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3.9 out of 5 stars40
3.9 out of 5 stars
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 September 2014
Like others who have written reviews, I am somewhat disappointed with "The Idiot" after first reading and enjoying "Crime and Punishment". I have read detailed reviews relating to other editions which praise "The Idiot" for being one of the great classics of literature and whilst I think I can understand why they praise it so highly, for me, there is too much which is just too laboured or self indulgent about the book. It is also very dated in its style and whilst it would be unfair to criticise it for that, it does make it a more difficult and less enjoyable read.

I started reading the Penguin version but reverted to the Kindle version after reluctantly facing up to the fact that my eyesight was not able to cope with the print size. The Penguin version started with an introduction by the translator which painted a rather worrying tale of Dostoevsky's struggle to meet publisher's deadlines and therefore receive payment which would allow him to repay gambling debts. It seems to me that the author often didn't know where the story was going and therefore added in some irrelevant events and drew out certain scenes in order to meet those deadlines.

Having said that, there is clearly a lot to be admired provided that it is read with some understanding of the social structure and attitudes which existed in Russia when it was written. The central character is thought by most as an idiot as a result of his epilepsy although it is clear to the reader from the outset that he is anything but. Prince Muishkin (or Myshkin in other translations) is surrounded by a wide range of other characters, most of whom are well meaning enough in their way, but whose behaviours and attitudes are largely dominated by niceties of "society". They simply don't understand the Prince's naive honesty and goodness.

Perhaps the exception to this is a peripheral character, Hippolite, a young man dying of TB. Dostoevsky devotes three chapters to a "confession" from this young man in which his bitterness toward the fawning society he lives among is offered. Perhaps the length of this is overdone but it probably represents a core theme for the author. Whilst the story portrays Hippolite's bitterness as a reflection of the injustice of his illness accompanied by a willfulness to upset others, it probably reflects Dostoevsky's view of Russian Society.

Back to the good Prince, Dostoevsky's "hero". He starts and ends the story as an idiot in the eyes of the the other characters. In between, his alarming honesty and decency impact on those around him but are misinterpreted or exploited. Whilst most of those he has contact with are well meaning enough in their way, the dominance of the view that certain rules of behaviour must be complied with prevents them benefiting from the Prince's inherent goodness. As a result there are really no winners in the story, only losers. Who then is really the idiot? Whilst Dostoevsky was writing for the Russian establishment, my guess is that it he is saying Russia is the idiot.

In summary therefore I wouldn't say I particularly enjoyed reading this but I'm glad I did. It is instructive about the attitudes of Russian society of the time but it is not a page turner. My advice would be that if you are not prepared to complete a hard slog to the end, don't even start to read this.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 28 June 2011
This classic has, in this version, been treated to an oversimplified translation losing some of the period character and nuance from the writing. An unfortunate lack of editorial effort gives frequent The Idiot (Elrond Approved Kindle Classics)typo errors. Choose a better version to get the best from this novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 March 2013
A masterpiece! The Idiot is the story of one of western literature's damned characters and the book beautifully written... for some I guess hard going because it has the kind of heart and soul which is not always recognised by all...
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2008
I am enjoying this book on the whole but a word of warning to whoever is thinking of buying this particular translation; it is in American English. Now I will read American novels and naturally cannot complain about the English (although it still grates), but it does seem to me strange to read a classic novel with American English. I am aware that this is very personal but if your prefer to read pavement instead of sidewalk or honour rather than honor etc. etc. then this translation may not be for you. I have not read Dostoevsky before so I cannot commment on any other translation but had I known this was in American English then I would have chosen a different one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 February 2014
I have doubts about the translation of this edition and impossible to discover name of translator in ebooks,or so it seems. Also pity they don't provide index of characters as in the old days existed in print editions, the Russian way of three names for one person is very confusing
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on 6 January 2014
I have started reading this book as I loved Crime and Punishment and remembered a librarian telling me that she like Idiot better. I was working in this place where I would have a lot of free time and so wanted to read some short stories but came across this loooong novel and decided to give it ago. Well, it was okay. I found it a bit repetitive and unbelievable (how can they still call Prince an idiot 500 pages into the book?!). I was waiting for something big to happen for so long and it did but in the very end only!
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on 3 December 2014
This is a complex book with a very common and basic premise. One man. Two women. But health issues, class structure, politics, insanity and many other factors are very cleverly woven into the storyline.
This is a long book which will take patience to read and get the best out of it.
There are a number of typing errors which probably occurred during the translation period.
If you like a novel that requires thinking and work on your part, this is the book for you.
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on 1 June 2013
Characterization, plot building and scene setting are second to none and although some of the monologues were heavily drawn out and protracted they still possess an unmistakable class that makes them well worth sticking with. A true classic.
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on 13 May 2013
While there are many interesting characters I just found this a very hard read, There are so many philosophical discussions which go on and on that it became a challenge to complete it. I enjoy many Russian Classics but not this one
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on 26 April 2013
Definitely a good read, however this translation differs slightly to the one made by Penguin Classics... even so, a very good read, I would recommend it if you're looking for something to read while traveling.
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