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The Idiot (Wordsworth Classics) Paperback – 1 Dec 1996


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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd (1 Dec 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1853261750
  • ISBN-13: 978-1853261756
  • Product Dimensions: 3.3 x 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky was born in Moscow in 1821, the second of a physician's seven children. His mother died in 1837 and his father was murdered a little over two years later. When he left his private boarding school in Moscow he studied from 1838 to 1843 at the Military Engineering College in St Petersburg, graduating with officer's rank. His first story to be published, 'Poor Folk' (1846), was a great success.

In 1849 he was arrested and sentenced to death for participating in the 'Petrashevsky circle'; he was reprieved at the last moment but sentenced to penal servitude, and until 1854 he lived in a convict prison at Omsk, Siberia. In the decade following his return from exile he wrote The Village of Stepanchikovo (1859) and The House of the Dead (1860). Whereas the latter draws heavily on his experiences in prison, the former inhabits a completely different world, shot through with comedy and satire.

In 1861 he began the review Vremya (Time) with his brother; in 1862 and 1863 he went abroad, where he strengthened his anti-European outlook, met Mlle Suslova, who was the model for many of his heroines, and gave way to his passion for gambling. In the following years he fell deeply in debt, but in 1867 he married Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina (his second wife), who helped to rescue him from his financial morass. They lived abroad for four years, then in 1873 he was invited to edit Grazhdanin (The Citizen), to which he contributed his Diary of a Writer. From 1876 the latter was issued separately and had a large circulation. In 1880 he delivered his famous address at the unveiling of Pushkin's memorial in Moscow; he died six months later in 1881. Most of his important works were written after 1864: Notes from Underground (1864), Crime and Punishment (1865-6), The Gambler (1866), The Idiot (1869), The Devils (1871) and The Brothers Karamazov (1880).



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66 of 66 people found the following review helpful By SAP VINE VOICE on 20 Aug 2006
Format: Paperback
...took the edge off of this book for me. Please, if you're thinking of reading it, don't buy the Wordsworth even if it is much cheaper. The translation is very strained and produces some quite mangled sentences. Particularly with respect to pronouns, I found: sentences like "He said such-and-such to him" frequently left me puzzled as to exactly who was being addressed and by whom. And certain cultural references that I presume would have been obvious to a 19th-century Russian were left unexplained. The lack of any kind of notes or list of characters was also missed.

The blurb and the other reviews suffice to tell what the story is about so I will just add that this is still a very interesting read which could be as good as Crime and Punishment depending on the translation. For a non-Russian the exotic Russian names and particularly the use of patronymics and diminutives adds a little to the confusion and may cause the reader to conflate several characters for quite a while, but I found that after a couple of hundred pages I was more comfortable with this. I was less comfortable with the fiery Russian temperament of the characters - particularly Aglaia and Lizaveta Prokofyevna - which frequently meant that they hated and loved someone...and then hated and loved them again...all in the space of one paragraph. It's often hard to tell who is mad and who is sane. They all seem a little mad. Still, it is certainly very intriguing and interesting and I recommend it.
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57 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Depressaholic on 13 Nov 2005
Format: Paperback
‘The Idiot’ is the story of Prince Myshkin, a young Russian noble. In his infancy, he was diagnosed with a form of ‘idiocy’ and sent to Switzerland to be cured. The book begins with his return to Russia as a young man, apparently cured. However, he is still labelled an ‘idiot’ because his sheltered upbringing abroad means that he doesn’t understand the complex rules governing social interactions among the Russian middle classes, and approaches these interactions with a simple good-heartedness and a willingness to do the right thing.
The main story involves the competition of several young men for Nastasya Fillipovna, a self-destructive beauty whom the rules of society have labelled a fallen woman through no fault of her own. She is forced to choose between a happiness that she is told that she doesn’t deserve with Myshkin, a dangerous existence with the unstable Rogozhin and a loveless life with Gavril Ardilionivich. The rules of society tell her one thing, her heart another. She becomes increasingly agitated, precipitating a descent into near madness and a truly shocking conclusion.
The clash between Myshkin’s ‘idiocy’ (really Dostoevsky’s image of the perfect Christian) and the realities of nineteenth century Russian society is repeated throughout the book. Dostoevsky never tells just one story where a half dozen can be fitted in, and narratives about money, social status, religion and love are all intertwined to illustrate his point. This can become a little disorientating, but Dostoevsky never loses the thread of the book, keeping one eye firmly on his message throughout. The result is a rather complex series of narratives, requiring a lot of concentration, making ‘The Idiot’ a fairly involved read.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Sancho Mahle on 8 Aug 2006
Format: Paperback
The Idiot is one of the finest novels in history, perhaps the finest. In this novel, the enigma that is often referred to as "THE RUSSIAN SOUL" is variously dissected through the different characters and more so by the hero of the story Prince Myshkin. In its simplest explanation, it is a soul with good intentions but faulty in executing the intentions. It is a soul in conflict, driven by the zest for life and a search of its meaning. Certainly the most Christian of Dostoyevsky's novels, THE IDIOT portrays how disastrous a good life can be. Rich in characters, this classic centers mostly on the good Prince Myshkin, a recovering epileptic with a rich soul who is easily perceived as an 'idiot' by the casual observer who focuses on his childlike manners especially in expressing himself and his naivety in dealing with people. But then a closer look reveals that his manners are the reflections of his honest soul, the wealth of his big heart and the broadness of his mind.
And only in deeper engagements does it become evident that Myshkin however has superior understanding and expression, which makes him modest and intelligent rather than stupid. His simple, honest and decent life is succinctly conveyed in his interactions, generating both love and resentment. The saintly Myshkin however struggles to deal with a materialistic world which has no place for the virtuous, and to reconcile his passionate and compassionate love for two women. But the love of the women corrupt and drives men out of their minds. Nastasia Filipovna whom Myshkin has compassionate love for is a tormented soul that can only love Christ and in Myshkin she found that Christ-like figure.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mat Buch on 7 May 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Yes, it is quite a big book for modern readers, and it will spoil so much of what you read afterward - which will suddenly seem empty and flimsy by comparison. It is book for people who like to think about things long after the words has finished. It is also a book that will steal hours of your sleep.
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