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The Idiot

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  128,288 ratings  ·  5,029 reviews
Returning to Russia from a sanitarium in Switzerland, the Christ-like epileptic Prince Myshkin finds himself enmeshed in a tangle of love, torn between two women—the notorious kept woman Nastasya and the pure Aglaia—both involved, in turn, with the corrupt, money-hungry Ganya. In the end, Myshkin’s honesty, goodness, and integrity are shown to be unequal to the moral empti ...more
Paperback, 667 pages
Published April 8th 2003 by Modern Library (first published 1869)
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Austin Bruce This book is very different from Crime and Punishment if only for reason that the protagonist is unique and different in character from other Dostoyev…moreThis book is very different from Crime and Punishment if only for reason that the protagonist is unique and different in character from other Dostoyevsky works.

But the style of dialogue, confusion of entering and exiting characters, each referred to by a few names each, is nothing new, and if you didn't like that in C&P, I kind of doubt you will enjoy it in The Idiot.

I do feel sorry for you though.(less)
Pat Turman Depends on what you mean by interesting. If by interesting you mean a conventional narrative, then never. There's not much of a plot here. From what I…moreDepends on what you mean by interesting. If by interesting you mean a conventional narrative, then never. There's not much of a plot here. From what I gather, Dostoevsky's goal was to use the idiot character (the prince) to hold a mirror up to Russian society in the 19th century. So much--if not most--of the references, allegories, symbols represented by various characters & situations will be lost on readers of this century and who are not Russian. But I still enjoyed it, even if I didn't get Dostoevsky's underlying purpose a lot of the time. I enjoyed it mainly because I love Dostoevsky's sensibility. His blend of Christian optimism on the one hand combined with nihilistic fatalism on the other speaks to me in a way no other writer ever has and in a way that feels very contemporary and relevant still. The light and the dark...(less)
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Best Books Ever
51,184 books — 200,504 voters
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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 ·  128,288 ratings  ·  5,029 reviews

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Jul 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I’ve been trying to review this book for over a week now, but I can’t. I’m struggling with something: How do I review a Russian literature classic? Better yet, how do I review a Russian literature classic without sounding like a total dumbass? (Hint: It’s probably not going to happen.)

First I suppose a short plot synopsis should be in order:

The Idiot portrays young, childlike Prince Myshkin, who returns to his native Russia to seek out distant relatives after he has spent several years in a Swi
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
Oct 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, reviewed
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, or more accurately, 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 wher
Ahmad Sharabiani
861. Идиот = The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Idiot (Russian: Идио́т, 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 the more worldly characters he encounters to mistakenly assume that he lacks intelligence and insig
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Prince Lev Nicolayevich Myschkin discovered relativity in 1886.

Well, actually the scientific theory of relativity wasn’t discovered until 30 years later, by Albert Einstein, but I don’t think that discovery would have been possible without the relativistic ferment that had started sweeping through Europe in the mid-19th century, with its ultimate CHRISTIAN formulation in The Idiot, in 1886.

Moral chaos is so cataclysmic to conservative spectators. So much so to Prince Myschkin, in fact, that he s
Adam Dalva
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Henry Avila
Apr 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 bel ...more
Death Penalty and Epilepsy

Have you ever imagined what you would think and feel if you had a gun to your head, about to be executed?

Returning to St. Petersburg from a Swiss sanatorium, the gentle but naive Prince Myshkin pays a visit to his distant relatives. He was receiving treatment for epilepsy and "idiocy". (Until the 20th an actual medical term for neurological disorders). Starting with the train ride to St. Petersburg he is thrown headfirst back into the corrupted society and encounters se
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 mome ...more
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
We tend to view innocence as an uplifting cleansing virtue. Contact with it is supposed to improve the soul. But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, in company, my five year old son will blurt out something I don’t want outsiders to know and I end up blushing! His innocence causes me discomfort. I also remember that little girl from Aleppo who every day updated online the situation in the besieged city. Imagine the reactions of Assad’s regime to her online posts. Would they have been won over ...more
Em Lost In Books
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 ...more
Jul 20, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Do you answer ‘yes’ to any of the following questions?

1. You ever sleep in another person’s house for the first time, not wanting to turn on a light to see your way to the toilet, and run into a wall?
2. You ever been in a public building at night and the power fails, and you run into a wall?
3. You ever been camping with an overcast night and straggle into the woods to take a pee, and run into a wall of shrubbery?
4. You ever been in a leadership reaction course, blindfolded, and run into a wall?
May 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Don’t let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex and varied than our subsequent explanations of them.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot


At once 'The Idiot' is a complicated, beautiful and yet ultimately a somewhat flawed novel. Written shortly after 'Crime and Punishment', it seems like Dostoevsky wanted to invert Raskolnikov. Instead of a mad killer, Prince Myshkin the 'Idiot' is an innocent saint, a positive, a beautiful soul and holy fool motivated by
Sep 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like long dialogue and larger-than-life characters
Are there countries in the world which are more likely to produce depressing literature than others? If so, Russia must be pretty much top of the list. I have yet to read a Russian novel which ends well for all the protagonists. I can only think of a few in which things end well for even a few of the protagonists. And Dostoyevsky of course loves his tragedies. The Idiot is one of them. While it's not as tragic as, say, Crime and Punishment, nearly all of its protagonists come to a sticky end, an ...more
Did I ever think a day would come for me to say that I was disappointed in a work by Dostoevsky? A month ago I would have laughed at the very thought. But a month later, I'm not laughing. I'm shocked to find that it is possible. And if it is possible to break your heart over a literary disappointment, I should say that I am brokenhearted.

At present, I'm nursing my wound, so maybe this is not the right time to write a review. But at the same time I feel that if I do not write now, I never will
Aug 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
Here's Dostoyevski's mode of proceeding, and it's maddening. One, here's what I'm about to tell you; two, now here I am actually telling it to you; and three, now let's review what I've just told you. Every point is handled thus. The tedium! Nevertheless, it's D so I forced myself to read most of it. In the end the book fell heavily from my hands and I woke.
Roy Lotz
This book disappointed me. I never thought I would be saying this with regard to a book by Dostoyevsky, but it's true. Perhaps this is only because I’ve been spoiled by reading The Brothers Karamazov, which even admirers of The Idiot will likely admit is a much stronger work. Yet I was not merely unimpressed by this work, but was often greatly frustrated by it. To be concise, I found The Idiot to be a rambling mess.

Anyone familiar with Dostoyevsky’s work will know that he is not a versatile ar
Sidharth Vardhan
The tragedy of being too good

An ideal idiot

Most of my favorite characters are either pure evil or complex anti-hero type; the stereotype Mr. Goody-two-shoes has never appealed to me; however Prince Muishkin, the idiot in the novel, is now going to be an exception.

He has suffered from idiocy due to epilepsy (FD too suffered from epilepsy attacks) all his childhood and early youth. Perhaps it was due to this idiocy that he has not adopted the common sense – the ‘normal’ way of looking at the w
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
It took me five months and four days to finish this book, I think I took longer reading War and Peace but that is a longer book. Was it worth it?

When I started reading this book I had a feeling that this is probably Fyodor Dostoyevsky's most lighthearted book, not that I am an expert on his works, I only read Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov neither of which are a great source of hilarity. Of course, you don’t read Dostoyevsky for laughs but while reading the first few chapter
Megan Baxter
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
What is the difference between simplicity and being an idiot? In different ways, this question is asked over and over again over the course of this book. And can an honest man survive in society - to be precise, Russian society in the 19th century.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian-authors
Great novel. Beautifully written. Characters were brilliant. The story is about a perfectly, moral good man thrown into a world of corruption. He returns from a sanitarium in Switzerland where he was being treated for epilepsy.

I liked the underlying theme where he talks about unique, ordinary and original people. The different threads of love and the love triangle was excellent to read and see how the madness unfolded.

Prince Myshkin is the main character whose guilelessness and honesty is perce
Elie F
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-reread, russian
A Russian Don Quixote?
In mid-19th century Russia when Dostoyevsky wrote The Idiot, it was the heyday of the thoughts of the Slavophiles who suggested a dichotomy between Russia and the West, the former being more spiritual, pure, and harmonious, the latter being more material, unfaithful, and cynical. In The Idiot, Dostoyevsky portrayed a dichotomy within Russia itself. Myshkin, the Idiot and simultaneously a man of great intelligence, is distinguished from the Russian society. Even though every
A Prince Among Men
"The humor of Dostoyevsky is the humor of a bar loafer who ties a kettle to a dog's tail." W. Somerset Maugham, A Writer's Notebook

Prince Myshkin, this novel's protagonist, immediately came to mind when I recently heard the phrase "a prince among men," well after having read this a few years back.

What happens when you drop into higher society a man with a title but an illness that took him away to Switzerland for all his youth? Dostoevsky wanted to write a novel that answered t
Dear Lord, help me to keep going.

Yeah, right, I'm finally done with reading this but did my prayers pay off?

I feel completely exhausted & tired after reading this book, I don't even know whether these are Dostoyevsky's magical words or it's the translator interpretation.

I know deciding to pick this up as my first Dostoesvesky read was nothing less than a stunt but I think the only reason why I read this one was because I've always wanted to. I guess I was 12-13 back then, when I was given this b
Manuel Antão
Sep 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2003
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Hysterical Melodrama: "The Idiot" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Constance Garnett (Translator), Alan Myers (Translator), Joseph Frank (Introduction), Anna Brailovsky (Translator)

I'd like to suggest that reading choice, at all ages, resembles a vortex. One's favourite books and authors swirl round, and are re-read (I've always been a great re-reader). New books are sucked in to join the vortex, and some of the favourites gradually sink down, j
Mar 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian-history
I tend to applaud writers who can tell an amazing story in few pages to those in need of a tome to tell a mediocre story

I read The Idiot as my quarterly 2017 classic challenge and had hoped for the experience I has this time last year while reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. War and Peace I really enjoyed as the plot and the characterisation was excellent and the book was so readable and interesting, while The Idiot is readable and is well written in places it does tend to be on the dry sid
PGR Nair
Feb 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites

I am selective in reading novels, particularly long ones, and I dither to dip my head into middling ones even if they offer some interesting perspectives on life, history or storytelling. I was wary when started reading The Idiot , since the drama spans over 660 pages. Having read the work, my feeling is –Give me another 600 pages of this signature! The Idiot has made deep imprint in my psyche and I am sure it is going to stay with me fore
Helene Jeppesen
Aug 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first book by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and it is certainly not going to be my last! When I started reading, I was obviously very curious to see what Dostoyevsky's writing and story-telling was like, and why everyone seems to love him so much. I was quickly enthralled in the story, and even though "The Idiot" is a 500-page-book, I finished it within a week.
This is the story of the idiot Prince Myshkin who comes to Russia to connect with his relations. I loved how the story opened up in a
May 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Love children especially, for they too are sinless like the angels; they live to soften and purify our hearts and, as it were, to guide us."

Dostoyevsky despised the view that a child's thoughts were not worthy of consideration, in fact he believed a child was necessary (aside from the obvious evolutionary necessity of children of course) in our society due to our increasingly selfish tendencies, and believed a child was always well intentioned. This does remind me of a certain character in thi
Jul 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dostoevsky wrote in a letter to Apollon Maykov (poet and friend) that his idea with The Idiot was to create a "positively beautiful man." In another letter to his niece -- Sofya Ivanova -- he further writes:

"The main idea of the novel is to portray a positively beautiful man. There is nothing more difficult in the world and especially now. All writers, not only ours, but even all European writes, who have merely attempted to portray the positively beautiful, have always given up. Because the tas
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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, ...more

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