Saturday, 2 July 2011
The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Idiot was my first experience with Dostoevsky. The 650 odd pages were not so intimidating after the epic that was War & Peace and I felt I was on a roll with this Russian literature lark.
The Idiot is not really an Idiot at all (I've met my fair share of real idiots). The man in question is Prince Myshkin who because of his epilepsy has spent time in a Swiss clinic and the start of the novel sees Myshkin return to Russia after many years. His sheltered upbringing abroad means that he doesn’t understand how to truly behave in the society he finds himself in and he has a naivety and willingness to do the right thing for which he is ridiculed and labelled an Idiot.
The main story is the competition between various suitors vying for the attentions of one Nastasya Fillipovna, a troubled beauty who has been cast off as a fallen women through no fault of her own. But that's summarising the plot in very simple terms as there are an abundance of characters, themes and general philosophising throughout.
Its a packed book and I didn't always remember which character was which (thank goodness for the character list at the front of my edition!) Sometimes while reading it I got a bit lost and became confused by some of the characters behaviour. This wasn't because it was a dense or difficult read, there was just a lot going on and lots of different characters that would suddenly appear. Sometimes a character would suddenly declare they hated another character before suddenly changing their mind again, they all seemed to be very fiery, there was a lot of people throwing their arms up in the air and I just couldn't keep up.
But I kept on with it and it all made sense in the end plot wise but really its not the story arch here that's so important but the conclusions brought up throughout during the dialogue and how characters react to the Prince's behaviour or philosophising. Pure Goodness does not always prevail it seems and the world cannot always accommodate the virtuous and what does that say?
I would recommend The Idiot but its one to take your time over due to the large amount of dialogue which tends to take centre stage over the plot elements (not a criticism)
I read this as part of a read-along hosted by the lovely Allie and A literacy Odyssey.
Posted by Jess