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The Idiot

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  11,873 Ratings  ·  1,968 Reviews
A portrait of the artist as a young woman. A novel about not just discovering but inventing oneself.

The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, b
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Hardcover, 423 pages
Published March 14th 2017 by Penguin Press
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Lisa This is a book about a person who is interested in romance, but doesn't know quite how to approach it. I could identify with that struggle.

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Roxane
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was an interesting novel, dense, unique, written from a very specific point of view. One of those books where I marvel that it was published and am grateful it was published because, I mean, who wants to read the same type of book over and over? As someone who went to college in the 90s, not far from where much of this novel takes place, I felt an unexpected amount of nostalgia for that first year of college where you know nothing but think you know everything and are surrounded by people w ...more
Blair
With the abrupt sadness of The Idiot's final sentence, I felt a near-physical wrench, as if forcibly separated from someone who had swiftly become a good friend. I probably read the second half of the book too quickly – I loved it so much, and wish I'd taken more time to savour it – but once I'd started, I just couldn't stop.

The eponymous idiot is 18-year-old Harvard freshman Selin (though with all the Russian influences popping up throughout the story, the title is clearly intended to evoke Dos
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Jessica Sullivan
2.5/5 Stars.

I had a really complicated relationship with this book. On the surface, it appears to have everything I enjoy in a novel—a quirky protagonist, smart insights, dry humor, a character-driven narrative—but if I'm being honest, it was completely tedious and desperate for some more extensive editing.

It's a Bildungsroman story about a Turkish-American girl named Selin who begins her freshman year at Harvard University. Selin is awkward, insecure and unprepared for this next part of her lif
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Barry Pierce
I was ready to give up on The Idiot at page 100. There was no distinct plot - nothing major seemed to be happening except for a girl describing her classes at university. But I persisted. Thank god for that.

The Idiot is the story of Selin, a student at Harvard in the mid-90s. The mid-90s were strange time to be at university. Selin begins her tale with the line, 'I didn’t know what email was until I got to college.' Batuman is obsessed with liminality, or the state of being in between. Selin's w
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Bruno
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
NOTHING REALLY HAPPENS. IT'S LIKE KNAUSGÅRD BUT WITH HUNGARIANS.
Rebecca
(3.5) This is such an odd debut novel that, though I ultimately thought it a very funny anti-Bildungsroman, I’d hesitate to recommend it too widely. Nostalgia for pre-technology college days, some familiarity with Eastern European literature (especially the absurdist tradition), and a fascination with linguistic theory and foreign languages would be good prerequisites for enjoying this – but then again, none of those criteria are quite valid for me.

In brief, this is Selin’s account of her freshm
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Elyse Walters
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook, audio
Library Overdrive Audiobook....read by the author Elif Batuman

I loved this book. I equally adored Elif Batuman’s seductively-innocent-child-sounding voice. I had no idea what to expect. The first time I looked at this book was a few weeks ago when in San Francisco with a Goodreads friends in Citylights book store. I still haven’t read any reviews- all I knew was that this was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Who doesn’t remember their freshman year of college - if you went? And tra
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Dea
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley, on-kindle
I really hate when books with titles like The Idiot make me feel like I’m the person the title is referring to. This book is either really smart or faux smart, and I don’t feel smart enough to figure out which of the two it is (though I’m kind of leaning towards “faux smart” to make myself feel better). Side note: Faux Smart would be an amazing band name. Maybe one word, like Fauxsmart? I expect to be credited in the future debut Fauxsmart album!!!

I get the sense that this was written in the tra
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Helene Jeppesen
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! I admit I was a bit sceptical going into this book because it’s a novel that seems to split the waters. But I LOVED it!
“The Idiot” is a coming-of-age story (a genre that I love) that speaks to my linguistic heart. We follow Selin who starts at Harvard college as a student of language, and we get to be inside her head when she observes the world, the people around her, the language they use, and the culture they come from. It feels like we are living inside a bubble with her that doesn’t re
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BlackOxford
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: american
Facebook Bound

I knew I should have kept a diary after I left secondary school. Not that I had experienced anything extraordinary in my young adulthood, but it could have proved useful for writerly gaps in later life. On the other hand if my diary was as tedious and banal as Batuman’s, I would have destroyed it as an embarrassing mistake.

To say that The Idiot is pointless might sound severe. Batuman writes grammatical sentences and believable dialogue. But the sentences and dialogue drone on endl
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Part of my warm feelings to this book must be because the author is reflecting so much of my own experience, that era (95-96) of life-changing technology and the normalization of the internet right at the gateway to college, with suddenly changing relationships and interactions, especially how email changed flirtations!
"I began to feel that I was living two lives - one consisting of emails with Ivan, the other consisting of school."
Selin is the main character, a Turkish American studying lingui
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Paul
Jul 30, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: novels
I suppose it's appropriate that one of the recurring themes in Elif Batuman's The Idiot is the sensation of being trapped – in conversation, in a situation, in a location. Because about two-thirds of the way through this frustrating and tedious novel, I realized I too was trapped – too curious to simply jettison the story, all too aware that the plot was heading into ever more stagnant territory. In the end, I couldn't help but feel that the title, although ostensibly a reference to the Dostoyev ...more
Julie Ehlers
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Idiot is a hard book to review, because everything about it comes down to personal taste. There's no plot or narrative arc to speak of—the book just follows our narrator, 18-year-old Selin, as she goes through her first year of college and a summer abroad. We hear about everything that happens to her, and especially everything she thinks about. So even if the lack of plot doesn't bother you, it still really comes down to whether you enjoy being in Selin's company. I can speak only for myself ...more
Meike
Mar 08, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: usa, 2018-read
DNF at around 70 % of the audiobook - I rarely DNF books, but I am so bored right now that I am starting to get aggressive, and we don't want that, do we? :-) Let's try to give a fair account of what this book is about: Selin is a freshman at Harvard, she tries to find her own path in life and her search strategy is highly influenced by the things she learns about language at school. Batuman is trying to bring together linguistic/literary theory and its application in everyday life when she desc ...more
Michael Ferro
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This novel is a slow burn, but it's a pleasant warmth—not a scorching fire of excitement. But it's not meant to be either. Batuman has delivered a delightful, excruciatingly smart work of literary fiction that so perfectly captures the confusion of young love. For anyone who has ever felt "different," or a bit separated from a common reality, THE IDIOT is in your wheelhouse.

Batuman is a writer's writer, giving us what our brain craves and doesn't waste our time with the cheap thrills that other
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Jennifer
This hit the spot for me, but I absolutely see why it has driven other people nuts. Video review here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwIt-...
Gumble's Yard
[Svetelena said] I lived by aesthetic principles, whereas she, who had been raised on Western philosophy, was doomed to live boringly be ethical principles. It had never occurred to me to think of aesthetics and ethics as opposites. I thought ethics were aesthetic. “Ethics” meant the golden rule, which was basically an aesthetic rule. That’s why it was called “golden” like the golden ratio. “Isn’t that why you don’t cheat or steal – because it’s ugly” I said


I read this novel due to its longlis
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Tulay
Aug 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
After listening this book, had to think about it long and hard before writing a review. First of all only reason I wanted to read was author is a daughter of Turkish parents. Places she was visiting was exciting places I would love to visit or lived in. But this book is definitely for twenty something age group, just going to university and discovering what life is about.
Alice Lippart
I feel like most of this book just went completely over my head. I don't get it :)
Rachel
The Idiot is a book you either click with or you don't. I absolutely understand why some readers have found it maddening. I can't recall the last book I read where less happened than it did here, which, considering that it's nearly a five-hundred page book, is kind of a triumph in its own right. But I got along with The Idiot splendidly.

This is quiet, sparse, cerebral, philosophical, surprisingly humorous account of a Turkish-American girl's first year at Harvard. In one of her Russian classes s
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Hannah Knight
May 22, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-in-2017
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kimberly
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
I won a copy of The Idiot by Elif Batuman here on Goodreads and couldn't wait to read it. Unfortunately, I didn't love it. This is a novel in which nothing truly happens: nothing good, nothing bad, and nothing exciting. At over four hundred pages of what read like a rambling stream of consciousness, I never felt invested in the story or connected with any of the characters. Intelligently written with occasional dry humor and several interesting facts, it wasn't an unpleasant read; however, it is ...more
Umut Reviews
I read 30% of this book falling for the cover and the fact that it's on the long list for Women's Prize.
Sadly I had to DNF it because I'm bored to death! I think there will be people who will like this style of writing, but it's just not for me. For a book to take me in, there needs to be one of these elements:
-Beautiful writing that I will admire. In this one, the sentences are short, feels choppy. Very daily language, I feel like I'm reading someone's journal during college days in a very sim
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Elaine
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Just loved this. While reading, I kept feeling like I had read versions of this before -- a rambling story about a cerebral main character who as a young person confronts a bewildering world of eccentric characters and odd situations without ever quite mastering them, instead always (mis)reading the world like a puzzling text - but, typically, such novels have a male protagonist. (I kept thinking of Confederacy of Dunces, actually, while reading this, largely because of some echo in the tone). S ...more
cristina c
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Selin è una diciottenne che sembra non appartenere fino in fondo a nessun posto. Studia ad Harvard ma è di origine turche, cerca di imparare il russo ma lo trova ostico, vuole scrivere ma a volte teme che la scrittura sia sfuggire alla vita e insegue l'amore senza riuscire ad afferrarlo mentre invece trova con facilità l'amicizia che non ha cercato.
Avevo già letto la Batuman anni fa, nel suo primo libro tradotto in Italia I Posseduti che mi aveva deluso perché lo credevo un libro che sulla lette
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Eric Anderson
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel made me feel nostalgic. Set at Harvard in the mid-to-late 1990s Elif Batuman’s “The Idiot” follows a freshman named Selin as she navigates the uncertain territory of college life, young love and finding a direction in life. I went to college at this exact same time in Boston (at a much smaller, non-ivy league school) and shared many of Selin’s experiences of starting to use email for the first time and riding on the T or the MBTA subway around the city. Selin comes from a privileged T ...more
Sophie
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ο τίτλος του μυθιστορήματος της Batuman δε μπορεί παρά φέρει στο μυαλό του αναγνώστη το ομότιτλο έργο του Dostoyevsky, κι αυτή είναι η προσδοκία, θεωρώ, της συγγραφέως· και τα δυο κείμενα που μοιράζονται τον ίδιο τίτλο μοιράζονται και μια μορφή ακραίας αφέλειας, του απροετοίμαστου για την πραγματική ζωή πρωταγωνιστή.

Η ηρωίδα της Batuman βέβαια κάθε άλλο παρά ανόητη θα μπορούσε να χαρακτηριστεί, μάλλον αποπροσανατολισμένη στο πανεπιστημιακό περιβάλλον, όπου τα ασυνήθιστα ταλέντα παύουν να είναι α
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Steve Walker
I received an ARC from the publisher for a free and honest review.

Everyone has their favorite coming-of-age novel. Sadly, there may come a time for some when this sub-genre no longer works. I had high hopes for this novel. However, I just did not care. Lost interest in the characters, found myself rolling my eyes at some of the dialogue. This was not the novel for me. However, I look forward to the author's next novel.
Patrick Brown
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: campus-lit
Unlike anything else I've read. Very funny, but with a bunch of layers to peel back. Highly recommended, especially if you like campus novels.
Nick Jordan
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
This reads like the unpublished first novel of someone who went to an Ivy League school and decided to become a writer. And that is apparently very close to what it is. In a Fresh Air interview, Batuman (a staff writer with the New Yorker) says as much, although it's completely rewritten from an old draft of a first novel. The main character, learning the ropes of late adolescence in her first year at Harvard, falls hard for someone who doesn't fall so hard for her. There is little emotional dep ...more
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Tournament of Books: This topic has been closed to new comments. The Idiot 51 204 Apr 17, 2018 10:31AM  
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Elif Batuman is an American author, academic, and journalist. Born in New York City to Turkish parents, she grew up in New Jersey. She graduated from Harvard College and received her doctorate in comparative literature from Stanford University, where she taught.

Batuman is currently the writer-in-residence at Koç University. While in graduate school, she studied the Uzbek language in Samarkand, Uz
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“I found myself remembering the day in kindergarten when the teachers showed us Dumbo, and I realized for the first time that all the kids in the class, even the bullies, rooted for Dumbo, against Dumbo's tormentors. Invariably they laughed and cheered, both when Dumbo succeeded and when bad things happened to his enemies. But they're you, I thought to myself. How did they not know? They didn't know. It was astounding, an astounding truth. Everyone thought they were Dumbo.” 55 likes
“I kept thinking about the uneven quality of time--the way it was almost always so empty, and then with no warning came a few days that felt so dense and alive and real that it seemed indisputable that that was what life was, that its real nature had finally been revealed. But then time passed and unthinkably grew dead again, and it turned out that that fullness had been an aberration and might never come back.” 32 likes
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