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4.2 out of 5 stars35
4.2 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 20 August 2006
...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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on 12 December 2013
This version of The Idiot is cheap but not worth the money. Much of the text is actually missing, genuinely - lines of text are simply omitted, the translation itself is dreadful (I personally LIKE Constance Garnett's rather antiquated translations of Dostoyevsky but this version is a total joke, the text bears very little resemblance to the original text at all).

I honestly had no idea that books could BE this bad! DO NOT BUY this version of the book simply to save yourself a pound or two as you will only end up buying another version as this one is unreadable and you certainly couldn't use it for studying.

The book itself is a wonderful story and I would highly recommend this as an entry-point for those new to Dostoyevsky as the actual story (as opposed to the strange Wordsworth version!) is beautifully written, very funny, and trogs along at great speed. There are LOADS of characters but they all have very definite perspectives on things and so it's easy to keep up with who is saying what.

Don't buy this version but don't be put off The Idiot purely because this version is rubbish!
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on 13 November 2005
‘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. However, Dostoevsky never allows ‘The Idiot’ to meander or sprawl, sticking closely to his central themes. It is perhaps less concise than ‘Crime and Punishment’, but I found it every bit as powerful, and although Dostoevsky’s language and pace can be slow and ponderous I was gripped throughout. The ending in particular is breathtaking and shocking, hauntingly written and desperately sad.
The only negative was that the translation I read (Wordsworth) was clumsy, starchy and, at times nonsensical. This was annoying, because it did make certain passages slow and even difficult to work out what was going on. I was caught up enough for this not to be a big problem, but I would advise against the Wordsworth edition (though the translator is wisely anonymous, so I can’t tell if there are other editions using the same translation). This aside, ‘The Idiot’ is brilliant. Dostoevsky at his best, and the very definition of a 5 star read.
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on 27 June 2008
This is the first 19th century "classic" that I have read, and rather naively I expected it to be long and boring. But I couldn't have been more wrong; I found Dostoevsky's "The Idiot" to be a beautiful book, that I was unable to put down. When I should have been studying I was reading this religiously, enthralled by its wide range of brilliant characters (but then characterization is one of Dostoevsky's strong points). It's beautiful, tragic, and philosophically brilliant. And it has Prince Myshkin, one of the most memorable (and likable) characters in literature. Read it!
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on 7 May 2013
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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on 10 June 2009
It is fantastic that a sublime work of art such as this can be purchased for such a low price, this is an epic tale about a social misfit. Prince Lyov Nikolayevich Myshkin returns to Russia after a long absence. Myshkin suffers from epilepsy - just like Fyodor Dostoevsky himself - and is prone to periods of blackouts.

The central idea of The Idiot as Dostoevsky wrote is "to depict a completely beautiful human being". Myshkin is simple and pure, his biggest hindrance to fitting into society is his honesty, naivety and the fact that he is a good man. He lacks any deviousness and has nothing but good intentions in all of his actions.

On the train to Saint Petersburg, Myshkin meets and befriends the dark character Rogozhin. Although Myshkin and Rogozhin are opposites in everyway, they share a mutual attraction to one another. Myshkin's attire and stories both suggest that despite his ancient Russian family line, he is like a lost foreigner in his own country. This is because Myshkin has spent the last four years in a mental institution in Switzerland. Without any reserve, however, Myshkin shares this fact with Rogozhin. He takes no offence at the sarcastic tone of his new friend and he even laughs with him. As Rogozhin states, Myshkin has the character of a holy-fool. In his own words, he tells Myshkin:

"You're an out-and-out holy fool, and God loves the likes of you."

The latter tells the prince about his passion for Nastasya Filippovna, a beautiful woman with a bad reputation. The prince feels an intense desire to meet her after hearing about her and even more so when he views a picture of her. This leads to conflict as the friends become love rivals with very different intentions.

The stage then moves to the house of the Yepanchins, a family of emerging Russian bourgeoisie. Myshkin has come here to meet his distant cousin, Madame Yepanchina, General Yepanchin's wife. So begins Myshkin's introduction into a society that can never understand him and are bound to take advantage of him.

By making Myshkin a symbol of kindness and humility, Dostoyevsky illustrates what can happen when such a man is confronted by society. Myshkin frequently confronts society's norms with his "idiocy", which is merely his naive and innocent approach to life. He is not naive about what others say to and about him; he merely assumes they're true because he does not believe that human beings have any need for falsehood or deviousness; Myshkin has no façade.

I believe the The Idiot is a masterpiece - it is indeed flawed and occasionally tedious like many masterpieces. There are long passages of dialogue and this is not always an easy read. I wouldn't not recommend this to be the first of Dostoyevsky's books anyone reads, I would instead recommend the simpler Crime and Punishment for that. If you have the patience and can invest the time this book is moving and deeply involving, one of his best.
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on 8 August 2006
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, TRIPLE AGENT DOUBLE CROSS
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on 7 May 2011
A beautiful book, which is engaging and unravels the human character. It will make you look at certain issues in another way. A long read but it does not drag!
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on 23 July 2013
One of Dostoyevskys best works. I details the economic and romantic intrigues that are like plagues on a few russian upper class families. The author does little to disguise his contempt for those people, and towards people in general. Out of this he wrings an excellent book, even if it may be a bit longwinded.

A classic of litterature, but for once I might suggest going for an abridged version. Not all the "woe to me" passages are really required.
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on 16 April 2016
The book itself is as great as you would expect from Fiodor Dostoyewski, however translation is extremely pathetic. Like it was done with google translator with a lot of awkwardly sounding verses and some words taken directly from dictionary without looking into the context at all. The paper and cover are low quality but it costs 2 GBP so should be expected. Choose other translation or it will ruin your experience.
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