mess. Anyone familiar with Dostoyevsky’s work will know that he is not a versatile art This book disappointed me. I never thought I would be saying this with regard to a book by Dostoyevsky, but it's true. Perhaps this is only because I’ve been spoiled by reading The Brothers Karamazov, which even admirers of The Idiot will likely admit is a much stronger work. Yet I was not merely unimpressed by this work, but was often greatly frustrated by it. To be concise, I found The Idiot to be a rambling mess. Anyone familiar with Dostoyevsky’s work will know that he is not a versatile artist. He is a writer with obvious flaws and with tremendous strengths. It is, therefore, incumbent on the reader to look past his demerits—his clunky dialogue, his exaggerated personalities, his slipshod plots—in order to appreciate his peculiar genius, if the reader is to get anything at all out of his works. In this book, however, I found his usual deficiencies to be overabundant, and his usual brilliance to be pushed to the side. Let us take the protagonist. He is supposed to be a nearly perfect man, the very picture of benevolence and kindness. Yet I was not at all impressed with Prince Myshkin. He was a polite and amiable fellow, sure. But did he go very far out of his way to help others? Was he capable of doing any good? Was he busying himself in improving the world? Not at all. Rather, Myshkin comes off as rather bumbling and self-absorbed. This was, of course, partly Dostoyevsky’s goal—to show how true kindness can make you vulnerable and lead to inactivity and ruin. But the impression I was left with was not of a kind man tragically taken advantage of, but a man who was simply incapable of dealing with the world; a man not overly virtuous, but simply inept. This is in stark contrast to two of Dostoyevsky’s other characters, Father Zossima and Alyosha Karamazov, both of whom I found to be more wise, more open-hearted, more interesting, and many times more capable than Prince Myshkin—who, to be frank, is so passive as to be dull. It is clear that much of this novel’s design is due to the influence of Don Quixote, which Dostoyevsky refers to many times during the course of this work. Prince Myshkin is something of a Quixotic character—a bit of a dunderhead, a bit of a loon—except that he is tragic, whereas the Don is comic. We also see Cervantes’s influence in the large and unwieldy cast of minor characters (something not typical of Dostoyevsky), who continually intrude, sometimes violently, on the main action of the plot. It seems that Dostoyevsky vaguely wanted to write a genuine burlesque, with a witless protagonist suffering misadventure after misadventure in the real world. But of course, Dostoyevsky turns this general idea into a distorted nightmare that very often borders on absurdity. Either from lack of practice, or simply because he wrote this novel very quickly while in dire financial straits, Dostoyevsky didn’t seem up to the challenge of keeping track of all these minor characters. All of them act erratically, often to the point that they are unrecognizable one scene to the next. They suffer acute changes of mood and opinion, veering from emotion to emotion too quickly for the reader to even keep up. Admittedly, this is characteristic of much of Dostoyevsky’s writing; and to be sure, he often uses fitful, unpredictable, and irrational characters to brilliant effect, keeping the reader constantly on edge. But in this work, I found it to be so overdone as produce a kind of apathy in me. I couldn’t wrap my head around the characters enough to care about them; and since I didn’t really know them, and thus didn’t expect anything from them, they couldn’t surprise me—since surprise is the thwarting of expectation. Perhaps what I most regretted about this design, however, was not the shoddy characterization, but how it forced Dostoyevsky to deal with his typical themes. Instead of putting his always arresting philosophical speeches into the mouths of major characters, several minor characters butt into the story in order to deliver lengthy and, from the perspective of the story, rather pointless harangues that are promptly swept to the side. So instead of the critique of modern society, nihilism, rationalism, and his analysis of the decline of religion being in the forefront, these themes are peripheral, which I think is a shame. This is not to mention the several incidents that Dostoyevsky introduces apparently only to stretch the page-count (he was being paid by the page). The most egregious example of this was when a young man bursts into a drawing room, spends an hour claiming that he is the son of Prince Myshkin’s doctor and is thus owed money, and reads a lengthy and absurd article that Myshkin then refutes point by point; then, another minor character announces that he has been researching this man for some time (why?), and reveals that his claim to be the son of the doctor is false—and this, after an interminable conversation with many other side-remarks—so that the whole affair comes to absolutely nothing, and isn’t at all important to the rest of the book. This enormous amount of space dedicated to side issues is especially perplexing when one considers that major plot developments are, by contrast, introduced willy-nilly without much ado—such as when Prince Myshkin simply announces, in the midst of a major scene, that he has inherited a large sum of money. To cut short this review, I found this to be a deeply flawed book, one that obviously needed several more drafts before it could be really compelling. I am still giving it three stars, however, because there are occasional brilliant flashes. I especially liked when Prince Myshkin spoke of executions, and Lebedev’s story about the repentant cannibal who killed and ate monks. Yet these shining moments were overshadowed by the many pages of tedium. Of course, it’s quite possible that I missed something. One of my friends is a big fan of Dostoyevsky, and he says this book is his favorite. But until my eyes are opened to this book's secret merit, I will steer those who ask to Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, which are not merely occasionally brilliant, but splendid from beginning to end.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sidharth Vardhan

    The tragedy of being too good An ideal idiot Most of my favorite characters are either pure evil or complex anti-hero type; the stereotype Mr. Goody-two-shoes has never appealed to me; however Prince Muishkin, the idiot in the novel, is now going to be an exception. He has suffered from idiocy due to epilepsy (FD too suffered from epilepsy attacks) all his childhood and early youth. Perhaps it was due to this idiocy that he has not adopted the common sense – the ‘normal’ way of looking at the wor The tragedy of being too good An ideal idiot Most of my favorite characters are either pure evil or complex anti-hero type; the stereotype Mr. Goody-two-shoes has never appealed to me; however Prince Muishkin, the idiot in the novel, is now going to be an exception. He has suffered from idiocy due to epilepsy (FD too suffered from epilepsy attacks) all his childhood and early youth. Perhaps it was due to this idiocy that he has not adopted the common sense – the ‘normal’ way of looking at the world which is formed by slow corruption of our sense of compassion on pretext of what is called self-defense in a cruel world. P. is full of compassion – which is very clear from stories he tells (the stories you tell, tell a lot about yourself.) His goodness (unlike Evegeine’s calculated goodness and Ptitson who allows himself only small evils) makes him indifferent to harm being done to himself if it means happiness of someone else. If you try to insult or hurt him; he would feel sorry for circumstances that made you do so; and let you cheat him. It is not so much that he doesn't notice or can't defend the harm done to himself but rather he prefers to suffer himself rather than bring on others - even if others are sinister in their ways. He has no sense of social class - he could talk in the same way with servants or master, grownups or children. He lets you make fun of him – often himself joining the lough himself. He won’t stand for his rights but would stand to fight for others. He got into a fight twice within novel, and both times it was to defend someone. His natural goodness won’t let him be suspicious, angry or jealous of anyone; in fact he would reproach himself if he finds himself harboring any such emotion. This restrain is contrasted by people that surround him – drunkards, rogues etc (FD’s novels are always full of contrasts) It is not that he is above all emotions – he is easily excited – but by such emotions like guilt, gratitude and happiness and never so much that he could harm someone. He is tipsy and cuts a messy figure which makes people under-rate him – the fact that he himself is ignorant of his abilities doesn’t help. He has a kind of inferiority complex about him, can’t believe that he can be loved by a woman – which is ironical because four woman are attracted to him during the novel. A loved idiot Thus it is easier for you to make fun of him; but you will do it at your own peril; his turn-the-other-cheek attitude is bound to find your love sooner or later. Even those who try to cheat on him end up loving him. A third reason for which he attracts attention is curiosity. He is purely original in his thoughts (as opposed to Gania’s lack of originality.) Thus while people under-rate him in beginning; soon they all end up respecting him - in a way. They adopt him, pet him, forgive him all mistakes and want him to do well in life; because of his absolute inability to harm anyone. Lizaveta likes him but do not want him to marry her daughter to him - knowing that his goodness won't let him survive him for long in the world. However she won’t admit to herself reasons for same. One of  the women he loves, leave him as she thinks she doesn’t deserve him; another leaves him because …. Well, in being good to everyone, he ends up hurting her. P. is a good example who shows that if we play the good Samaritan too much; it is always at cost of harming ourselves and, perhaps more importantly, those who love or depend on us. Christ? P. was supposed to be inspired from a Hans Holbein the Younger's painting 'The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb' (see below)  - the realism of which struck both FD and P. powerfully. P's reaction upon seeing painting is here: "The prince glanced at it, but took no further notice. He moved on hastily, as though anxious to get out of the house. But Rogozhin suddenly stopped underneath the picture. […] "I like looking at that picture," muttered Rogozhin, not noticing, apparently, that the prince had not answered his question. "That picture! That picture!" cried Myshkin, struck by a sudden idea. "Why, a man's faith might be ruined by looking at that picture!" It is the fact that in this painting Christ has wounds and looks beaten just like mortal, his body is seen putrefying. FD's wife note how she had to take him away from this painting as she was afraid he would get one of his attacks. While P. never preached or anything, FD definitely put Christ's good heart in him. There are other important distances between two, unlike Prince, Jesus was not shocked upon discovery the barbarity prevalent in the world. Jesus was, IMO, more assertive too and at least once got angry. Prince's complete lack of aggressiveness is completely contrasted by Rogozhin, Dostoyevsky's idea of anti-Christ. And this anti-Christ isn't pure evil but someone who can't stand the idea of being cheated upon. A person lacking ability to forgive is all that Dostoyevsky's idea of evil. However Dostoyevsky goes one step further making Prince and Rogozhin friends. In the end, Prince's couldn't defeat the anti-Christ in Rogozhin and his own compassion became his doom. FD makes P. a true Christian – a christen by heart and default; and convinces us that it is suicidal to be good in a world of corrupt souls.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Apatt

    It took me five months and four days to finish this book, I think I took longer reading War and Peace but that is a longer book. Was it worth it? When I started reading this book I had a feeling that this is probably Fyodor Dostoyevsky's most lighthearted book, not that I am an expert on his works, I only read Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov neither of which are a great source of hilarity. Of course, you don’t read Dostoyevsky for laughs but while reading the first few chapter It took me five months and four days to finish this book, I think I took longer reading War and Peace but that is a longer book. Was it worth it? When I started reading this book I had a feeling that this is probably Fyodor Dostoyevsky's most lighthearted book, not that I am an expert on his works, I only read Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov neither of which are a great source of hilarity. Of course, you don’t read Dostoyevsky for laughs but while reading the first few chapters I thought it was going to be a nice surprise. The early chapters are indeed lighthearted and often funny but the tone becomes increasingly grim towards the end. Portrait of Prince Myshkin by MrsPeggottyArts This is the part of the review I most dreaded, the synopsis. How do I summarize a novel like this in one paragraph? There are so many plots and subplots, boatloads of characters with incredibly long names, complex motivations, and dialogue that is sometimes interminable. The Idiot is the story of Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin who has just arrived in St. Petersburg at the beginning of the book after spending four years in Switzerland being treated for epilepsy. Upon his arrival, he meets various colorful—almost Dickensian—characters, seeks out his distant relations and becomes involved with two women from opposite social spectrums. Throughout the narrative, he generally tries to be nice to everybody, to his own detriment and even those he tries to be nice to! I think that will have to do for a summary, hit up Wikipedia or Spark Notes for a detailed (possibly “TMI”) summary. Like most of the characters in the book, I took an instant liking to Prince Myshkin, a compassionate, quirky, funny, awkward, and very insightful character; indeed, a man too good for this world. I felt that I could breeze through the entire narrative just hanging out with this lovable doofus who is not really a doofus (or indeed an “idiot” at all). After finishing the book I read up a bit on the background of its creation. Dostoyevsky’s basic concept is to put a “positively good and beautiful man” into the terrible world we live in. In a sense, it is a thought experiment, and the result is quite surprising. I won’t go into details as it would spoil the book terribly but, as mentioned earlier, the narrative takes on a darker tone and culminates in… a way I was not expecting. Is it worth reading though? For the litfic fans of intellectual tomes it is a no-brainer, well, more like a yes-brainer I suppose. What about the less well cerebrally endowed individuals like yours truly? Would an idiot enjoy reading The Idiot? Not for the amplitude of philosophical, religious and political themes to mull over, just to read the damn thing from beginning to end and see what happen, which is generally how I approach leisure reading. There is no simple answer that I can offer. While it is generally not that hard to follow there is a huge cast of characters and it is often difficult to remember who so-and-so is when he/she wanders in and out of the narrative, especially with the lengthy and often similarly spelled Russian names. As Dostoyevsky explores his various themes tedium can set in at times. There is a chapter where an irritating character called Hippolyte reads out an account of his not very interesting life and thoughts that almost had me giving up on the book; for someone named like a polite hippo he is not very charming. On a positive note whenever the narrative focuses on Myshkin it is never dull, whatever he does or says is always of some interest and I was fully invested in his fate. I had no idea where Dostoyevsky was going with the way the plot was developing. Myshkin is far from being the only character of interest, several characters spring to vivid, vibrant life whenever they appear, especially the two ladies Myshkin has so much trouble with. I don’t regret spending over five months reading this book (I also read other books over this period). I cannot recommend it unequivocally, it does depend on how patient you are and what you want from a book. I am not a particularly patient (or even discerning) reader but I consider the time reading this book well spent. Note: I read half the book in audiobook format, and the remaining in print (on Kindle). The reason is that I always read Librivox audiobooks because they are all free, the only snag is while some are great, others are not. The Idiot (Part 01 and 02) is wonderfully read by Martin Geeson (thank you), with plenty of nuances and all the different character voices you could want. The only problem is that this is only half the book. The Idiot (Part 03 and 04) is not so well read by Alia Makki and Jan Moorehouse, they graciously read these chapters for free so I won’t criticize them, but after the excellent reading of the first half I just could not bear the change in quality and had to plough through the printed version. Quotes: “The prince's expression was so good-natured at this moment, and so entirely free from even a suspicion of unpleasant feeling was the smile with which he looked at the general as he spoke, that the latter suddenly paused, and appeared to gaze at his guest from quite a new point of view, all in an instant.” “Nastasia Philipovna was quite capable of ruining herself, and even of perpetrating something which would send her to Siberia, for the mere pleasure of injuring a man for whom she had developed so inhuman a sense of loathing and contempt.” “A fool with a heart and no brains is just as unhappy as a fool with brains and no heart. I am one and you are the other, and therefore both of us suffer, both of us are unhappy.”

  17. 5 out of 5

    Megan Baxter

    What is the difference between simplicity and being an idiot? In different ways, this question is asked over and over again over the course of this book. And can an honest man survive in society - to be precise, Russian society in the 19th century. Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  18. 5 out of 5

    Piyangie

    Did I ever think a day would come for me to say that I was disappointed in a work by Dostoevsky? A month ago I would have laughed at the very thought. But a month later, I'm not laughing any more. I'm shocked to find that it is possible. If it is possible to break your heart over a literary disappointment, I should say that I am brokenhearted. At present I'm nursing my wound, so maybe this is not the right time to write a review. But at the same time I feel that if I do not write now, I never Did I ever think a day would come for me to say that I was disappointed in a work by Dostoevsky? A month ago I would have laughed at the very thought. But a month later, I'm not laughing any more. I'm shocked to find that it is possible. If it is possible to break your heart over a literary disappointment, I should say that I am brokenhearted. At present I'm nursing my wound, so maybe this is not the right time to write a review. But at the same time I feel that if I do not write now, I never will. I just want to finish everything connected with this book as quickly as possible; forget if I can the distressing reading experience I endured through a month. I want to remember the Dostoevsky whom I fell in love over The Brothers Karamazov , Crime and Punishment and White Nights . And I will cherish that Dostoevsky till the end of my days. On approaching the story, I went through the introductory notes in this particular edition. I read that Dostoevsky presents to us a Christ like hero - an epitome of goodness and innocence; a pure, kind and compassionate heart. I read how his kindness, his compassion, his goodness and his innocence being trampled on. I read how the human innocence becomes victimized by a corrupted society. In short, I was about to read the story of a "holy fool". But to my utter dismay, Prince Myshkin was turned out to be not a "holy fool" but "a fool" - an idiot. There is no irony there. The title has to be taken in its literary meaning. Dostoevsky has truly presented us with a complete idiot! This was a huge blow to my expectation. However, this fall in my expectation has nothing to do with Dostoevsky or his choice of the hero. Authors have the right of choice over who they would make their hero. And choosing such a person as Prince Myshkin has an originality. I totally lay down my disappointment on the introductory notes, which to me, misrepresented the whole story. It took sometimes for me to grasp what I have expressed in the previous paragraph. I didn't at first understand that Prince Myshkin was a complete idiot in a literary sense. I was at a loss as to how to understand him. Then only I realized what Dostoevsky meant. The titular character really is what is meant by the word. Then came my disappointment so I had to lay low till I overcame that. I recommenced the read with a new mind to give heed to Prince Myshkin. But there again I was in for another disappointment, this time at the hand of Dostoevsky himself. It started alright with my knowledge that Prince Myshkin was simple minded from his childhood and that he had a hard time comprehending things and struggled very much when learning. On top of that he was an epileptic too. From this perspective, I continued my read. But here too my comprehension of this character totally failed due to many characteristic contradictions. He is said to be simple minded but at the same time he displayed a keen and rare intelligence. He was kind and compassionate, I agree, and to that extent pure. But there was some subtle cunning in him and at times I sensed there a calculating mind. And his actions which led to ruin the life of a young and trusting girl led me to totally despise him. This didn't correspond with my notion of the character of Myshkin. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't understand nor connect with him. This really exhausted me to the point of annoyance, so much so that I was in indecision whether to continue or to abandon. Then again this was Dostoevsky after all so I decided to take repose. I took it up again determined to see through it to the end. This time I concentrated on Dostoevsky's portrayal of human psychology for I could fathom no proper plot on which the story developed save except the two "love triangles" (if it may be called as such) in which the Prince was the object in one and pursuer in the other. I could honestly say that this unique feature of Dostoevsky, which he had adopted in all his works, is what saved this work. As always he has brilliantly done this. Strong emotions such as love, obsession, jealousy, suspicion and rage are so well portrayed that even though I didn't enjoy any other, I did enjoy that. I wasn't much impressed with the characters; definitely not with the "hero". There were couple of characters I felt real and liked but majority were superficial. And Dostoevsky's writing although undeniably beautiful, was too verbose and unnecessarily so. Deciding on the rating was a struggle. I wavered a lot over it and finally settled for three stars. I just couldn't give less. I couldn't do that to Dostoevsky.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Hysterical Melodrama: "The Idiot" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Constance Garnett (Translator), Alan Myers (Translator), Joseph Frank (Introduction), Anna Brailovsky (Translator) I'd like to suggest that reading choice, at all ages, resembles a vortex. One's favourite books and authors swirl round, and are re-read (I've always been a great re-reader). New books are sucked in to join the vortex, and some of the favourites gradually sink down, j If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Hysterical Melodrama: "The Idiot" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Constance Garnett (Translator), Alan Myers (Translator), Joseph Frank (Introduction), Anna Brailovsky (Translator) I'd like to suggest that reading choice, at all ages, resembles a vortex. One's favourite books and authors swirl round, and are re-read (I've always been a great re-reader). New books are sucked in to join the vortex, and some of the favourites gradually sink down, just occasionally bobbing back up, possibly to be re-read for the sake of nostalgia.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    A Prince Among Men "The humor of Dostoyevsky is the humor of a bar loafer who ties a kettle to a dog's tail." W. Somerset Maugham, A Writer's Notebook Prince Myshkin, this novel's protagonist, immediately came to mind when I recently heard the phrase "a prince among men," well after having read this a few years back. What happens when you drop into higher society a man with a title but an illness that took him away to Switzerland for all his youth? Dostoevsky wanted to write a novel that answered t A Prince Among Men "The humor of Dostoyevsky is the humor of a bar loafer who ties a kettle to a dog's tail." W. Somerset Maugham, A Writer's Notebook Prince Myshkin, this novel's protagonist, immediately came to mind when I recently heard the phrase "a prince among men," well after having read this a few years back. What happens when you drop into higher society a man with a title but an illness that took him away to Switzerland for all his youth? Dostoevsky wanted to write a novel that answered the question of how society of the day would treat a true innocent, an unmarried man in his mid-20s who does not sin and only has love to give (in Christianity, only One fits that description). To me, this was Dostoevsky's sad, but hopeful parabolic answer. While published in 1869, The Idiot is essentially timeless and remains one of the best novels of all time. This is the second novel I've read of Dostoevsky in which he depicts the females less than favorably. Understandably so in this novel. The primary basis for the lead female in this book, "Natasha Filippovna," was Polina Suslova with whom Fee-Yo had a relationship while his first wife was sick with consumption. He found Suslova imperious, manipulative, jealous, noting, for example, that she repeatedly demanded he divorce his "consumptive wife." He later wrote of Suslova that she was "a sick selfish woman" who refused to tolerate any imperfection in others and whose "selfishness and self-esteem were colossal." After his first wife's death in 1865, he proposed to Suslova, but she declined. She didn't respect, and rarely read, his books and regarded him as a simple admirer. Polina Suslova Of the 3 Dostoyevsky novels I've read (The Idiot/The Brothers Karamazov/Crime & Punishment), the first two depicted ladies unfavorably. The negative depiction of Filippovna in The Idiot was crucial to the story. On the other hand, I found the negativity toward females gratuitous in The Brothers Karamazov. In any case, I highly recommend this novel, one of my favorites.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elie F

    A Russian Don Quixote? In mid-19th century Russia when Dostoyevsky wrote The Idiot, it was the heyday of the thoughts of the Slavophiles who suggested a dichotomy between Russia and the West, the former being more spiritual, pure, and harmonious, the latter being more material, unfaithful, and cynical. In The Idiot, Dostoyevsky portrayed a dichotomy within Russia itself. Myshkin, the Idiot and simultaneously a man of great intelligence, is distinguished from the Russian society. Even though every A Russian Don Quixote? In mid-19th century Russia when Dostoyevsky wrote The Idiot, it was the heyday of the thoughts of the Slavophiles who suggested a dichotomy between Russia and the West, the former being more spiritual, pure, and harmonious, the latter being more material, unfaithful, and cynical. In The Idiot, Dostoyevsky portrayed a dichotomy within Russia itself. Myshkin, the Idiot and simultaneously a man of great intelligence, is distinguished from the Russian society. Even though everyone more or less recognizes the good nature in him, everyone is unable to understand him and eventually see him as an enemy. Myshkin, on the other hand, is able to understand others, sympathize with them, and see through them the way they themselves cannot. Myshkin the idiot especially has the capability to understand and care for other socially awkward, rejected, derailed, or insane people, such as Nastassya, Rogozhin, and Hippolite. And in return these people, Rogozhin in particular, have more capability than the rest of the society to understand him. I don't think the character of Myshkin is strictly good or Christlike. He is more undefinable, more unintentionally harmful, more pathological than that. The Idiot not only presents to the reader a complicated moral world, but also a equally complicated and seductive aesthetic world: Myshkin is in this sense a Russian Don Quixote. "I'll just mention that of the beautiful people in Christian literature Don Quixote stands as the most complete. But he is only beautiful because he is ridiculous at the same time." (Quoting Dostoevsky's letter to Sonya to whom The Idiot is dedicated)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dem

    I tend to applaud writers who can tell an amazing story in few pages to those in need of a tome to tell a mediocre story I read The Idiot as my quarterly 2017 classic challenge and had hoped for the experience I has this time last year while reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. War and Peace I really enjoyed as the plot and the characterisation was excellent and the book was so readable and interesting, while The Idiot is readable and is well written in places it does tend to be on the dry sid I tend to applaud writers who can tell an amazing story in few pages to those in need of a tome to tell a mediocre story I read The Idiot as my quarterly 2017 classic challenge and had hoped for the experience I has this time last year while reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. War and Peace I really enjoyed as the plot and the characterisation was excellent and the book was so readable and interesting, while The Idiot is readable and is well written in places it does tend to be on the dry side and I found myself bored in many chapters and confused in others. While I liked the characters I felt the book and especially the first 100 pages was awkward and sluggish. A young Man in his mid twenties by the name of Prince Myshkin returns to Moscow after spending time in a Swiss Clinic for treatment. On his return to Moscow he finds himself a stranger in a society obsessed with wealth and become involved in a love triangle. The tale is primarily a love story and and a good old fashioned tale of good versus evil. A nice hardback edition for my bookshelf and while I don't regret reading it, it's not one for my favourites shelf. I may try The Brothers Karamazov as many of my friends have recommended it over this one.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Helene Jeppesen

    This was my first book by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and it is certainly not going to be my last! When I started reading, I was obviously very curious to see what Dostoyevsky's writing and story-telling was like, and why everyone seems to love him so much. I was quickly enthralled in the story, and even though "The Idiot" is a 500-page-book, I finished it within a week. This is the story of the idiot Prince Myshkin who comes to Russia to connect with his relations. I loved how the story opened up in a This was my first book by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and it is certainly not going to be my last! When I started reading, I was obviously very curious to see what Dostoyevsky's writing and story-telling was like, and why everyone seems to love him so much. I was quickly enthralled in the story, and even though "The Idiot" is a 500-page-book, I finished it within a week. This is the story of the idiot Prince Myshkin who comes to Russia to connect with his relations. I loved how the story opened up in a train with different characters and different stories that were all somehow combined during the narrative. I furthermore loved how this book takes you on quite a journey. Myshkin knows next to no-one when he comes to Russia, but he very quickly makes acquaintances and becomes involved in dramas and intricate situations. I think one of the things I loved the most about this story is how cleverly Dostoyevsky uses the term "Idiot" in different ways that correspond to the story. Once again, this relates to the big journey that he takes the reader on. Mushkin is such a lovable character who undergoes scrutinies and judgments from his surroundings, and you can't help but love him. That basically goes for all characters in this book. Everyone comes alive through Dostoyevsky's vivid descriptions, and it was an amazing reading experience to "meet" each and everyone of them. I obviously also really loved the parts where the characters (hence Dostoyevsky) become philosophical, and I had to underline quite a few passages and observances on life. My only complaint about this book, though, is that one of the most important characters in this book is very well hidden. We rarely hear about her, and when we do, you don't get the most flattering impression of her. I didn't feel a connection to her at all, which saddened me, because in my eyes the story (and the ending) would have been fantastic if only I felt for her a little bit more. Nevertheless, this is an amazing story that you must pick up if you have an interest in Dostoyevsky, or just in Russian literature in general.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Håkon

    "Love children especially, for they too are sinless like the angels; they live to soften and purify our hearts and, as it were, to guide us." Dostoyevsky despised the view that a child's thoughts were not worthy of consideration, in fact he believed a child was necessary (aside from the obvious evolutionary necessity of children of course) in our society due to our increasingly selfish tendencies, and believed a child was always well intentioned. This does remind me of a certain character in thi "Love children especially, for they too are sinless like the angels; they live to soften and purify our hearts and, as it were, to guide us." Dostoyevsky despised the view that a child's thoughts were not worthy of consideration, in fact he believed a child was necessary (aside from the obvious evolutionary necessity of children of course) in our society due to our increasingly selfish tendencies, and believed a child was always well intentioned. This does remind me of a certain character in this book, that of course, being Prince Myshkin. Dostoyevsky did, I believe, create this character as his ideal man, Dostoyevsky's idea of the übermensch. Contrasting the personality of Prince Myshkin to that of the Russian society; which was hugely self-centered, thus rejecting anyone who didn't agree with their fetish world view, and showing how this, in time, will ruin even the most altruistic person there is, which did happen with Prince Myshkin. I think it is fair to say that he was simply too good for this world. This book is, in my opininion, a brilliant indictment of Russian and western society and our continually growing self centeredness and obsession with materialistic possessions, and how this will, in time, crush anyone who tries another path.

  25. 5 out of 5

    PGR Nair

    THE IDIOT: THE JOURNEY FROM RESURRECTION TO CRUCIFIXION I am selective in reading novels, particularly long ones, and I dither to dip my head into middling ones even if they offer some interesting perspectives on life, history or storytelling. I was wary when started reading The Idiot , since the drama spans over 660 pages. Having read the work, my feeling is –Give me another 600 pages of this signature! The Idiot has made deep imprint in my psyche and I am sure it is going to stay with me fore THE IDIOT: THE JOURNEY FROM RESURRECTION TO CRUCIFIXION I am selective in reading novels, particularly long ones, and I dither to dip my head into middling ones even if they offer some interesting perspectives on life, history or storytelling. I was wary when started reading The Idiot , since the drama spans over 660 pages. Having read the work, my feeling is –Give me another 600 pages of this signature! The Idiot has made deep imprint in my psyche and I am sure it is going to stay with me forever. I may even consider a re-read! If the primary purpose of literature is entertainment spliced with enlightenment, then The Idiot is a spectacular success. Its plot is thick with events, the characters exhibit extremes of unpredictability in behavior and emotions, the events are engrossing and many passages have rare lyrical intensity , intellectual insight and psychological depth. Unlike Crime and Punishment and Brothers Karamzov (the only other two novels that I have read), pontificating passages (common in many Russian novels) - eg: the letter of Ippolit and Prince Myshkin’s last debate during the party at the house - are kept to the bare minimum . The novel concentrates on events, situations, actions, moods, misunderstandings, accusations, whimsical outpourings, loneliness and untenable sympathies to engage the reader. Many fine novels end up in catastrophic denouement damaging the overall effectiveness. Surprisingly, The Idiot excels in its finale too. No wonder, this classic has achieved a rare stature of greatness in the realm of art. Most of the central characters of this novel surface at the very beginning when Prince Lyov Nikolayevitch Myshkin returns to Petersburg from a Swiss clinic after a prolonged treatment for epilepsy. The train journey at the beginning introduces two important characters- Parfyon Semyonovitch Rogozhin (someone who stays till the end as a shadow of the Prince, a kind of doppelgänger) and Lebedyev – and soon we enter into the world of two major families of this novel- Epachin and Ivolgin - representing two ends of social strata. The prince soon makes acquaintance of the sole distant relative of him in the city - Lizaveta Prokofyevna, the wife of General Ivan Fyodorovitch , the head of Epachin family. His childlike candor and ‘inimitable idiocy’ soon charms all Epachins including the three daughters, Alexandra, Adelaida, and Aglaya, the latter being the youngest and the most beautiful. It is here he first encounters the portrait of the beautiful and mysterious lady Nastasya Filippovna Barashkov , the tumultuous character that occupies the center stage of this novel. Immediately following this, the Prince meets the chaotic Ivolgin Family: General Ardalion Alexandrovitch , the alcoholic father; Nina Alexandrovna , the gracious mother; the ambitious daughter Varvara Ardalionovna (Varya) ; the son Gavril Ardalionovitch (Ganya) who later rivals the Prince and Kolya , the younger brother of Ganya, the ever ready errant boy of everyone who soon becomes the Prince’s confidante. The greatness of Dostoevsky lies in his imponderable capacity to delve into the depth of all the above characters exposing their goodness and weakness. In a novel of this magnitude, it is quite possible that a modern day author knowingly or unknowingly sidelines some of the characters or sketch a shallow portrayal of them; but not in the case of Dostoevsky. The overall architecture of the novel is also robust and there are signal sentences embedded in the beginning that foreshadows the finale. The reader wonders about the mysterious absence of a central character of this novel for more than 300 pages and yet at the end, everything falls in place in its grand scheme. Everyone that the Prince meets is disarmed with his simplicity, open manners, and for a brief time at least he does manage to bring out some goodness even in the worst of them. He is identified as a "holy fool" by Rogozhin early in the novel. He is loved by almost all characters in this novel, but no one wants to own him. Both Aglaya , the fiancée of Prince, and her mother Lizaveta Prokofyevna are in eternal vacillation whether the Prince would make a good husband. As a character openly confronts him in the novel, My dear Prince, paradise on earth is not easily achieved; but all the same you are counting on paradise in a way; paradise is a difficult thing, Prince, much more difficult than it seems to your wonderful heart.. One cannot help noticing a Christ-like quality in everything that Prince does or speaks. Perhaps one scene in the novel that nakedly showcases the Prince's nature happens immediately after the Prince undergoes the first epileptic seizure after his return. The prince, still recuperating from it, is being visited by the whole Epachin family, when suddenly into this cheerful and elegant though inwardly tense circle burst the fashionable young revolutionaries and nihilists which include the garrulous Ippolit , the ostensible "son of Pavlishchev ", Keller the "boxer". They accuse the Prince that he acted like avaricious man in grabbing a fortune left to him by Pavlishchev , the late benefactor of Prince Myshkin , without sharing it with the ‘so called’ legitimate ones (Ganya proves later that they non-existent) . This is a disagreeable, repulsive and disquieting scene where these misguided young people mercilessly and nakedly inflicts a double pain upon the good Myshkin. The Prince, unaided, stands exposed, critically observed by the entire members of Epachin family and most of the Ivolgin family. And how does the situation end? It ends with Myshkin, despite the minor mistakes he makes during the excitement, behaving exactly according to his kind, gentle, childlike nature, accepting smilingly the unbearable, answering selflessly the most shameless speeches, willing to assume every fault and to search for every fault in himself – and his complete failure in this with the result that he is despised, not by one side or the other, but by both! All turn against him, he has stepped on everyone's toes; for an instant the most extreme social opposites in age and point of view are completely wiped out, all are united and at one in turning their backs with indignation and rage on the single one among them who is pure! Can a pure heart bring solace to this world? I won’t answer it as the readers are sure to find answer as they immerse in this one. Why does no one comprehend the Prince, even though almost all love him in some way, almost everyone finds his empathetic gentleness exemplary? What distinguishes him, the man of magic, from the others, the ordinary folks? Why are they right in snubbing him? Why must they do it, inexorably? Why must things go with him as they did with Jesus, who in the end was abandoned not only by the world but by all his disciples as well? It is because the "idiot's" way of thinking is unlike others. Not that he thinks less logically or in a more childlike and associative way than they – that is not it. His way of thought is magical. This gentle "idiot" completely denies the life, the way of thought and feeling, the world and the reality of other people. His reality is something quite different from theirs. Their reality in his eyes is no more than a shadow, and it is by seeing and demanding a completely new reality that he becomes their enemy. In an excellent introduction to this novel, superbly translated by the best known translator pair in the world of translations , Richard Pevear Larissa Volokhonsky , a letter written by Dostoevsky to his beloved niece Sofia Ivanova is cited : The main idea of the novel is to portray a positively beautiful man. There is nothing more difficult in the world and especially now. All writers, not only ours, but even all European writers, who have merely attempted to portray the positively beautiful, have always given up. Because the task is immeasurable. The beautiful is an ideal, but this ideal, whether ours or that of civilized Europe, is still far from being worked out. There is only one perfectly beautiful person -Christ - so that the appearance of this immeasurably, infinitely beautiful person is, of course, already an infinite miracle The Idiot is constructed out of two impossibilities-the impossibility of a novelistic portrayal of an epileptic living in tranquility and the impossibility of portrayal of a Christ like figure , and beyond that , the failure of that figure to transmute the world around him. I believe Dostoevsky has astonishingly succeeded in this attempt.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stian

    Dostoevsky wrote in a letter to Apollon Maykov (poet and friend) that his idea with The Idiot was to create a "positively beautiful man." In another letter to his niece -- Sofya Ivanova -- he further writes: "The main idea of the novel is to portray a positively beautiful man. There is nothing more difficult in the world and especially now. All writers, not only ours, but even all European writes, who have merely attempted to portray the positively beautiful, have always given up. Because the tas Dostoevsky wrote in a letter to Apollon Maykov (poet and friend) that his idea with The Idiot was to create a "positively beautiful man." In another letter to his niece -- Sofya Ivanova -- he further writes: "The main idea of the novel is to portray a positively beautiful man. There is nothing more difficult in the world and especially now. All writers, not only ours, but even all European writes, who have merely attempted to portray the positively beautiful, have always given up. Because the task is immeasurable. The beautiful is an ideal, but this ideal, whether ours or that of Civilized Europe, is still far from being worked out. There is only one perfectly beautiful person - Christ - so that the appearance of this immeasurably, infinitely beautiful person is, of course, already an infinite miracle." This is why he thought he would fail writing this novel. His main idea was to portray that "positively beautiful man" - i.e someone Christ-like - in Myshkin. He isn't an idiot, really. He knows what he is doing, but he doesn't even acknowledge that he is being taken advantage of. Not because he is an idiot: he simply doesn't care and chooses to believe in people. In Norwegian we have a word for it: dumsnill. Its literal translation would be "stupid-kind." I suppose that would be a fairly good translation for this book if we were to translate it into my dialect and not only Norwegian, where "Idioten" (The Idiot) suffices. Dostoevsky got the idea of this from Holbein's Christ Taken Down from the Cross. Nikolai Karamzin wrote of the picture: "[...] One doesn't see anything of God. As a dead man he is portrayed quite naturally." These words presumably had a strong impact on Dostoevsky, and he later saw the picture in Basel. His wife wrote of the visit: "On the way to Geneva we stopped for a day in Basel, with the purpose of seeing a painting in the museum there that my husband had heard about from someone. This painting, from the brush of Hans Holbein, portrays Jesus Christ, who has suffered inhuman torture, has been taken down from the cross and given over to corruption. His swollen face is covered with bloody wounds, and he looks terrible. The painting made an overwhelming impression on my husband, and he stood before it as if dumbstruck… When I returned some fifteen or twenty minutes later, I found my husband still standing in front of the painting as if riveted to it. There was in his agitated face that expression as of fright which I had seen more than once in the first moments of an epileptic fit. I quietly took him under the arm, brought him to another room, and sat him down on a bench, expecting a fit to come at any moment. Fortunately that did not happen." The whole point of this novel is to ask the quesion: What if Christ was merely a man? The idea is to show a saintly "idiot" clashing with a society that does not appreciate Christ-like qualities. What if Christ were not the incarnate God but simply a "moral genius" -- a positively beautiful man? The title is ironic because he is no idiot: he is only deemed an idiot because he meets a society that is idiotic. Holbein's painting.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    I love this book because it made me think. Hard. According to my understanding of "The Idiot," Dostoevsky's definition of an idiot is someone who actually believes that everyone is trying to do their best and do no harm. This is in utter ignorance, usually, of everyone's tendencies to do harm to others, regardless of intent. Hooray for idiots! Ippolit Terentyev, one of the minor characters, is a socialist, and a suicide. He has one of the great lines in literature, I think, and I will share it now I love this book because it made me think. Hard. According to my understanding of "The Idiot," Dostoevsky's definition of an idiot is someone who actually believes that everyone is trying to do their best and do no harm. This is in utter ignorance, usually, of everyone's tendencies to do harm to others, regardless of intent. Hooray for idiots! Ippolit Terentyev, one of the minor characters, is a socialist, and a suicide. He has one of the great lines in literature, I think, and I will share it now. "We degrade God too much, ascribing to him our ideas, in our vexation at being unable to understand Him." Not verbatim, necessarily, but that's the sense. Also included in this story is a story about how governments are not scared of atheists, because atheists have no real back-bone. When it comes down to it, if life is the end-all, be-all, then anyone who is sane (having some idea of self-preservation) will break at threats on their life. Whereas if someone believes that there is a payoff greater than life can offer, or better yet, has an internal motivation that comes from somewhere else, he or she is less likely to be afraid of death. What capitalist governments are really scared of is socialists with a moral imperative that drives them to offer something better than the "one-step-out-of-the-cave" animalism of capital. Luckily, anyone who actually believes that they can or should offer anything better will be rendered ineffective by the capital machine. Anyone with this perspective will be unable to function in real life (The Idiot, I forget the main character's name) or will become so stricken with the dichotomy of living in a way that completely contradicts their philosophy that they will eventually kill themselves (Terentyev). Back to the question of God -- who says that God isn't a kind of mean drunk, watching the folly of man, laughing, falling asleep, sobering up and making things okay for a while? Ha ha. The best thing about life is that it has a begninning and an end. A lot of the stuff in between kind of sucks.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    This is the first novel I've read by Dostoevsky, and I will definitely be back for more! Although the book is based in Russia, it is a backdrop with little reference to the fact that it is. What the book delves into is the superficial nature of aristocrats, which Dostoevsky exaggerates by having the main character, Prince Myshkin, viewed as an idiot. This 'idiot' is a descendent of Russian nobility, and his goodness and simplicity is mistaken for a lack of intelligence by the other characters. Ho This is the first novel I've read by Dostoevsky, and I will definitely be back for more! Although the book is based in Russia, it is a backdrop with little reference to the fact that it is. What the book delves into is the superficial nature of aristocrats, which Dostoevsky exaggerates by having the main character, Prince Myshkin, viewed as an idiot. This 'idiot' is a descendent of Russian nobility, and his goodness and simplicity is mistaken for a lack of intelligence by the other characters. However, as seen throughout , his insight into the world, moving from nihilism to theological debate and everything in between, is lost on those he talks to: they are more concerned with money and honour. The story focuses around Rogozhin, who the Prince meets on the train. Rogozhin is infatuated with Nastassya Filippovna,a woman who recently left her concubine role. This obsession leads to Rogozhin's insanity, who is split between loving her or killing her, something which the Prince notes early on "The Prince replies that he might well marry her and then murder her a week later." Overall, I give it a 4/5.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Prashasti

    Dear Lord, help me to keep going. Yeah, right, I'm finally done with reading this but did my prayers pay off? I feel completely exhausted & tired after reading this book, I don't even know whether these are Dostoyevsky's magical words or it's the translator interpretation. I know deciding to pick this up as my first Dostoesvesky read was nothing less than a stunt but I think the only reason why I read this one was because I've always wanted to. I guess I was 12-13 back then, when I was given th Dear Lord, help me to keep going. Yeah, right, I'm finally done with reading this but did my prayers pay off? I feel completely exhausted & tired after reading this book, I don't even know whether these are Dostoyevsky's magical words or it's the translator interpretation. I know deciding to pick this up as my first Dostoesvesky read was nothing less than a stunt but I think the only reason why I read this one was because I've always wanted to. I guess I was 12-13 back then, when I was given this by the owner and I remember getting excited and all because even then I loved reading fat books. Anyway, 8-9 years back I tried reading this but I couldn't have gone any further than the first chapter's train scene, cut to today, I think towards the end of this book, I was so anxious, I literally prayed for this book to reach towards the end. I get jitters just by thinking how can someone even write this much of freaking shit load of drama? I mean no offense to Dostoevsky, but Kudos, man! I feel like I've been robbed. I guess the title comes up with pre-defined warning- It's a book about an idiot & whoever reads it is an idiot as well. Pick this up, if you're interested to kill your time and get tangled in nonsensical drama.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie

    I read The Idiot while I was in the hospital – in isolation, to be precise. What I remember is that the “idiot”, Prince Myshkin, lived in the moment; and that I became so absorbed in his ability to see good in others – no matter what they did – that I forgot where I was for long periods of time. I remember being very surprised – and thankful – for that. (Hence the 4 stars; not sure what I would give it if I were to read it again!)

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