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The Idiot (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 27 May 2004

4.1 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (27 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014044792X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447927
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 37,088 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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"A book that manages like no other to plunge fearlessly into suffering while at the same time illuminating the enduring, almost unspeakable beauty of the human." --Laurie Sheck, The Atlantic
"One of the most excoriating, compelling, and remarkable books ever written: and without question one of the greatest." --A. C. Grayling
"A masterpiece . . . a fact of world literature just as important as the densely dramatic Brothers Karamazov or the brilliantly subtle and terrifying Devils. . . . [an] excellent new translation." --The Guardian

"McDuff's language is rich and alive." --The New York Times Book Review
"[The Idiot's] narrative is so compelling." --Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

About the Author

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky was born in Moscow in 1821. His debut, the epistolary novella Poor Folk(1846), made his name. In 1849 he was arrested for involvement with the politically subversive 'Petrashevsky circle' and until 1854 he lived in a convict prison in Omsk, Siberia. From this experience came The House of the Dead (1860-2). In 1860 he began the journal Vremya (Time). Already married, he fell in love with one of his contributors, Appollinaria Suslova, eighteen years his junior, and developed a ruinous passion for roulette. After the death of his first wife, Maria, in 1864, Dostoyevsky completed Notes from Underground and began work towards Crime and Punishment (1866). The major novels of his late period are The Idiot (1868), Demons(1871-2) and The Brothers Karamazov (1879-80). He died in 1881.

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Customer Reviews

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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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Format: 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.
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Format: 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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