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Fyodor Dostoyevsky S The Idiot Is An Immaculate Portrait Of Innocence Tainted By The Brutal Reality Of Human Greed This Penguin Classics Edition Is Translated From The Russian By David McDuff, With An Introduction By William Mills Todd IIIReturning To St Petersburg From A Swiss Sanatorium, The Gentle And Na Ve Epileptic Prince Myshkin The Titular Idiot Pays A Visit To His Distant Relative General Yepanchin And Proceeds To Charm The General, His Wife, And His Three Daughters But His Life Is Thrown Into Turmoil When He Chances On A Photograph Of The Beautiful Nastasya Filippovna Utterly Infatuated With Her, He Soon Finds Himself Caught Up In A Love Triangle And Drawn Into A Web Of Blackmail, Betrayal, And Finally, Murder 861 The Idiot, Fyodor DostoevskyThe Idiot Russian , Idiot is a novel by the 19th century Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky It was first published serially in the journal The Russian Messenger in 1868 9.The title is an ironic reference to the central character of the novel, Prince Knyaz Lev Nikolaevich Myshkin, a young man whose goodness and open hearted simplicity lead many of theworldly characters he encounters to mistakenly assume that he lacks intelligence and insight In the character of Prince Myshkin, Dostoevsky set himself the task of depicting the positively good and beautiful man The novel examines the consequences of placing such a unique individual at the centre of the conflicts, desires, passions and egoism of worldly society, both for the man himself and for those with whom he becomes involved The result, according to philosopher A.C Grayling, is one of the most excoriating, compelling and remarkable books ever written and without question one of the greatest 1974 1341 1348 1356 1362 1366 1396 9789645626929 1393 9789640015896 19 1383 1385 1386 1378 1388 1389 1390 1019 1393 9789643622114 1362 1368 1387 9789648155839 1389 920 9789643742768 1395 640 9789642200986 1395 9786008191063 1392 9786006027623 1396 826 9786008708094 1394 9786006110158 1396 9786007987407 1396 838 9786007383728 1396 838 9786008193760 1395 784 9786007159316 1396 838 9786007159514 1395 9789649923963 1395 1075 9789644871566 1396 839 9786008399728 1392 536 9786006988085 . There are many reviews of this book making out that Prince Myshkin was Christ like, a truly good man who lived for the moment A holy idiot, oraccurately, wholly idiot indeed is what he really was Why did they think Dostoyevsky entitled the book, The Idiot if he meant The Man who was Innocent and Really Good or The Man who was like Jesus The title wasn t any kind of irony, it was about an idiot.Prince Myshkin had spent years in a sanitarium for his epilepsy and returns to Russia where he trusts untrustworthy people, falls for all their plots where he is the patsy, and falls in love with a rather uppity girl who returns his affections and then when it comes to the moment, chooses another woman for all the wrong reasons and thereby ends up rejected by both He is the very definition of an idiot, he never, ever learns and what intelligence he has he doesn t put to working out the truth of a situation and what he should do to benefit himself He always falls for the next plot, the next plan, the next person with a glint in their eye for how they can use him to further their own ends And he goes just like a lamb to the slaughter.Sadly, the debacle, written in a time when not even the word neurology had been invented, let alone the science, is rather idiotic On getting drawn into a crime committed by a man mad in every sense, crazy and angry, his epilepsy degenerates into a mental illness so deep he crosses over into another land Bye bye gentle idiot I was glad to read of you, I m glad I didn t know you. view spoilerhide spoiler A terrific novel very worth reading but lacking the thrust and pleasures of BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, which is one of my favorite books It is, perhaps, the most difficult novel to evaluate with the Goodreads star system, because it is both very, very great, and not particularly good When the action soars in searing, autobiographical moments, with sequences of epilepsy, fits, executions, and long social sequences there is really nothing like it An outdoor party scene with the overly noble Prince Myshkin will stick with me forever, as will the cursed love between Nastasya Fillippovna and Rogozhin The idea of a pure man misunderstood by an impure society is wonderful, but THE IDIOT readslike a sequence of thematic parables than a novel.I ve been taught, and I teach, the iceberg theory of writing The author should knowabout her characters than she is willing to show 90% below water, 10% visible This iceberg is almost totally submerged The main action the stuff I was dying to see too often occurred BETWEEN parts of the novel I have never experienced such exciting exposition in my life but I saw almost none of that excitement on the page Structurally, this makes it somewhat disastrous, and it feels rushed, as if Dostoevsky was so eager to plumb the depth of philosophy that he forgot to provide us with a plot This makes the book fascinating, but a very, very slow read I am very grateful to have read it I was rarely grateful to be reading it. , , , , , ,,,, , , , , , ,, , ,, ,,, ,, , , , , , , , ,,, , , , , , ,, , , , , , ,,, , , , ,,, , . The Idiot is a remarkable literary feat a true accomplishment It not only shows and represents true human complexity, but it births it, both in the inner workings of its passionate characters, and in the overall story It s replete with patient, mind testing issues that spring the reader s level of understanding back and fourth yet its emotional intensity is felt throughout It speaks truth of our striving human conditions our emotions which only know the truth of their existence in the moment yet it is a true and pure novel, like the heart of our unusual but endearing hero, Prince Myshkin our idiot.Nobody brings the drama like Fyodor nobody Yet despite all the exclamation points and the excessively passionate characters who all seem to speak with great clarity, with penetrating philosophical insight Dostoevsky novels still feel very real to me Despite its great entertainment value and all the outbursts from its characters, very real emotional boundaries are pushed in very natural, all encompassing ways What The Idiot bespeaks is something about life that is so real and true that the novel, while very intense, feels completely unexaggerated Dostoevsky novels don t take place in, but are a world of both utter emotional madness and pure genius And they display how the two are often inseparableHe fell to thinking, among other things, about his epileptic condition, that there was a stage in it just before the fit itself if the fit occurred while he was awake , when suddenly, amidst the sadness, the darkness of soul, the pressure, his brain would momentarily catch fire, as it were, and all his life s forces would be strained at once in an extraordinary impulse The sense of life, of self awareness, increased nearly tenfold in these moments, which flashed by like lightning His mind, his heart were lit up with an extraordinary light all his agitation, all his doubts, all his worries were as if placated at once, resolved in a sort of sublime tranquility, filled with serene, harmonious joy, and hope, filled with reason and ultimate causeThese characters, none of them were all bad or all good in fact there was not one single character in this entire novel that I didn t feel both sympathy and contempt for, at various stages The Idiot is epic The way it played out will have my mind reeling for weeks, I know And I like that I like that a lotBut I ll add though that there is something at the bottom of every new human thought, every thought of genius, or even every earnest thought that springs up in any brain, which can never be communicated to others, even if one were to write volumes about it and were explaining one s idea for thirty five years there s something left which cannot be induced to emerge from your brain, and remains with you forever and with it you will die, without communicating to anyone perhaps, the most important of your ideas Prince Myshkin, 26, arrives in St Petersburg, Russia by train, The Beautiful Man has too much compassion for this cynical age He believes every person, trusts all, feels the pain of the suffering unfortunates, thus has no common sense Simple Gullible An idiot Or a Saint That question only you can decide Set in the 1860 s, the sick prince he s an epileptic, like the author of this novel alone, frightened, no relatives or friends or money, in the world, but with a desire to see his beloved native land, again That he hardly remembers, having lived in Switzerland, treated by a kindly Doctor Schneider, without charge for years However meets two men that will be friends or enemies in the future , inside his train compartment Rogozhin, a young man who can t control his emotions, very unstable, just inheriting a vast fortune, eager to show the whole city, it And Lebedev , a minor clerk the kind of gentleman who knows everything about Petersburg s important people Myshkin, doesn t even have proper clothes for the cold, late November day as he steps down into the unknown metropolis Nevertheless he has valuable information received from the well informed Mr Lebedev Seeing General Epanchin retired, his wife has the same name as our hero, maybe some kind of relation With difficulties, servants are such doubters and have good reason to be, Myshkin finally gets in the house s family quarters Meeting the three beautiful daughters of the general, and his volatile and scary wife, Lizaveta Falling in love with the youngest, prettiest daughter Aglaia, she s 20, very immature, has crushes on every handsome suitor she s introduced to The inexperienced prince, also loves Nastasya a kept woman he sees soon after, the best looking female in the country He wants to save this lady, from a life of inevitable degradation and doom, the eternal triangle Later entering society, they the ruling class look at him, the eccentric Myshkin closely, an oddity a childish fool, not suitable for them as a friend Yet these citizens have no real ones, themselves Good fortune comes to Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin, he inherits a lot of money, unexpectedly, when he goes to Moscow A letter tells him, naturally he gives away most of it to people, who say the prince owes them money And the poor , those asking for a little help, how can he refuse Fleeing Moscow, the ill man goes back to the Russian capital, the two women in his life, are there Rents a villa in the suburbs from Mr Lebedev , invites the consumptive boy that he befriended, Ippolit, an unpleasant youth to stay during his last days and still earns no respect, from anyone The Idiot , has proposed marriage, to both of his loves If Raskolnikov was the charismatic murderer whose side I took despite myself when he killed an old woman out of greed and broke down psychologically afterwards, Prince Myshkin is the supposedly good, childlike Christ figure whom I failed to like at all Just do make it clear from the beginning I liked the novel just as much as Crime and Punishment and Notes from Underground, and I found it just as compulsively readable The cast of characters is magnificent My sole problem is the character of Myshkin We are not a likely pair to hit it off, of course.He is a religious fanatic, whose conviction is so narrow minded that he hates other variations of Christian dogma eventhan atheists Yes, that s my opinion Atheism only preaches a negation, but Catholicism goes further it preaches a distorted Christ, a Christ calumniated and defamed by themselves, the opposite of Christ It preaches the Antichrist, I declare it does, I assure you it does I am an atheist, but strongly in support of tolerance and respect beyond the narrow boundaries of one s own convictions So I will give Myshkin a pass on his fanaticism, knowing full well he wouldn t give me one, considering his reaction when he heard his benefactor had converted to Catholicism.He is a Russian nationalist, believing in expanding Russian dogma to the West Not letting ourselves be slavishly caught by the wiles of the Jesuits, but carrying our Russian civilisation to them, we ought to stand before them and not let it be said among us, as it was just now, that their preaching is skilful I believe in global citizenship and consider nationalism to be the greatest evil in world history But I will give him a pass on that one, knowing the historical framework in which it was uttered.He is proud of his lack of education, and does absolutely nothing to enhance his own understanding, despite having leisure to spend all day studying I believe in lifelong learning to develop as a human being But I will give him a pass on that one, knowing he suffers from epilepsy and maybe from other conditions as well, which might make learning impossible for him.He is an elitist, openly rejecting equality and democracy in favour of his own, idle class I am a prince myself, of ancient family, and I am sitting with princes I speak to save us all, that our class may not be vanishing in vain in darkness, without realising anything, abusing everything, and losing everything Why disappear and make way for others when we might remain in advance and be the leaders I am for equality and democracy, for a classless society without any privileges.He is utterly afraid of female sexuality and almost pathological in his attempt to ignore the fact that it exists, admiring childlike behaviour and the inexperienced beauty of virgins I am a grown up woman.I will let all of that pass, there is no reason why I shouldn t be able to identify with that as much as with a raving murderer, right What I can t accept is his posturing as a truly good , almost holy person That is too much His social ineptitude, his lack of imagination, his literal mindedness, his prejudices all of that might be fitting the time and place where he lives, but it is not objectively good In fact, I don t see any goodness in him at all Even Raskolnikov, poor, and under supreme stress, was able to spontaneously give his last money to a desperate family to finance a funeral Myshkin does nothing helpful with his fortune, which conveniently fell into his over privileged lap On the contrary He uses the money to cruise in the Russian upper class society and to mingle with distinguished families He doesn t work, and isn t even remotely interested in anything to do with actual progress in society Instead, he gives credit to whoever happens to be in the room with him at the moment, without engaging or giving any active help, and he changes his mind when another person steps into the room Critics are eager to call this his innocence and gullibility, and to use it as proof that he is a better person than the characters who have motives and agendas for their actions Since when is cluelessness a virtue And what if he is not an idiot If you for one second step out of that thought pattern, you can also call his change of mind hypocrisy, or opportunism, or fear of conflict, or flattery Some might call it Christian meekness I call it condescension Myshkin is incredibly one dimensional in his value system, fearing sexuality and human interaction To compensate for his fears, he puts himself above them, looking down on weak people, forgiving and pitying them But what right has he to forgive other people for engaging in conflicts that are caused by his own social ineptitude If I could see in Myshkin a person who is on the autistic spectrum, I would feel compassion for him and be frustrated that his community is not capable of helping him communicate according to his abilities But whenever that idea comes to mind, the big DOSTOYEVSKY LITERARY CRITICISM stands in the way Under no circumstances am I to forget that Dostoyevsky truly saw in Myshkin a Christlike figure, and that he himself was committed to orthodox Christian dogma to the point of writing in a letter in 1854 If someone proved to me that Christ was outside the truth, and it was really true that the truth was outside Christ, then I would still prefer to remain with Christ than with truth Well, to be honest, I think that is precisely what this novel shows Dostoyevsky, the brilliant realist writer, writes a story containing the truth of social life as he has accurately observed it, and his Christ is moping around on the fringes, causing trouble rather than offering ethical guidelines He is absolutely passive, incapable of one single motivated, proactive good deed Only criminals and ignorant peasants invoke the name of Christ in the novel The educated people with whom Myshkin mingles are concerned with their own nervous modernity They act like neglected children, drawing negative attention to themselves to make the God father figure notice them But he remains silent, ignoring even his most cherished child, the one he sacrificed for all the others, Christ It is Holbein s dead Christ, brutally shown in his human insignificance, that stands as a symbol for the religious vacuum in the novel, a Christ figure that can make people lose their faith, as Myshkin admits himself The characters argue and discuss their respective positions on philosophy and religion throughout the long digressive plot, and Myshkin mourns earlier times when people were of a simpler mind In those days, they were men of one idea, but now we arenervous,developed,sensitive men capable of two or three ideas at once Modern men are broader minded and I swear that this prevents their being so all of a piece as they were in those days That is what he says to Ippolyt, a poor, cynical 18 year old boy dying but not fast enough of consumption When the young man asks Myshkin how to die with decency, the idiotic Christ figure doesn t offer him his house or moral support, even though he knows that Ippolyt is in a conflict with Ganya, with whom he is currently staying No, help can t be offered, just this Pass us by, and forgive us our happiness , said Myshkin in a low voice Oh, the goodness of that non action.Another telling situation occurs when Myshkin receives the clearly confused general Ivolgin, in a state of rage, whose M nchhausen stories of meeting Napoleon are evidently hysterical lies Even the idiotic Myshkin understands that something is wrong with the general, but he lets him rave on, encouraging him in his folly If that was all, I could argue that two fools had met, and that Myshkin couldn t be expected to show compassion and try to calm down the ill man who has a stroke in the street shortly afterwards, supported by the malignant atheists rather than the Christian elitist characters But Myshkin is not a fool in that respect, just a passively condescending man His reaction is outrageous Haven t I made it worse by leading him on to such flights Myshkin wondered uneasily, and suddenly he could not restrain himself, and laughed violently for ten minutes He was nearly beginning to reproach himself for his laughter, but at once realised that he had nothing to reproach himself with, since he had an infinite pity for the general Right How convenient for you, Prince And you suffer so much when others laugh at your inadequacies I have an infinite pity for you, Sir But I won t raise a finger to help you, all the same Because being a completely innocent little idiot, I don t know how to do that.Which leads me to my last comment on the character of Myshkin, who repeatedly was compared to Don Quixote in the novel He is NOT AT ALL LIKE THE DON Don Quixote hasimagination and erudition than his contemporaries Myshkin has none at all.Don Quixote actively wants to change the world for the better Myshkin wants to passively enjoy his privileged status.Don Quixote is generous and open minded Myshkin is aloof and uninterested.Don Quixote has a mission Myshkin floats in upper class meaninglessness.Don Quixote loves his ugly Dulcinea Myshkin can t choose between the two prettiest girls in society, but wants them to remain children to be able to worship them as virgins.So, who were my favourite characters then As often happens to me while reading Dickens as well, I found muchsatisfaction following the minor characters Kolya, Ippolyt, Lebedyev, Rogozhin, Aglaia, Nastasya all these people experiencing Russian society in the process of moving towards modernity are affected by one or several of its aspects They try to deal with modernity ad hoc, without a recipe, and suffer from confusion.Aglaia When she says she wants to become an educator, to DO something, she shows the spirit of future entrepreneurship, including women in active life When she goes from one emotional state to another, not willing to be a negotiable good in her parents marriage plans, a piece of property moving from one domestic jail to another, she is a true hero But she embraces the idea of ownership and control, and in order to own Myshkin, she acts out a despicably arrogant farce in front of a vulnerable rival, using as a weapon her privilege and chastity A flawed but interesting character for sure She would have been utterly unhappy, had she reached her goal.Kolya Trying to navigate his hysterical environment and to build bridges between his family s needs and the society they depend on, and to support parents, siblings, and friends with actions rather than words, he is a truly good person.Rogozhin Blinded by passion but capable of sincere feeling and fidelity, he is a true lover, yet driven to madness and criminal behaviour He admits to his crimes and accepts the following punishment.Nastasya The abused child who takes out the punishment on herself, like anorexic or self harming young girls nowadays, convinced that the harm done to them is a sign of their own filthiness Myshkin drives her over the edge with his condescending pity and forgiveness by enforcing her idea of guilt and worthlessness As if Myshkin had any right to claim superiority He seals her fate when he remains completely passive in the showdown between her and arrogant, impertinent Aglaia, and then creates an atmosphere of self sacrifice during the wedding preparations He seemed really to look on his marriage as some insignificant formality, he held his own future so cheap So what am I to make of my reading of the Idiot What is the ultimate feeling, closing the book after days of frenzied engagement with the characters I loved the novel, hated the main character but I ll FORGIVE him, of course, feeling PITY for his suffering , and am prepared for another Dostoyevsky Let the Devils haunt me next I have been trying to fill this review box ever since I finished this book After writing and rewriting about this book, I think I have finally come close to what I feel about this book I don t think I can ever do justice to the beauty of this book but I still wanted to write few things about it I started reading this novel last year Put on pause twice, then finally finishing it this month I was so relieved not only because I managed to read it, but also because it is one of those books that are still a treat to read even after 150 years of its publication Story revolves around Prince Myshkin who arrived in Russia from Switzerland There he meet Rogozhin on the train and befriends him Then he went to see his distant relatives General and meet family Here he sees a picture of Nastasya Fillipovna and falls in love with her Things get complicated when he proposes her and she rejects him for Rogozhin, who is also madly in love with her On the day of marriage she elopes to be with Rogozhin Myshkin finds love in Agalaya but all hell loose breaks when once again Nastasya decides that she is still in love with the Prince In Prince Myshkin, Mr Dostoyovesky created a beautiful soul A man who is free of deception, lies, concoction, and brutally honest A man who always put others before his own happiness A man whom no one can hate even if one tries they fail miserably and end up falling in love with this simpleton So many times I felt so angry when people called him mad, fool, idiot, because they failed to see the beautiful heart that the Prince had Then one can t blame them for we always hate people who are too good and have the qualities that we don t possess We want to be clever but hate it when outsmarted by cleverer person But our prince is beyond all this, he just love and think highly of others even if those very people are trying to drag him down And that s the reason they find it so hard to begrudge him.While the prince has no vile motives, the two leading ladies of the novel have intentions that were hard to grasp upon for me One minute they were madly in love with Prince, but in the next moment they would leave him and tell him that they don t love him They could not bear the thought of him being with another, oh how they made sure of it One kept running away from him, and the other kept him on the edge with her own confusion They drove him mad and how I wanted him to leave both of them to their fate and go some other place where he would get peace of mind but they would not let him walk away Dostoyovesky has written a stunning story that evoked so many emotions in me I found myself teary, laughing, distressed, full of hatred, scared, angry, and sad on behalf of the prince I don t think one will get to meet a person like Prince in real life but it is easy to see the goons that surround him in everyday life His characters are deeply flawed, impulsive, and dense but at the same time they make me understand or at least I tried to how human nature works I absolutely loved this book, and I am definitely reading his other works but I think I will still take another year to get out of this world.