Ben's Reviews > The Idiot

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
88967
's review
Jun 09, 10

bookshelves: favorites, good-fiction, memorable-characters, read-in-2010, romantic-love-and-hate
Read from May 07 to June 08, 2010

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 inseparable:

"He 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 cause."

These 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 lot.

"But 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."
52 likes · likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Idiot.
sign in »

Reading Progress

05/07/2010 page 18
2.84%
show 3 hidden updates…

Comments (showing 1-34 of 34) (34 new)

dateDown_arrow    newest »

message 1: by karen (new)

karen um.


Michelle So...what do you think so far? Love it? Hate it?


message 3: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Love, love, LOVE IT.


message 4: by JSou (new) - added it

JSou I expect to see some current status updates from here on out.


message 5: by D. (new) - rated it 5 stars

D. Pow Myshkin is the main man with the master plan, beer in his hand at the microphone stand.


message 6: by Ben (last edited Jun 02, 2010 12:16PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben You got it, Jessica. Same with you and IJ.

Right now Myshkin is kinda freakin' out, D.


message 7: by Ben (last edited Jun 09, 2010 06:26AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Yuck, "bespeaks"; I hear ya. It makes me embarrassed, but not nearly as embarrassed as RA's thread.


message 8: by Kelly (last edited Jun 09, 2010 07:17AM) (new)

Kelly It speaks truth of our striving human conditions; our emotions which only know the truth of their existence in the moment

Ah ha! So this is why all the early 20th century French novels that are about this think that they're intellectual, even though they're just using this thought to justify being slutty, selfish bastards. They think they got it from Dostoevsky! Now it all makes sense! :)

(PS- Does this mean you're starting Orlando now??)


message 9: by Ben (last edited Jun 09, 2010 07:30AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Kelly, there is a level of great empathy that a reader can feel for a character -- even a character that is acting in a way that's inconsiderate or intentionally painful to other characters -- when an author successfully pulls that off, and in this Dostoevsky surely did, for me.

And I totally plan on starting Orlando now. : )


Michelle 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 inseparable.

I concur. Nice review, Ben.


message 11: by Kelly (last edited Jun 09, 2010 07:40AM) (new)

Kelly Kelly, there is a level of great empathy that a reader can feel for a character -- even a character that is acting in a way that's inconsiderate or intentionally painful to other characters -- when an author successfully pulls that off, and in this Dostoevsky surely did, for me.

I don't disagree in the least, as some of the books on my fav list (Lolita, The Good Soldier, most of the works of Fitzgerald, etc) might suggest. Sometimes I just like making fun of French people. :)

It's an excellent review, and I don't mean you to think I'm attacking it. I especially liked the part about it being an entertainment and yet unexaggerated. I really must read this some day. But for now, yay, Orlando time!!


RandomAnthony Nobody brings the drama like Fyodor: nobody.

Hm. I'm tempted to disagree, but I'm having a hard time doing so. Excellent review, Mr. Harrison.


message 13: by D. (new) - rated it 5 stars

D. Pow I concur with David that The Demons which was called The Possessed when I read it back before I went bald belongs on the shelf with FDs major works.

Good work, Benjamin. Once again you show depths and heart underneath your shiny teenage-girl attracting exterior.


Michelle Okay. I will retract mine as well.


message 15: by Books Ring Mah Bell (last edited Jun 09, 2010 11:43AM) (new)

Books Ring Mah Bell Oh sure. Retract your comments, David AND BOOBY!

Now it will make NO SENSE when I say I read Ben "Cougar Bait" Harrison's reviews in the nude.

Whatever.

I guess I'll put my pants back on.


Michelle We shouldn't have retracted. No one came back.

Take your pants off, Bells. It's on!


message 17: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Nobody brings the drama like Fyodor: nobody.

TRUE STORY

This is one of my very top favourites; I think it's a tie between this and the Possessed (Devils) for my favourite Dostoyevsky novel. I really like your point about how it's all lurid and dreamlike and spattered with exclamation marks and yet it feels so real - and not real-like-a-dream either, but somehow terrifically convincing. I don't know how he does that but it's marvelous.


message 18: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell David wrote: "Really? One of your favourites?"

I leave you alone and ask you to extend the same courtesy to me, okay? Thanks.


message 19: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Upon my honour, there is an odour of dyspleasure 'pon the threade. You maie not realyze, but I am 100% SE Asyan-Euroupean and thouse pesky "u"s pop intou my typing at oudd tymes.

Uh.

Team Ben 4evah!


message 20: by Margaret (new)

Margaret David: Maybe you could just respect Moira's wishes and stop being a jerk. Everyone else will find it's easier that way.


message 21: by JSou (new) - added it

JSou Eh! wrote: "Upon my honour, there is an odour of dyspleasure 'pon the threade. You maie not realyze, but I am 100% SE Asyan-Euroupean and thouse pesky "u"s pop intou my typing at oudd tymes.

Uh.

Team Ben 4e..."


Eh!, don't take this the wrong way, but I'm kind of loving you right now.


message 22: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Well, Jessica, I have this cucumber*...

...haha, nonono!

We must all love Ben and his wonderful review.



*To all those not-Jessica, there's a background story to the cucumber. This is so perverted without the background story.


message 23: by JSou (new) - added it

JSou Wasn't this the one, Eh!?

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


message 24: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Holy cucumber!


message 25: by Jen (last edited Jun 11, 2010 08:25AM) (new) - added it

Jen "But 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."


Thank you for putting this in, Ben.


message 26: by Kim (new)

Kim This thread makes no sense... I hate missing stuff. :(

Nice review, Ben!


message 27: by Jen (new) - added it

Jen kim wrote: "This thread makes no sense... I hate missing stuff. :(

I know...if only we had that background story to unsully our notions of the cucumber.


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

Holy Pickles! Great review!


message 29: by David (new)

David "This thread makes no sense... I hate missing stuff. :("

Me too. But I enjoyed the review. Did you know that Ben is even more charming in person than he is online?

I know. It hardly seems possible.


Mad Dog Thanks for inspiring me to re-read 'The Idiot'. I have thought that you should be a literary critic, but then I realized you already are. Your current profile pic is a classic.


message 31: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Mad Dog, goodreads has a shit-ton of reviewers better than myself, but thanks for the friendly words.

Haven't we run into each other on a Rabbit, Run thread? I think we have-- friend request coming your way.


message 32: by Ryck (new) - added it

Ryck Hi! What Dostoyevsky novel would you recommend for me to read first, The Idiot or Crime and Punishment? This would be my first so I'd like to pick the one that is more enjoyable to read and is easy to keep up with so I can read more of Dostoevsky's novels. Thanks!


Weinz This comment feels oddly familiar. Like I've read it before. Weird deja vous.


David War and Peace.


back to top