Adam Dalva's Reviews > The Idiot

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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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 Prince Myshkin will stick with me forever, as will the cursed love between Nastasya Fillippovna and Rogozhin. The idea of a pure man misunderstood by an impure society is wonderful, but THE IDIOT reads more like a sequence of thematic parables than a novel.

I've been taught, and I teach, the iceberg theory of writing. The author should know more about her characters than she is willing to show (90% below water, 10% visible.) This iceberg is almost totally submerged. The main action - the stuff I was dying to see - too often occurred BETWEEN parts of the novel. I have never experienced such exciting exposition in my life - but I saw almost none of that excitement on the page. Structurally, this makes it somewhat disastrous, and it feels rushed, as if Dostoevsky was so eager to plumb the depth of philosophy that he forgot to provide us with a plot. This makes the book fascinating, but a very, very slow read. I am very grateful to have read it; I was rarely grateful to be reading it.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
March 23, 2019 – Shelved
March 23, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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Fergus Terrific review, Adam! I really love your iceberg theory - and I have a very good friend SO like the Prince that I can clearly see his, much larger and more complete, soul and story submerged beneath the waves as I read. Therefore I’m having a much easier time with this phenomenal book. It has become my Dostoyevskian all-time favourite!


message 2: by Tom Swift (new)

Tom Swift I just started The Brothers Karamazov today.


message 3: by Kenny (new)

Kenny Fantastic review. I just picked this up last weekend to add to my planned Dostoyevsky read-a-thon I have planned.


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