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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Depressingly hopeful
Beauty with suffering may redeem the world but first it sends you insane and you die in isolation sometimes those who visit you don't mock and laugh. If you prefer frivolity stick to Tolstoy. I loved it going for Devils next.
Published 22 months ago by Desi Coutinho

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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Glad I read it, wouldn't read again
Dostoyevsky sets the scene beautifully throughout the first block of four in the idiot. He creates a sympathetic cast of characters with a definitive protagonist and antagonist set out within the first chapter, almost complete opposites of each other. This ying/yang character development of Myshkin and Rogozhin is, in my opinion, the only honestly strong plot in the book...
Published on 1 May 2011 by George Sarell


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Depressingly hopeful, 18 Feb 2013
This review is from: The Idiot (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Beauty with suffering may redeem the world but first it sends you insane and you die in isolation sometimes those who visit you don't mock and laugh. If you prefer frivolity stick to Tolstoy. I loved it going for Devils next.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You won't read this in an afternoon, 21 April 2008
This review is from: The Idiot (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
This is a superb book. Yes, it's repetitive, obsessive and claustrophobic, and it's certainly not easy going. But this is a classic study of bourgeois hypocrisy, deceit and corruption, with a quite brilliant central character (prince Myshkin, The Idiot) and a supportng cast of neurotics, narcissists, snobs and exploiters to whom the prince holds up the mirror of naive honesty and depth of character.

The Idiot is a tough read, but Dostoevsky's literary genius makes it worthwhile to persevere to the end of this dark and uncompromising book.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Saint and the sinners!!!, 5 July 2006
By 
Room for a View - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Idiot (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Reading about Prince Myshkin (the `idiot') and the characters orbiting his life felt like being imprisoned in some surreal reality game show, where the participants were infused with varying degrees of personality disorder, paranoid delusions, and fits of manic euphoria. Consequently the substance of the narrative is immersed in an oily sea of wilful gossip, self-interest and brinkmanship. For instance the birthday scene, culminating in a wrapped bundle of bank notes, nonchalantly discarded into a fire by the manipulative and power crazed Nastasya, is witnessed by a seething mass of guests itching and sweating in anxious excitement as the flames eat into the precious fortune. Along with the spectators I wanted to thrust my hand into the burning grate before all was lost. This example is one of many in the novel and Dostoevsky exhibits supreme control of the emotional forces that are thrust upon the Christ-like Prince. Indeed Myshkin often seems to be the victim yet it is his presence that dictates the destructive actions of the people around him. In this game there are no winners! An epileptic masterpiece that displays the cost of greed, uncontrollable passion and misdirected ambition.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A revealing classic, 14 Sep 2006
By 
Sancho Mahle (Charlotte, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Idiot (Penguin Classics) (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. Her rival Aglia has Myshkin's heart but failed to understand Myshkin's serene love for her and abandons him to the destructive love of Nastasia.

This is great intellectual work that we should to take seriously in general, a book to read with a serious mindset. Then you will understand the unique nature of Russia which our western minds have difficulties to comprehend. This strange land called Russia that has a bigger soul than any other is explored here in this story in a way that only Dostoyevsky unveils. Read it and you will finish it enriched. The Idiot is a thoroughly enjoyable novel of ideas that explores the nature of man and society and gives you a better idea of man and his actions. You shouldn't find it strange that the characters are philosophical, impulsive, introspective, energetic, colorful, and extreme in their passions. That is Russia, a land of extremes. This book is likely to impact you. It is one of the few of our times. I highly recommend it along with THE UNION MOUJIK.Also recommended: THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV,THE USURPER AND OTHER STORIES, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Only Good Man, 10 Mar 2012
By 
Mr. D. James "nonsuch" (london, uk) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Idiot (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot

Dostoyevsky wrote The Idiot during his sojourn in Europe (1867-71) where he had fled to escape his creditors. His obsession with gambling and the powerful impression made on him by Hans Holbein's figure of Christ taken from the cross are key motifs in the novel, which is dominated by the contrasting themes of acquisitiveness and Christian charity. Prince Myshkin, the Idiot and central figure, like his author, returns to Russia after four years in `civilised' Europe, where he has suffered poverty and epileptic fits. It is these seizures, as well as his childlike innocence that have led to him being dubbed `the idiot' by most of his fellow citizens. In a novel of over 600 closely packed pages and crammed with up to a hundred characters, the Prince is the sole touchstone of goodness. His frankness and innocence are seen by many as stupidity. He is even accused of vice and cunning when being simply disarmingly honest. He is often used as a pawn by calculating figures, such as the `villain' Rogozhin and the beautiful `fallen' woman, Nastasya Filippovna. To the Prince these are desperately unhappy people whom he seeks to rescue, but without success. He is trapped between two equally beautiful and impulsive young women, Nastasya Filippovna (full name used throughout) and Aglaya Yepanchin, the youngest of General Yepanchin's three unmarried daughters. The Prince, who confesses love and seems to have proposed marriage to both, is torn between their needs and his own need to save them from their darker selves. Both women have several suitors, some offering respectable futures, others desperate passion. Myshkin moves tortuously between both, giving advice, chasing after them, offering his disinterested love, yet in his heart knowing that he is a hopelessly laughable suitor.

Behind the love stories there are several recurrent themes that continually resurface, most notably the position of Russia in Europe - what it means to be a true Russian in a continent where the natives are seen as backward and uncivilised peasants. Tolstoy, too, was much concerned with this question, although to Dostoyevsky both he and Turgenev (with whom he quarrelled when in Europe) were contaminated by French and German influences. In fact the Prince, just before the onset of one of his epileptic seizures, uncharacteristically breaks silence, bursting out with a long tirade, inveighing against nihilists, Jews, atheists and the Catholic Church, much to the embarrassment of his hosts, the Yepanchins, who are, with other notables, about to celebrate his engagement to Aglaya, their youngest daughter. In other scenes, long speeches on legal, commercial, political and spiritual matters are given by others, but in these the Prince is either absent or remains quiescent. And of course there are always `the woman question' and the land ownership question, together with a sense of a decline in spiritual values.

I am not sure whether the modern reader will appreciate the rather old-fashioned narrative modes that Dostoyevsky employs in this novel. There are constant asides to the reader, telling us for example that `the motives of human actions are usually infinitely more complex and varied than we are apt to explain them afterwards, and can rarely be defined with certainty.' One is a little reminded of George Eliot, the Wise Woman who couldn't resist pointing a moral to adorn a tale. Then there is the position of the narrator himself, who confesses to being often absent at crucial times and being reduced to interpreting gossip or making speculation as to what might have happened. Chapter 9 of Part Four, for instance, begins with a Fielding-like introduction, putting the reader in the picture with `A fortnight has passed since the events described in the last chapter, and the position of the characters of our story had changed so much that we find it extremely difficult to continue without certain explanations. Yet we feel that we have to confine ourselves to a bare statement of facts, if possible, without any special explanations, and for a very simple reason: because we ourselves find it difficult in many instances to explain what took place ...' The digression continues and the reader waits impatiently. Of course the delaying tactic is a novelist's stock-in-trade, but Dostoyevsky, in this novel at least, occasionally oversteps the bounds of decency. Much of the `action' indeed is told through unreliable gossips or malicious liars. Myshkin goes missing for long periods and we are constantly given letters of distraught repentance, passionate love and regret (often false). Yes, our narrator, as he explained above, has a miserable time getting to the facts behind appearance and conjecture.

But these are perhaps minor quibbles in what is for the most part an intriguing and surprisingly convincing tale of a basically good and honest man in a nest of vipers. We have here again the solitary soul, the alienated Underground Man, but now resurfaced in the world of high society. The absorbed reader follows Prince Myshkin's encounters with drunks, braggarts, liars, deceivers, gamblers, lechers and murderers, from the streets of Petersburg to the country estate of Pavlovsk. Although the novel climaxes with a terrible murder, it is a less dark novel than the author's earlier Crime and Punishment - in fact it is at times extremely funny, for example when the sisters collapse with laughter over the Prince's revelation on seeing the donkey (ie himself) after a dream - but the theme of redemption through Christian suffering is paramount. Prince Myshkin embodies Christian values, but without being in the least evangelical or doctrinaire. He is able to laugh at himself and his foolishness - for he is often gauche and embarrassed in company - even managing, in spite of dire warnings, to break his hostess's precious Chinese vase in the exuberant outburst noted above. This is indeed a remarkable portrayal: - a Christ-like figure with no dignity and a keen sense of humour.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A revealing classic, 29 Dec 2006
By 
Sancho (North Carolina) - See all my reviews
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. Her rival Aglia has Myshkin's heart but failed to understand Myshkin's serene love for her and abandons him to the destructive love of Nastasia.

This is great intellectual work that we should to take seriously in general, a book to read with a serious mindset. Then you will understand the unique nature of Russia which our western minds have difficulties to comprehend. This strange land called Russia that has a bigger soul than any other is explored here in this story in a way that only Dostoyevsky unveils. Read it and you will finish it enriched. The Idiot is a thoroughly enjoyable novel of ideas that explores the nature of man and society and gives you a better idea of man and his actions. You shouldn't find it strange that the characters are philosophical, impulsive, introspective, energetic, colorful, and extreme in their passions. That is Russia, a land of extremes. This book is likely to impact you. It is one of the few of our times. I highly recommend it along with THE UNION MOUJIK.Also recommended: THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV,THE USURPER AND OTHER STORIES, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic, 28 Jun 2013
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This review is from: The Idiot (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
This is one of those books that you should read in your life,at what ever age your at. Delivery was on time and perfect condition.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun In St Petersburg, 18 Sep 2008
This review is from: The Idiot (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Dostoyevsky's talent is unique in that he manages to convey all the subtleties and complexities of everyday life and human social interaction in stories that are peopled almost exclusively by psychotic or psychopathic characters, who frequently indulge in absurd, over the top behaviour.

"The Idiot", perhaps the most accessible of his great novels, conforms to this paradigm, telling, as it does, the story of Prince Myshkin - an epileptic youth who suddenly becomes immersed in all the vagaries of Petersburg social life following his return from a long sojourn at a Swiss sanatorium. Myshkin, a likeable young man, soon finds himself caught up in various love triangles, and effortlessly becomes the centre of everyone's interest - both favourable and unfavourable. His innocent, guileless demeanour has a profound effect on those around him, and he becomes the catalyst that leads the other characters to experience their own epiphanies and life-changing denouements.

The novel contains all the Dostoyevsky motifs: domestic scenes that erupt in "scandal"; characters that suddenly "rush up" to each-other for various reasons; people going into "ecstasy" when talking about politics, religion and other topics; headlong dashes from rooms where some "disgraceful" incident has just taken place; emotional outbursts that occur God knows why - it's all here.

The novel is not unlike a soap opera and is exceedingly entertaining, engaging and - not least - funny. Dostoyevsky is so outstandingly good a writer that it really is rather difficult to convey the wonder of this luminous work in a mere few words. Take the plunge - you won't be disappointed.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sublime Idiot, 28 Dec 2010
By 
Mr. Robert Barlow "eatmywords" (Kingston upon Hull) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Idiot (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Dowden is entirely correct stating The Idiot is not an introductory platform into the mind of Dostoevsky. Due to the complexity of the text a large measure of concentration is necessary, and with the multifarious characters it is very easy to become disorientated and lost if the intricacies and subtleties of the writing are not grasped and challenged. Based upon a number of complaints about the unnecessary complexity, a summary examination of these techniques and why they have been employed should assist in revealing the masterpiece The Idiot truly is.

We should appreciate Dostoevsky is writing a fabliau in the classic sense, where foolishness, trickery and sexual bawdiness is mixed with scurrilous characters who profit at the expense of the hero. The prince's role is to be a catalyst for change that seeks to repair the damaging effects this relatively stable and controlled environment creates. It would be attractive to consider the prince a fool, but his contrariness upon meeting the general is not convincing, and it would be hard to consider a man a fool and a genius at the same time, no matter how narrow the line dividing them. Other than the declared regular bouts of mental fits he has only one in the whole text, and despite him considering himself an idiot he is well read and is considered an accomplished calligraphist. What should be apparent is that we should not accept the word of the individual at face value.

Rather than explain every form of the character and explain every conscious thought Dostoevsky instead develops ambivalent characterisations, leaving a large measure of understanding for the reader. This does not mean Dostoevsky ignores the novel's characters, only he relies upon the characters of The Idiot to reveal their own subtleties of character, or to lie and deceive to obtain their objectives, even at times going beyond the rational to reveal the extent of physical and mental weakness. Dostoevsky was so advanced in his thinking and writing, he was breaking down barriers in the novel by shifting widely accepted principles and parameters: "The fundamental category in Dostoevsky's mode of artistic visualizing was not evolution, but coexistence and interaction. He saw and conceived his world primarily in terms of space not time." (The Bakhtin Reader, 90). Unlike a Dickens or a Hardy, who construct the form and context of their principal characters upon their entrance in the text, Dostoevsky is more aware existence is not so simple; people are not so easily read and complex characters need a relative distance to be deciphered: "The author speaks not about a character, but with him" (The Bakhtin Reader, 94).

Therefore the reader is encouraged to immerse themselves within the society as much as the prince, and not just align themselves with a particular character or class. Obviously our main focus in the novel is upon the prince, but we are being encouraged to be as astute and alert as the prince to the many intrigues and the many intriguing characters, and to consider what is said is what is meant: "Two ideas occurred to you at one and the same time. This happens very often. It always happens to me.... You might have been telling me about myself just now. Sometimes, indeed, I couldn't help thinking," the prince went on very earnestly, truly and deeply interested, "that everyone is like that, so that I even began patting myself on the back, for it is terribly difficult to fight against these double thoughts" (299).

These encounters can often be deeply rewarding when the true nature of the person's objective is revealed, or when the prince is forced to intervene in the dialogue to reveal the person's true intentions. Due the duality of the dialogue and never knowing the true nature of a person's intentions even the prince comes under scrutiny due to his own double thinking: "`You're an awful sceptic, Prince!'.... `You're beginning to disbelieve everything and imagine all sorts of things'" (302).
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, 6 Mar 2007
This review is from: The Idiot (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Perhaps the only criticism I have for the book is the ending. Indeed, Dostoevsky himself seems to have been under pressure when completing the novel. It finishes in a rather undeveloped hurry and abruptness which should not be the case, judging by the quality which is emanated from its pages. Overall, however, this book is typical of the master's style with its detailed and intense psychological studies which reveal a huge amount about the characters.

What I find particularly interesting is that when the reader first picks up the book, he/she knows that the main character, Prince Myshkin, is an individual of purity and innocence as well as naivety. While this is certainly the case, it would be rather cliched to assume this and thus skip some pages. In fact, what Dostoevsky does is bring the character of Myshkin to life but he does it with the use of such powerful situations that at times, the Prince even experiences genuine anger which you wouldn't expect from a person such as himself. Indeed, do not judge him as an innocently passive person, but as one who could always advice you of the most sincere and righteous solution to any problem or question, you are in struggle to give an answer to. The character of Prince Myshkin is one that has so much perception and deep understanding that it should serve as a source of inspiration for the reader, and that's solely why it deserves 5 stars.

One cannot turn a blind eye on the cover which magnificently well-chosen. In fact, it fits perfectly with what the image of Prince Myshkin should be in your mind.
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The Idiot (Penguin Classics)
The Idiot (Penguin Classics) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Paperback - 27 May 2004)
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