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The Idiot is Dostoevsky's brilliant 1869 novel about a poor nobelman, Prince Myshkin, who has recently been released from a Swiss sanatorium where he was treated for epilepsy. Despite his destitution, a gambling habit, and the death of his first born child, Dostoevsky completed this masterpiece of Russian literature a mere two years after Crime and Punishment. His protagonist Myshkin is a saintly character, who's "idiocy" has left him utterly kind and free of malice in a world obsessed with money, sex and power. Myshkin's strange state inspires both love and resentment amongst his fellows in St. Petersburg. Our protagonist gets caught up in several scandals, including fraud, extortion, and murder, but Myshkin turns the other cheek as it were, for which he's once again confirmed as an idiot.

That said The Idiot is not an easy read - it might be best read after one is familiar with Dostoevsky (and perhaps some Russian history). It is not a thrilling, plot-driven tale. It is a coalescence of Dostoevsky's religious, philosophical and psychological notions - ideas he wanted to share with the world despite their conflict and complexity. The bulk of the book takes place in amidst a flurry of conversations, not actions, with new ideas flowing out of every page, which makes this a difficult book for most modern readers. They might see it as implausible or obscure, but the central idea, that one who imitates the Christ will be treated like a fool, is strong and well conceived.

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ISBN: 9781304739766
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In short, too much romance and not enough death. Actually, some of the frivolity of the female characters especially sort of reminded me of Jane Austen, who I feel is an earlier/predecessor of wretches like Danielle Steele.

In any case, if we were to look at the way Dostoevsky writes these women, we would think they were pious, noncommittal, mentally ill, self serving, spoiled, with no sense of grasp on how to conduct themselves properly. The men are more of a varied bunch on the whole, with the intoxicated general to the well meaning prince who is truly no idiot (he's an intelligent epileptic).

Also, my version of the novel has been translated by Constance Garnett. I know there are fierce debates amongst fans of Dostoevsky about who is the best translator (I seriously think some of them meet in the night over intense chess games to verbally assault eachother over whose translation is superior.) In my opinion, Garnett does well to translate all of the French terms and phrases that are used, the familiarizations in terms of referencing people with different friendly versions of you and their names, and explains what the Russian words that don't translate exactly mean. At the same time, it doesn't seem as poetic as it may have been written in some places and it gets entirely confusing when there are two separate princes and they all have about ten surnames and full names. There are points in the novel when just "the prince" is the reference point but you won't know which prince is being referred to or is speaking for an entire long winded paragraph at least. To me, that just isn't a recommended way of translating and it should be clarified sooner.

The novel's strengths by and large lie within the philosophical discussions about class and politics as well as capital punishment. In comparison, the love triangle aspect might make the book more accessible to the average reader but greatly lessens the impact of these points. I'd love to read a long essay on these subjects without any female characters involved because, the way Dostoevsky has written these few ladies, I wouldn't care to ever know them.more
Great novel, and still recognizable. Easy to identify with main charactermore
While it was still a bit of a challenge, I enjoyed The Idiot far more than Crime and Punishment. My second try at Dostoevsky confirms, however, that I'm not a huge fan.This novel centers around Prince Myshkin who was given up as a child to a sanatorium for treatment for a condition. The story begins with him leaving the institution as an adult. He has no immediate family or friends and he desperately seeks to make a connection with distant relatives and their acquaintances.In character, the Prince is simply a kind, quiet and forgiving person. He does posses some symptoms of a malady that include seizures, difficulty speaking, agitation, difficulty focusing attention, emotional instability and a preoccupation with human faces. Because of his late language development, clumsiness and extreme reactions to the environment, he may have been suffering from something within the autism spectrum, though high functioning.The story is composed of numerous psychologically deep insights into Myshkin and the other characters; some of which are bipolar, schizophrenic and suicidal. These often come to light during various social gatherings that are required of people of their stature. Throughout most of the book, the Prince is treated horribly. The other characters show a complete disregard for his feelings and have no sense of empathy. In fact, many take "malignant pleasure" in the tragedies of others. They often refer to the Prince as "The Idiot" in his presence. Even those that care for him sometimes chide him or try to hide him so they are not embarrassed by his behavior.Lightly stringing these events together is the underlying plot of Prince Myshkin's pursuit of two love interests in trying to find a sense of acceptance and belonging. In the end, he gives up the woman he truly loves because he feels he isn't good enough for her and instead decides to marry her rival, a woman he pities. The marriage is never completed however because his wife-to-be leaves him at the altar and runs off with another lover. The story ends with her murder and the Prince completely regressing into a catatonic state in the sanatorium. He never finds the sense of belonging or normalcy he wanted.more
I always wanted to read one of "the classics" of Russian literature. I was recuperating from surgery and had a lot of time on my hands to do nothing but read, and this book was perfect. What a sad, beautiful story about a man too kind and good to weather the cynicism of the world around him. The grace of Dostoevsky's prose is simply breathtaking.more
I've been hovering around this review, trying to think of the best way into this work. This reflects well on my own experience reading it. I found myself totally immersed in the novel, while at the same time having a difficult time coming to grips with the whole thing. It is a slow burn. Plot elements are put into place, and they develop very slowly as a whole host of characters move in and out of the story. It lacks the driving plot device of the murders at the heart of Karamazov or Crime and Punishment. Nastasya Filippovna and her relationships to Prince Myshkin and Rogozhin is clearly driving the novel, but she is rarely physically present in the middle books of the novel. As a result, it can be easy to lose the forest for the trees here. Yet, it is wholly worth it for two reasons. First, the ending scenes of the novel are riveting. Though the plot develops slowly, it is not developed aimlessly. It is not enough to set the pieces into place, but to slowly develop the mind and character of the Prince. Without this development, the ending might come across as superficial with the Prince's hesitation at a crucial moment seeming like mere indecision. The second reason is that this novel, like much of Dostoevsky's work, is a complete immersion experience. His characters are so memorable, his plots so intricate and his writing so sparkling, that even if you are lost in the forest, you'll be happy to be there. Aglaya's motivations and the nature of the Prince's goodness preyed on my mind even when I wasn't reading. Puzzling through the novel is itself an enjoyable experience. That said, the book is certainly at its strongest in the beginning and end. While the final scenes are intense, engrossing and utterly gripping, my favorite scenes took place early in the novel. When the Prince arrives at the Epanchin's, he discusses his experiences with capital punishment with a few different people. This is the Prince before the complexities of the real world have begun to affect him, and we see his pure compassion in a beautiful way. The passages are wonderfully written, and emotionally affecting. Dostoevsky anticipates Camus' remarks that the great cruelty of binding someone to die often exceeds the cruelty of the crime that is being repaid. It is the certainty of death that makes each individual moment a richer experience, but this richness comes at a price. We appreciate our moments because every moment has been pervaded with a sense of our own death (and perhaps even annihilation). Philosophically rich and intensely moving, these passages are worth reading even if one does not engage with the entire work.Perhaps the central conflict of the novel is one which my own philosophy students are quick to recognize in other areas. While the ideals of goodness (represented here by the Prince) are certainly praiseworthy and worth pursuing, these ideals can not only fail in the complexities of an imperfect world, they can lead to morally bad outcomes. I do not wish to dive too deeply into the ending, but the Prince is conflicted between a love borne out of compassion and one out of romantic feeling. They should not be in conflict, but a conflict is forced upon him nonetheless. Most importantly though, he cannot choose one or the other without causing harm, and the choice he makes certainly makes good on this fear. My students see this same worry when discussing Kant's views on ethics, which require of us compliance with exceptionless moral imperatives. Certainly, they remark, we must not lie. But what if we are in a situation where the world faces us with no choice - lie or permit a terrible fate to come to pass? Dostoevsky is sensitive to this issue, and indeed, one could perhaps read the whole novel as setting up this conflict. To see the conflict arrive on the scene, we need the layers upon layers which could embroil the virtuous Prince in the scenario, with no easy solution out of it. It leaves us with the interesting question one finds between Kant and the utilitarians - is moral goodness a matter of living up to an otherworldly ideal, or of making the best of things given the constraints of this world? Despite all of my praise for the novel, it is difficult to read it without comparing it to The Brothers Karamazov. This is unfortunate. By my (non-expert) reckoning, "Karamazov" is unsurpassed work of literary brilliance, and my favorite novel. There are a number of clear parallels between the work. The Prince's goodness and humility will be seen again in Alyosha, while Ippolit sets us up for the great Ivan Karamazov. The triad of the Prince, Ippolit and Rogozhin shares common ground with Alyosha, Ivan and Dmitri, and similar themes about the relationship between horribly unethical acts, traditional virtue and moral nihilism abound. This comparison is unfortunate, however, because The Idiot is left consistently wanting. I suspect I would have enjoyed the novel even more if I was not (sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly) recording these comparisons. Though it may not equal "Karamazov," The Idiot is a worthy work in its own right, and one I highly recommend to all readers.more
The more I read and re-read of Dostoevsky, the more I am forced to conclude that he was every bit as medieval philosophically as Tolstoy, at least epistemologically. The most fundamental theme of all of his major works that I've read, including Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and even The Brothers Karamazov (though in a much more subtle and sophisticated form) is that reason and the intellect are corrupting and one should instead be guided by faith and feelings. But Dostoevsky is easier to stomach because his feelings are relatively humanitarian, compared to Tolstoy's obscene misanthropy and misogyny. And for an artistic vision of why Christian morality is utterly impracticable, this is probably the greatest novel ever written...Christlike Prince Myshkin's fate is as inevitable as it is horrifying.more
This book is all over the place, but when it is good . . . it is great. The ending has an hallucinatory/dreamlike feel to it that is chilling. I read this long ago, had heard that Myshkin was Christ-like, so of course didn't respond to him at all. The "Christ-like" thing is true, but it's much more interesting than pure perfection. As a person constantly trying to do good, in fact, Myshkin in this messy world actually causes a lot of harm.more
"It's actually rather Austenesque," I told my friend, shortly before reading a bit about eating clerics and completely changing my mind about that statement. Indeed, I was surprised, having only read the author's "Crime and Punishment" and "The Gambler," at how much of a love story this novel initially seemed to be. "The Idiot" filters nineteenth century society, and the unfortunate game, for many women, of trying to make or maintain their station by catching a husband (or, alternatively, to make or maintain their pleasure by being kept as a mistress), through the eyes of Prince Myshkin, a recent returnee to Russia from Switzerland where he was receiving treatment for seizures. It is never clear throughout the novel to what extent Myshkin actually suffers from being an "idiot," and to what extent others' perception of him as one simply makes him so. In him, Dostoevsky portrays love at its purest, most noble, and most confused--for in a world where agape love and friendship can and should exist, but only romantic love is honoured by most, how can one not be confused? The story leads the reader through the agony of trying to understand how these kinds of love can be untangled when Myshkin often seems to love two, but can only marry one."This is a sort of sequel to nihilism, not in a direct line, but obliquely, by hearsay," Lebedyev proclaims, and in a similar fashion, the book picks up in some ways where "Crime and Punishment" left off in terms of its themes, if not in terms of its characters or its overall arc. The religion of Russia's "Old Believers" and Dostoevsky's concern for philosophy and politics figure into the story, moreso in the latter half of the book. The first two parts open in a very narrative style, while the latter two jarringly shift to a style that addresses the reader more openly. Characters in this latter half also go into the question, raised in Dostoevsky's earlier novel, of whether crime is a natural occupation in conditions of poverty. However, the question of human perceptions of others and the constraints society places on interpersonal relationships form the driving thread of the book. Dostoevsky, like Myshkin, suffered from seizures, so it is interesting to investigate the relationship between the author and his character(s). I felt a constant sense of duplicity in the character of Raskolnikov in "Crime and Punishment" with regards to his rationale for why he committed his crime, and whether he had a solid understanding of that rationale at all points in time or whether he wavered depending on his "madness," his efforts to deceive others, and his changing spiritual understanding. While Myshkin is the complete opposite of Raskolnikov on the criminal scale, the same duality of character can be discerned in his treatment, and understanding of his own feelings towards, the two love interests in the novel. This duality explodes in a shocking twist as the novel concludes. I can not claim to understand Myshkin as well as I feel I understood Raskolnikov (which, perhaps, also speaks volumes about just how far removed Dostoevsky thinks human nature is from the ideal), but the author certainly succeeds in getting me to sympathize with him. This is a complex book that I feel the need to re-read, but do not expect to be burdened by; in its initial portions especially, it is a surprisingly warm and engaging read from an author known for his lengthy philosophical and theological expositions. Dostoevsky also deserves tremendous credit as a male author for delving so accurately into the variations of female psyches in the different relationships in which women find themselves--in this regard, comparing him to Austen or Brontë is not nearly so illogical as it might seem.more
The life and times of the Christlike epileptic, Prince Myshkin. This was the one major Dostoevsky I had yet to read. It’s proving to be a suprisingly hilarious dark comedy so far, thought that’s by no means all it is. I do think it’s the worst of his big four novels though. Myshkin was his attempt at a perfectly good man, and much like with the Alyosha/Zossima attempted redemption in Karamazov, it comes off as less than convincing compared to the preponderance of the very non-Christlike stuff and overpowering general doubt that packs his writing(and makes it so compelling.)more
The "idiot" of the title is Prince Myshkin, and epileptic, an innocent, and a representative of "pure" goodness. He is considered by some to be a prototype for the character of Aloysha Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov. He is a character based on certain ideas of the author and as such is alternately attractive to or repellent to the significant characters that he meets in this sometimes melodramatic novel. In Candide-like fashion he faces encounters such as an attraction to two beautiful women between which he must choose. However, the prince is unable to choose between them and it is not clear to the reader what choice he should make either. The novel seems to be more focused on the psychology of the characters, their feelings and impulses, than on serious action that would make the novel more interesting. On the other hand, the conflict between many of the characters, their differences, that may have been handled more interestingly in a comedy of manners by Trollope, seems to fall flat in this narrative. The result is a flawed masterpiece at best, for the Dostoevskian-philes, and a jumble of a novel for the rest. I would rank this at the bottom of Dostoevsky's great final masterpieces. Reread Crime and Punishment instead.more
Great book, love Dostoyevsky and this was a great example. Writing this and adding it to my list of read books makes me want to go back and read it again.more
A book about a Dostoevskian Don Quixote. DQ becomes what he is from reading to many chivalric stories, the idiot is just shown off as an idiot through his unselfish ways. The world do not believe in unselfishness, in the real world unselfishness is not recognized as a possible motif for anyones actions, and when it is, it is not met for what it is - which is the man of the world´loss and the unselfish idiot´s tragedy and undoing. The story is dark, displaying the vulnerability of the human project, and the sacrifice asked of anyone trying to live up to it. Where Cervantes satire gives us the relief of laughter, and an escape from our animalistic instinctive ways through humor, Dostoevsky´s idiot is set in more realistic surroundings, which makes the story grimmer and hope of humanism slimmer.more
I understand that this translation (Pevear and Volokhonsky) is supposed to be positively brilliant and a much-needed update to previous archaic-sounding translations, but though it is easy-to-read there are some instances where the word chosen is either unfortunate (The whole paragraph on being fond of asses), ridiculously uncommon (galimatias, anyone?) or just plain weird (why is everyone wearing mantillas? Veil or headdress would have a similar shade of meaning, and popping a Spanish loan-word into a Russian novel just sounds odd.)The story itself is enjoyable enough, but I really don't like this translation.more
i loved this book. it has such a sense of dignity & honour, values from an age past. felt like i was soaking those values in. like a spring shower. wonderful.more
I'd say this is a shade better than Crime and Punishment. Dostoyevsky is especially good with agonized and women characters [those categories do overlap, and they may contain most of the characters he explores in any detail]. He is the expert on lacerations.more
Interesting main character, characterised as extraordinarily 'bondadoso' and innocent, and some absorbing passages where characters' suffering is intensely rendered (as is typical in Dostoyevsky). Although as a whole, it falls short of other D. books like 'Brothers karamazov' or 'Crime and Punishment'more
This book greatly exceeded my somewhat high expectations. I had earlier read his three other monumental classics, 'The Demons', 'The Brothers Karamazov', and 'Crime and Punishment', and expected this one to be a bit worse than those. Instead, I found it to be brilliant -- much better than 'The Demons'.This is primarily a sequence of very extended conversations. That doesn't sound like it would make a good book, but it does -- one of Dostoyevsky's best.more
My least favorite Dostoevsky so far. Excellent characterizations and philosophical ideas get horribly bogged down by a boring soap-opera-esque plot. Worth it if you already love Dostoevsky or Russian literature, but go with "Crime and Punishment" if it's your first taste of the unique Fatherland.more
A really thinking book, and a heart-breaking one at the end. Tremendous plotting makes the book hard to put down. Crime and Punishment is an excellent book and although it deals more blood and guts issues The Idiot is a deeper, subtler probing into the human character.more
My favorite one...The Prince Miskin - one of a kind, a great figure. Enjoyed every single page of the book - even though the ending is somewhat sad... but realistic.more
My second book by Dostoevsky. It's about the character of a man named Prince Myshkin and how he affects those around him. Although most people consider him an idiot because of his simplicity, he abounds in humility and selfless love that people can't help but be attracted to.more
So far, this book has been really interesting. Before I started to read it, I had this image that Dostojevski would be really hard to read and it would take forever for me to finish the Idiot, but instead it has been suprisingly light to read. Dostojevski is a master of creating chaotic happenings and situations as well as exellent characters and personalities. Looking forward to finish the Idiot!more
This book was incredibly long and at times rather dull. Though I feel that it is worth reading, it is not for the faint of heart. Picking up this book is a huge commitment of time. However, looking back on it the story was an interesting one and it was not a book that I ever thought of giving up on.more
I absolutely loved this story. Dostoevsky is so elegant in his writing about The Prince. Throughout the story I found myself loving Myshkin and then hating him and then loving him again. The characters are so well described that you can really imagine them so well everything from what they wear to what they look like. Their personalities are so perfectly described, each character is in his or her own way perfect.more
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Reviews

In short, too much romance and not enough death. Actually, some of the frivolity of the female characters especially sort of reminded me of Jane Austen, who I feel is an earlier/predecessor of wretches like Danielle Steele.

In any case, if we were to look at the way Dostoevsky writes these women, we would think they were pious, noncommittal, mentally ill, self serving, spoiled, with no sense of grasp on how to conduct themselves properly. The men are more of a varied bunch on the whole, with the intoxicated general to the well meaning prince who is truly no idiot (he's an intelligent epileptic).

Also, my version of the novel has been translated by Constance Garnett. I know there are fierce debates amongst fans of Dostoevsky about who is the best translator (I seriously think some of them meet in the night over intense chess games to verbally assault eachother over whose translation is superior.) In my opinion, Garnett does well to translate all of the French terms and phrases that are used, the familiarizations in terms of referencing people with different friendly versions of you and their names, and explains what the Russian words that don't translate exactly mean. At the same time, it doesn't seem as poetic as it may have been written in some places and it gets entirely confusing when there are two separate princes and they all have about ten surnames and full names. There are points in the novel when just "the prince" is the reference point but you won't know which prince is being referred to or is speaking for an entire long winded paragraph at least. To me, that just isn't a recommended way of translating and it should be clarified sooner.

The novel's strengths by and large lie within the philosophical discussions about class and politics as well as capital punishment. In comparison, the love triangle aspect might make the book more accessible to the average reader but greatly lessens the impact of these points. I'd love to read a long essay on these subjects without any female characters involved because, the way Dostoevsky has written these few ladies, I wouldn't care to ever know them.more
Great novel, and still recognizable. Easy to identify with main charactermore
While it was still a bit of a challenge, I enjoyed The Idiot far more than Crime and Punishment. My second try at Dostoevsky confirms, however, that I'm not a huge fan.This novel centers around Prince Myshkin who was given up as a child to a sanatorium for treatment for a condition. The story begins with him leaving the institution as an adult. He has no immediate family or friends and he desperately seeks to make a connection with distant relatives and their acquaintances.In character, the Prince is simply a kind, quiet and forgiving person. He does posses some symptoms of a malady that include seizures, difficulty speaking, agitation, difficulty focusing attention, emotional instability and a preoccupation with human faces. Because of his late language development, clumsiness and extreme reactions to the environment, he may have been suffering from something within the autism spectrum, though high functioning.The story is composed of numerous psychologically deep insights into Myshkin and the other characters; some of which are bipolar, schizophrenic and suicidal. These often come to light during various social gatherings that are required of people of their stature. Throughout most of the book, the Prince is treated horribly. The other characters show a complete disregard for his feelings and have no sense of empathy. In fact, many take "malignant pleasure" in the tragedies of others. They often refer to the Prince as "The Idiot" in his presence. Even those that care for him sometimes chide him or try to hide him so they are not embarrassed by his behavior.Lightly stringing these events together is the underlying plot of Prince Myshkin's pursuit of two love interests in trying to find a sense of acceptance and belonging. In the end, he gives up the woman he truly loves because he feels he isn't good enough for her and instead decides to marry her rival, a woman he pities. The marriage is never completed however because his wife-to-be leaves him at the altar and runs off with another lover. The story ends with her murder and the Prince completely regressing into a catatonic state in the sanatorium. He never finds the sense of belonging or normalcy he wanted.more
I always wanted to read one of "the classics" of Russian literature. I was recuperating from surgery and had a lot of time on my hands to do nothing but read, and this book was perfect. What a sad, beautiful story about a man too kind and good to weather the cynicism of the world around him. The grace of Dostoevsky's prose is simply breathtaking.more
I've been hovering around this review, trying to think of the best way into this work. This reflects well on my own experience reading it. I found myself totally immersed in the novel, while at the same time having a difficult time coming to grips with the whole thing. It is a slow burn. Plot elements are put into place, and they develop very slowly as a whole host of characters move in and out of the story. It lacks the driving plot device of the murders at the heart of Karamazov or Crime and Punishment. Nastasya Filippovna and her relationships to Prince Myshkin and Rogozhin is clearly driving the novel, but she is rarely physically present in the middle books of the novel. As a result, it can be easy to lose the forest for the trees here. Yet, it is wholly worth it for two reasons. First, the ending scenes of the novel are riveting. Though the plot develops slowly, it is not developed aimlessly. It is not enough to set the pieces into place, but to slowly develop the mind and character of the Prince. Without this development, the ending might come across as superficial with the Prince's hesitation at a crucial moment seeming like mere indecision. The second reason is that this novel, like much of Dostoevsky's work, is a complete immersion experience. His characters are so memorable, his plots so intricate and his writing so sparkling, that even if you are lost in the forest, you'll be happy to be there. Aglaya's motivations and the nature of the Prince's goodness preyed on my mind even when I wasn't reading. Puzzling through the novel is itself an enjoyable experience. That said, the book is certainly at its strongest in the beginning and end. While the final scenes are intense, engrossing and utterly gripping, my favorite scenes took place early in the novel. When the Prince arrives at the Epanchin's, he discusses his experiences with capital punishment with a few different people. This is the Prince before the complexities of the real world have begun to affect him, and we see his pure compassion in a beautiful way. The passages are wonderfully written, and emotionally affecting. Dostoevsky anticipates Camus' remarks that the great cruelty of binding someone to die often exceeds the cruelty of the crime that is being repaid. It is the certainty of death that makes each individual moment a richer experience, but this richness comes at a price. We appreciate our moments because every moment has been pervaded with a sense of our own death (and perhaps even annihilation). Philosophically rich and intensely moving, these passages are worth reading even if one does not engage with the entire work.Perhaps the central conflict of the novel is one which my own philosophy students are quick to recognize in other areas. While the ideals of goodness (represented here by the Prince) are certainly praiseworthy and worth pursuing, these ideals can not only fail in the complexities of an imperfect world, they can lead to morally bad outcomes. I do not wish to dive too deeply into the ending, but the Prince is conflicted between a love borne out of compassion and one out of romantic feeling. They should not be in conflict, but a conflict is forced upon him nonetheless. Most importantly though, he cannot choose one or the other without causing harm, and the choice he makes certainly makes good on this fear. My students see this same worry when discussing Kant's views on ethics, which require of us compliance with exceptionless moral imperatives. Certainly, they remark, we must not lie. But what if we are in a situation where the world faces us with no choice - lie or permit a terrible fate to come to pass? Dostoevsky is sensitive to this issue, and indeed, one could perhaps read the whole novel as setting up this conflict. To see the conflict arrive on the scene, we need the layers upon layers which could embroil the virtuous Prince in the scenario, with no easy solution out of it. It leaves us with the interesting question one finds between Kant and the utilitarians - is moral goodness a matter of living up to an otherworldly ideal, or of making the best of things given the constraints of this world? Despite all of my praise for the novel, it is difficult to read it without comparing it to The Brothers Karamazov. This is unfortunate. By my (non-expert) reckoning, "Karamazov" is unsurpassed work of literary brilliance, and my favorite novel. There are a number of clear parallels between the work. The Prince's goodness and humility will be seen again in Alyosha, while Ippolit sets us up for the great Ivan Karamazov. The triad of the Prince, Ippolit and Rogozhin shares common ground with Alyosha, Ivan and Dmitri, and similar themes about the relationship between horribly unethical acts, traditional virtue and moral nihilism abound. This comparison is unfortunate, however, because The Idiot is left consistently wanting. I suspect I would have enjoyed the novel even more if I was not (sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly) recording these comparisons. Though it may not equal "Karamazov," The Idiot is a worthy work in its own right, and one I highly recommend to all readers.more
The more I read and re-read of Dostoevsky, the more I am forced to conclude that he was every bit as medieval philosophically as Tolstoy, at least epistemologically. The most fundamental theme of all of his major works that I've read, including Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and even The Brothers Karamazov (though in a much more subtle and sophisticated form) is that reason and the intellect are corrupting and one should instead be guided by faith and feelings. But Dostoevsky is easier to stomach because his feelings are relatively humanitarian, compared to Tolstoy's obscene misanthropy and misogyny. And for an artistic vision of why Christian morality is utterly impracticable, this is probably the greatest novel ever written...Christlike Prince Myshkin's fate is as inevitable as it is horrifying.more
This book is all over the place, but when it is good . . . it is great. The ending has an hallucinatory/dreamlike feel to it that is chilling. I read this long ago, had heard that Myshkin was Christ-like, so of course didn't respond to him at all. The "Christ-like" thing is true, but it's much more interesting than pure perfection. As a person constantly trying to do good, in fact, Myshkin in this messy world actually causes a lot of harm.more
"It's actually rather Austenesque," I told my friend, shortly before reading a bit about eating clerics and completely changing my mind about that statement. Indeed, I was surprised, having only read the author's "Crime and Punishment" and "The Gambler," at how much of a love story this novel initially seemed to be. "The Idiot" filters nineteenth century society, and the unfortunate game, for many women, of trying to make or maintain their station by catching a husband (or, alternatively, to make or maintain their pleasure by being kept as a mistress), through the eyes of Prince Myshkin, a recent returnee to Russia from Switzerland where he was receiving treatment for seizures. It is never clear throughout the novel to what extent Myshkin actually suffers from being an "idiot," and to what extent others' perception of him as one simply makes him so. In him, Dostoevsky portrays love at its purest, most noble, and most confused--for in a world where agape love and friendship can and should exist, but only romantic love is honoured by most, how can one not be confused? The story leads the reader through the agony of trying to understand how these kinds of love can be untangled when Myshkin often seems to love two, but can only marry one."This is a sort of sequel to nihilism, not in a direct line, but obliquely, by hearsay," Lebedyev proclaims, and in a similar fashion, the book picks up in some ways where "Crime and Punishment" left off in terms of its themes, if not in terms of its characters or its overall arc. The religion of Russia's "Old Believers" and Dostoevsky's concern for philosophy and politics figure into the story, moreso in the latter half of the book. The first two parts open in a very narrative style, while the latter two jarringly shift to a style that addresses the reader more openly. Characters in this latter half also go into the question, raised in Dostoevsky's earlier novel, of whether crime is a natural occupation in conditions of poverty. However, the question of human perceptions of others and the constraints society places on interpersonal relationships form the driving thread of the book. Dostoevsky, like Myshkin, suffered from seizures, so it is interesting to investigate the relationship between the author and his character(s). I felt a constant sense of duplicity in the character of Raskolnikov in "Crime and Punishment" with regards to his rationale for why he committed his crime, and whether he had a solid understanding of that rationale at all points in time or whether he wavered depending on his "madness," his efforts to deceive others, and his changing spiritual understanding. While Myshkin is the complete opposite of Raskolnikov on the criminal scale, the same duality of character can be discerned in his treatment, and understanding of his own feelings towards, the two love interests in the novel. This duality explodes in a shocking twist as the novel concludes. I can not claim to understand Myshkin as well as I feel I understood Raskolnikov (which, perhaps, also speaks volumes about just how far removed Dostoevsky thinks human nature is from the ideal), but the author certainly succeeds in getting me to sympathize with him. This is a complex book that I feel the need to re-read, but do not expect to be burdened by; in its initial portions especially, it is a surprisingly warm and engaging read from an author known for his lengthy philosophical and theological expositions. Dostoevsky also deserves tremendous credit as a male author for delving so accurately into the variations of female psyches in the different relationships in which women find themselves--in this regard, comparing him to Austen or Brontë is not nearly so illogical as it might seem.more
The life and times of the Christlike epileptic, Prince Myshkin. This was the one major Dostoevsky I had yet to read. It’s proving to be a suprisingly hilarious dark comedy so far, thought that’s by no means all it is. I do think it’s the worst of his big four novels though. Myshkin was his attempt at a perfectly good man, and much like with the Alyosha/Zossima attempted redemption in Karamazov, it comes off as less than convincing compared to the preponderance of the very non-Christlike stuff and overpowering general doubt that packs his writing(and makes it so compelling.)more
The "idiot" of the title is Prince Myshkin, and epileptic, an innocent, and a representative of "pure" goodness. He is considered by some to be a prototype for the character of Aloysha Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov. He is a character based on certain ideas of the author and as such is alternately attractive to or repellent to the significant characters that he meets in this sometimes melodramatic novel. In Candide-like fashion he faces encounters such as an attraction to two beautiful women between which he must choose. However, the prince is unable to choose between them and it is not clear to the reader what choice he should make either. The novel seems to be more focused on the psychology of the characters, their feelings and impulses, than on serious action that would make the novel more interesting. On the other hand, the conflict between many of the characters, their differences, that may have been handled more interestingly in a comedy of manners by Trollope, seems to fall flat in this narrative. The result is a flawed masterpiece at best, for the Dostoevskian-philes, and a jumble of a novel for the rest. I would rank this at the bottom of Dostoevsky's great final masterpieces. Reread Crime and Punishment instead.more
Great book, love Dostoyevsky and this was a great example. Writing this and adding it to my list of read books makes me want to go back and read it again.more
A book about a Dostoevskian Don Quixote. DQ becomes what he is from reading to many chivalric stories, the idiot is just shown off as an idiot through his unselfish ways. The world do not believe in unselfishness, in the real world unselfishness is not recognized as a possible motif for anyones actions, and when it is, it is not met for what it is - which is the man of the world´loss and the unselfish idiot´s tragedy and undoing. The story is dark, displaying the vulnerability of the human project, and the sacrifice asked of anyone trying to live up to it. Where Cervantes satire gives us the relief of laughter, and an escape from our animalistic instinctive ways through humor, Dostoevsky´s idiot is set in more realistic surroundings, which makes the story grimmer and hope of humanism slimmer.more
I understand that this translation (Pevear and Volokhonsky) is supposed to be positively brilliant and a much-needed update to previous archaic-sounding translations, but though it is easy-to-read there are some instances where the word chosen is either unfortunate (The whole paragraph on being fond of asses), ridiculously uncommon (galimatias, anyone?) or just plain weird (why is everyone wearing mantillas? Veil or headdress would have a similar shade of meaning, and popping a Spanish loan-word into a Russian novel just sounds odd.)The story itself is enjoyable enough, but I really don't like this translation.more
i loved this book. it has such a sense of dignity & honour, values from an age past. felt like i was soaking those values in. like a spring shower. wonderful.more
I'd say this is a shade better than Crime and Punishment. Dostoyevsky is especially good with agonized and women characters [those categories do overlap, and they may contain most of the characters he explores in any detail]. He is the expert on lacerations.more
Interesting main character, characterised as extraordinarily 'bondadoso' and innocent, and some absorbing passages where characters' suffering is intensely rendered (as is typical in Dostoyevsky). Although as a whole, it falls short of other D. books like 'Brothers karamazov' or 'Crime and Punishment'more
This book greatly exceeded my somewhat high expectations. I had earlier read his three other monumental classics, 'The Demons', 'The Brothers Karamazov', and 'Crime and Punishment', and expected this one to be a bit worse than those. Instead, I found it to be brilliant -- much better than 'The Demons'.This is primarily a sequence of very extended conversations. That doesn't sound like it would make a good book, but it does -- one of Dostoyevsky's best.more
My least favorite Dostoevsky so far. Excellent characterizations and philosophical ideas get horribly bogged down by a boring soap-opera-esque plot. Worth it if you already love Dostoevsky or Russian literature, but go with "Crime and Punishment" if it's your first taste of the unique Fatherland.more
A really thinking book, and a heart-breaking one at the end. Tremendous plotting makes the book hard to put down. Crime and Punishment is an excellent book and although it deals more blood and guts issues The Idiot is a deeper, subtler probing into the human character.more
My favorite one...The Prince Miskin - one of a kind, a great figure. Enjoyed every single page of the book - even though the ending is somewhat sad... but realistic.more
My second book by Dostoevsky. It's about the character of a man named Prince Myshkin and how he affects those around him. Although most people consider him an idiot because of his simplicity, he abounds in humility and selfless love that people can't help but be attracted to.more
So far, this book has been really interesting. Before I started to read it, I had this image that Dostojevski would be really hard to read and it would take forever for me to finish the Idiot, but instead it has been suprisingly light to read. Dostojevski is a master of creating chaotic happenings and situations as well as exellent characters and personalities. Looking forward to finish the Idiot!more
This book was incredibly long and at times rather dull. Though I feel that it is worth reading, it is not for the faint of heart. Picking up this book is a huge commitment of time. However, looking back on it the story was an interesting one and it was not a book that I ever thought of giving up on.more
I absolutely loved this story. Dostoevsky is so elegant in his writing about The Prince. Throughout the story I found myself loving Myshkin and then hating him and then loving him again. The characters are so well described that you can really imagine them so well everything from what they wear to what they look like. Their personalities are so perfectly described, each character is in his or her own way perfect.more
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