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The Idiot (1869)

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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16,332162324 (4.12)1 / 424
A Russian prince returns to Saint Petersburg after a long absence in Switzerland, where he was undergoing treatment for epilepsy. On the train he meets and befriends a man of low origins. This man becomes the dark counterpart of the inherently good prince; the two can also be seen as Christ- and devil-like figures. Dostoevsky wished to portray an unspoiled man, whose goodness is plunged into the chaos of Saint Petersberg society and a passionate contest for the disreputable Nastasya.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 133 (next | show all)
One of my favorite books from Dostoevsky that pushed me into a new era of literature and inspiration. It helps us decide between what is best and what we want along with how we should reconcile these issues. ( )
  chip1o1 | May 22, 2024 |
It seems I have a yearly Dostoevsky quota now. The last three years I've ended with one of his "great" novels - next year it will be Demons, I guess. It's a shame that that book will be the last of his "major works" as I've seen them defined, because from each of the previous I feel like I've learned something essential about what it is to be alive. In contrast to the reputation that surrounds Russian literature as being dry or difficult (something I've never found to be true, and is a stereotype more based on the imposing length of Russian classics than anything actually written in the books) I've always found reading Dostoevsky to be an almost breathless experience. We swerve from one dramatic scene to another, the reality of his novels often reaching a state of near hysteria, before breaking for a brief repose before the next storm comes in. What's striking about this drama is that it is almost never fixated on the points you would imagine if you simply read the plot in abstract. Murders, attacks, and feverish escapes are all left off screen - instead we are treated to long conversations and monologues of characters pushed to the edge. The classic hallmark of a Dostoevsky character, despite their vast differences in age, class, temperament, etc. is their sensitivity. These people feel everything, the most minor incident can sink into their soul and cause the most beautiful rapture, or the darkest foreboding, or the deepest humiliation. The last feeling in particular permeates so much of his work, a kind of cosmic embarrassment - when one lives life with emotional abandon as so many of his characters do, one is constantly skirting the edge of disaster, and at a certain point it becomes impossible to avoid the worst, even if one sees it coming from miles away. His heroes, whether it be Prince Myshkin here, or Dimitri Karamazov, or Raskolnikov, all repeatedly suffer the most shameful humiliations - what makes them outrageous, tragic, and interesting, is their stubborn, incredible will power to carry on.

It seems that The Idiot revolves around how we interpret the character of Prince Myshkin. While Dostoevsky's ruffians and ne'er-do-wells are more famous, his novels also often feature this kind of character, one that could be described as too good for this world. I'm thinking of Sonya in Crime and Punishment or Alyosha in Karamazov. Before anyone gets the impression that these characters are being held up by Dostoevsky as a kind of ideal to be emulated, it's important to remember that these figures also suffer the consequences of their "goodness", which might just be another word for naivety, or as this book so explicitly puts it here, idiocy. Of course you can't spend much time poking around in the world of Russian literature without coming across the phrase "holy fool", a concept our learned editors tell us is deeply embedded in Russian culture, the idea being that certain folks are so sensitive to the power of God that it actually fucks up their brain a bit. It's telling that Myshkin is never described as such in this book, whether that's because his particular situation doesn't suit the word, or if the people around him are too blind to see him that way, I'm not fit to determine. Truly great works of art always defy easy interpretation, and I don't think there is one answer to this question. Reading about Dostoevsky The Man and what he believed can feel like a kind of red herring - what are we to make of the fact that Myshkin spouts many of the beliefs that Dostoevsky counted as his own in private correspondence (pan-Slavism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Westernism) in a fit of disturbing mania? I think it's clear that we aren't meant to take what Myshkin says here as an example of well-reasoned, thoughtful argument. The reason Myshkin inspires both passionate devotion and disgust, sometimes in the same sentence, from the people around him is that we must admit the man has some kind of sacred aura around him, and yet he is easily fooled and taken advantage of. It is this same "idiocy" which makes the events leading up to the end of the book possible. We can't say that the crime that closes the book is Myshkin's fault per say, but I think it's clear that there are several stages in the book where his "goodness" actually enables the deviancy of others, and does nothing to prevent what is clearly making for a combustible situation. It's also clear that his open-heartedness brought pain to many people, where if he had just acted like a normal, self-interested person, the suffering almost certainly would have been more contained.

Here lies the heart of The Idiot's message: it's much easier to be bad than to be good. The paths towards selfishness, lust, greed are multitude - the path towards goodness is rare and vague, if it even exists at all. I think the power in the novel comes not from Dostoevsky pushing any kind of moral program or belief system; rather it stems from the depiction of the bravery and outright ignorance of reality it will take to pursue what is good, even if failure and isolation are almost certain. The failed attempt at a life of original goodness is still worth pursuing, in spite of the constant pull of base mediocrity that surrounds us at all times. ( )
  hdeanfreemanjr | Jan 29, 2024 |
O título é uma referência irónica à personagem central do romance, o Prince Myshkin, um jovem cuja bondade e simplicidade fazem com que muitas das personagens que encontra assumam erradamente que lhe falta inteligência e perspicácia.

“ᴅᴏ ʏᴏᴜ ᴋɴᴏᴡ ɪ ᴅᴏɴ'ᴛ ᴋɴᴏᴡ ʜᴏᴡ ᴏɴᴇ ᴄᴀɴ ᴡᴀʟᴋ ʙʏ ᴀ ᴛʀᴇᴇ ᴀɴᴅ ɴᴏᴛ ʙᴇ ʜᴀᴘᴘʏ ᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ꜱɪɢʜᴛ ᴏꜰ ɪᴛ? ʜᴏᴡ ᴄᴀɴ ᴏɴᴇ ᴛᴀʟᴋ ᴛᴏ ᴀ ᴍᴀɴ ᴀɴᴅ ɴᴏᴛ ʙᴇ ʜᴀᴘᴘʏ ɪɴ ʟᴏᴠɪɴɢ ʜɪᴍ! ᴏʜ, ɪᴛ'ꜱ ᴏɴʟʏ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ɪ'ᴍ ɴᴏᴛ ᴀʙʟᴇ ᴛᴏ ᴇxᴘʀᴇꜱꜱ ɪᴛ...ᴀɴᴅ ᴡʜᴀᴛ ʙᴇᴀᴜᴛɪꜰᴜʟ ᴛʜɪɴɢꜱ ᴛʜᴇʀᴇ ᴀʀᴇ ᴀᴛ ᴇᴠᴇʀʏ ꜱᴛᴇᴘ, ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴇᴠᴇɴ ᴛʜᴇ ᴍᴏꜱᴛ ʜᴏᴘᴇʟᴇꜱꜱ ᴍᴀɴ ᴍᴜꜱᴛ ꜰᴇᴇʟ ᴛᴏ ʙᴇ ʙᴇᴀᴜᴛɪꜰᴜʟ! ʟᴏᴏᴋ ᴀᴛ ᴀ ᴄʜɪʟᴅ! ʟᴏᴏᴋ ᴀᴛ ɢᴏᴅ'ꜱ ꜱᴜɴʀɪꜱᴇ! ʟᴏᴏᴋ ᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ɢʀᴀꜱꜱ, ʜᴏᴡ ɪᴛ ɢʀᴏᴡꜱ! ʟᴏᴏᴋ ᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ᴇʏᴇꜱ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ɢᴀᴢᴇ ᴀᴛ ʏᴏᴜ ᴀɴᴅ ʟᴏᴠᴇ ʏᴏᴜ!”

Retrata o jovem e inocente Myshkin, de regresso à Rússia para procurar familiares afastados, após ter passado vários anos num sanatório suíço devido à sua epilepsia.

No comboio para a Rússia, conhece e faz amizade com um homem de caráter duvidoso chamado Rogozhin. Rogozhin está loucamente obcecado pela misteriosa beldade Nastasya Filippovna, a tal ponto que o leitor sabe que nada de bom sairá daí.
É claro que Prince Myshkin é envolvido por Rogozhin, Filippovna e pela sociedade que os rodeia.
Uma sociedade sedenta de dinheiro, de poder, fria e manipuladora.

O romance explora as consequências que advêm da inclusão de um ser humano de características singulares como as que referi, no centro dos conflitos; desejos; ambições e interesses da sociedade, tanto para o próprio como para aqueles com quem se envolve.
A ingenuidade da personagem é confrontada com um elenco exuberante de nobres sofisticados; aspirantes desesperados; ambiciosas sedutoras; jovens estudantes apaixonadas, perseguidores fanáticos, sonhadores românticos, entre outros.

Exprime com veracidade a condição humana exigente; as emoções que só conhecem a realidade da sua existência em cada ocasião. Trata-se, portanto, de um romance sincero e profundo, tal como o âmago do invulgar, mas cativante protagonista.

“ᴅᴏɴ’ᴛ ʟᴇᴛ ᴜꜱ ꜰᴏʀɢᴇᴛ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ᴄᴀᴜꜱᴇꜱ ᴏꜰ ʜᴜᴍᴀɴ ᴀᴄᴛɪᴏɴꜱ ᴀʀᴇ ᴜꜱᴜᴀʟʟʏ ɪᴍᴍᴇᴀꜱᴜʀᴀʙʟʏ ᴍᴏʀᴇ ᴄᴏᴍᴘʟᴇx ᴀɴᴅ ᴠᴀʀɪᴇᴅ ᴛʜᴀɴ ᴏᴜʀ ꜱᴜʙꜱᴇQᴜᴇɴᴛ ᴇxᴘʟᴀɴᴀᴛɪᴏɴꜱ ᴏꜰ ᴛʜᴇᴍ.”

Há emoção em abundância; disputas; traições e muito romance sinuoso que mantém o interesse.
Apesar de por vezes cruzarmo-nos com personagens excessivamente emotivas; que parecem sempre expressar-se com grande clareza; sempre com uma visão filosófica extremamente perspicaz, o conteúdo deste livro de Dostoiévski, é muito realista.

Myshkin é uma personagem encantadora submetida a escrutínios e julgamentos por parte dos que o rodeiam. Assim sendo, é impossível não sentir simpatia por ele.

“ɪ ᴀᴍ ᴀ ꜰᴏᴏʟ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴀ ʜᴇᴀʀᴛ ʙᴜᴛ ɴᴏ ʙʀᴀɪɴꜱ, ᴀɴᴅ ʏᴏᴜ ᴀʀᴇ ᴀ ꜰᴏᴏʟ ᴡɪᴛʜ ʙʀᴀɪɴꜱ ʙᴜᴛ ɴᴏ ʜᴇᴀʀᴛ; ᴀɴᴅ ᴡᴇ’ʀᴇ ʙᴏᴛʜ ᴜɴʜᴀᴘᴘʏ, ᴀɴᴅ ᴡᴇ ʙᴏᴛʜ ꜱᴜꜰꜰᴇʀ.”

Parece-me que "o idiota", era simplesmente excessivamente bondoso e demasiado ingénuo para o mundo que o rodeava. ( )
  craly | Jan 24, 2024 |
Story of Prince Myshkin returning to Russia after spending several years in an asylum in Switzerland for his epilepsy. His gentle manner and his seizures gets him labeled as the Idiot. The Prince struggles in the non-accepting society of Russia and eventually returns for treatment in Switzerland. ( )
  podocyte | Jan 22, 2024 |
Lovely portrait of an uncomplicated man in a complicated world. Frenetic and spasmodic at times.
  BookyMaven | Dec 6, 2023 |
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» Add other authors (328 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dostoevsky, Fyodorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Avsey, IgnatTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Batchelor, PeterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carlisle, HenryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carlisle, OlgaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dahl, StaffanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davis, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dietz, NormanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eichenberg, FritzIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frank, JosephIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garnett, ConstanceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Geeson, MartinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Geier, SwetlanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gregory, ConstantineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hansen, Bent OttoNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hill, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kjetsaa, GeirTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuukasjärvi, OlliTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laín Entralgo, JoséTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Magarshack, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Manger, HermienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, Eva M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miranda, AnaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pevear, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pyykkö, LeaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sheen, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thomson, J.Jac.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Timmer, Charles B.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Volokhonsky, LarissaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Witt, SusannaForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yarmolinksy, AvrahmIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yuffa, ElinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A Russian prince returns to Saint Petersburg after a long absence in Switzerland, where he was undergoing treatment for epilepsy. On the train he meets and befriends a man of low origins. This man becomes the dark counterpart of the inherently good prince; the two can also be seen as Christ- and devil-like figures. Dostoevsky wished to portray an unspoiled man, whose goodness is plunged into the chaos of Saint Petersberg society and a passionate contest for the disreputable Nastasya.

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After his great portrayal of a guilty man in Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky set out in The Idiot to portray a man of pure innocence. The twenty-six-year-old Prince Myshkin, following a stay of several years in a Swiss sanatorium, returns to Russia to collect an inheritance and “be among people.” Even before he reaches home he meets the dark Rogozhin, a rich merchant’s son whose obsession with the beautiful Nastasya Filippovna eventually draws all three of them into a tragic denouement. In Petersburg the prince finds himself a stranger in a society obsessed with money, power, and manipulation. Scandal escalates to murder as Dostoevsky traces the surprising effect of this “positively beautiful man” on the people around him, leading to a final scene that is one of the most powerful in all of world literature.
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