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on December 29, 2006
The Idiot is one of the finest novels in history, perhaps the finest. In this novel, the enigma that is often referred to as "THE RUSSIAN SOUL" is variously dissected through the different characters and more so by the hero of the story Prince Myshkin. In its simplest explanation, it is a soul with good intentions but faulty in executing the intentions. It is a soul in conflict, driven by the zest for life and a search of its meaning. Certainly the most Christian of Dostoyevsky's novels, THE IDIOT portrays how disastrous a good life can be. Rich in characters, this classic centers mostly on the good Prince Myshkin, a recovering epileptic with a rich soul who is easily perceived as an 'idiot' by the casual observer who focuses on his childlike manners especially in expressing himself and his naivety in dealing with people. But then a closer look reveals that his manners are the reflections of his honest soul, the wealth of his big heart and the broadness of his mind.

And only in deeper engagements does it become evident that Myshkin however has superior understanding and expression, which makes him modest and intelligent rather than stupid. His simple, honest and decent life is succinctly conveyed in his interactions, generating both love and resentment. The saintly Myshkin however struggles to deal with a materialistic world which has no place for the virtuous, and to reconcile his passionate and compassionate love for two women. But the love of the women corrupt and drives men out of their minds. Nastasia Filipovna whom Myshkin has compassionate love for is a tormented soul that can only love Christ and in Myshkin she found that Christ-like figure. Her rival Aglia has Myshkin's heart but failed to understand Myshkin's serene love for her and abandons him to the destructive love of Nastasia.

This is great intellectual work that we should to take seriously in general, a book to read with a serious mindset. Then you will understand the unique nature of Russia which our western minds have difficulties to comprehend. This strange land called Russia that has a bigger soul than any other is explored here in this story in a way that only Dostoyevsky unveils. Read it and you will finish it enriched. The Idiot is a thoroughly enjoyable novel of ideas that explores the nature of man and society and gives you a better idea of man and his actions. You shouldn't find it strange that the characters are philosophical, impulsive, introspective, energetic, colorful, and extreme in their passions. That is Russia, a land of extremes. This book is likely to impact you. It is one of the few of our times. I highly recommend it along with THE UNION MOUJIK.Also recommended: THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV,THE USURPER AND OTHER STORIES, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
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on June 27, 2000
I came to Dostoevsky through the back door, so to speak. In about 1958 or 1959, a small art theater in Dallas, Texas was showing a movie of THE IDIOT that had been filmed in Russia in 1958, under the direction of Ivan Pyriev, a leading Russian director. How this movie ever got from Russia to Dallas or where it disappeared to after I saw it, I don't know. I do know that it is impossible to find.
All this is by way of introduction. This stark, black and white film so fascinated me that I had to read the book. THE IDIOT had such an impact on me that I felt compelled to search out and read everything I could find by and about Dostoevsky. His body of work then led me to many of the other great Russian writers; Tolstoy, Turgenev, Gogol, and, of course, the father of them all, Aleksandr Pushkin. I even discovered some of the "lesser" Russian writers such as Goncharev. In my case, at least, one good book led to years of wonderful reading.
THE IDIOT, the book that started it all for me, stands on its own as a wonderful piece of literature. It can be read by itself, or as a part of the body of Dostoevsky's work, or within the framework of great Russian literature. Attempting to determine which book or which of these authors is better is an exercise in futility and, if you'll pardon me, of sophistry. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, "A good book is a good book is a good book."
Dostoevsky did say that THE IDIOT was his favorite of his books. Perhaps that was because of certain biographical aspects of the book. Dostoevsky, like Myshkin, was an epileptic. Myshkin returns to St. Petersburg and its callous society after years of absence during which he underwent medical treatment for his "idiocy." Dostoevsky, in real life, returned to St. Petersburg after a long absence that consisted of his incarceration in Siberia for four years followed by an additional four years of enforced army duty. These are not the only biographical aspects of THE IDIOT. I would not want to be misunderstood, however. Dostoevsky incorporated aspects of his own life into the book but it is not, in any way, a work of fictionalized autobiography.
Prince Myshkin, the "idiot" of the title, is as near to being a saint as is possible for a flesh and blood human being. His saintliness is accompanied by naivete. He is naive to such a degree that he cannot anticipate the consequences of his actions. His attempts to do good often reap havoc on those about whom he cares. Because he loves one woman and pities another, he inadvertantly ends up being a destructive force in both their lives. In trying to redeem one, who is essentially unredeemable, he indirectly causes her to be murdered. From the standpoint of pure innocence a case could be made that Myshkin was the model for Jerzy Kosinski's Chauncey Gardener.
Dostoevsky is certainly a master of the psychological novel, and THE IDIOT is a novel that delves into the soul of a man. He investigates the impact that a corrupt society has on the soul of an incorruptable man and, conversely, the impact of goodness and spirituality on a corrupt society which is unwilling to be swayed. I wish that I could say that society was improved for having been exposed to Myshkin, but it wasn't changed any more than the wealthy of Rome were changed by their exposure to the early Christian martyrs.
THE IDIOT is a book that is well worth reading. It is not necessary to "ease into it" by reading another of his novels first as has been suggested elsewhere on these pages. What is necessary is to bring a thoughtful mind along with you when you sit down to what should be one of the greater reading experiences that may come your way.
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on March 11, 2005
The Idiot is one of the finest novels in history, perhaps the finest. In this novel, the enigma that is often referred to as "THE RUSSIAN SOUL" is variously dissected through the different characters and more so by the hero of the story Prince Myshkin. In its simplest explanation, it is a soul with good intentions but faulty in executing the intentions. It is a soul in conflict, driven by the zest for life and a search of its meaning. Certainly the most Christian of Dostoyevsky's novels, THE IDIOT portrays how disastrous a good life can be. Rich in characters, this classic centers mostly on the good Prince Myshkin, a recovering epileptic with a rich soul who is easily perceived as an 'idiot' by the casual observer who focuses on his childlike manners especially in expressing himself and his naivety in dealing with people. But then a closer look reveals that his manners are the reflections of his honest soul, the wealth of his big heart and the broadness of his mind.
And only in deeper engagements does it become evident that Myshkin however has superior understanding and expression, which makes him modest and intelligent rather than stupid. His simple, honest and decent life is succinctly conveyed in his interactions, generating both love and resentment. The saintly Myshkin however struggles to deal with a materialistic world which has no place for the virtuous, and to reconcile his passionate and compassionate love for two women. But the love of the women corrupt and drives men out of their minds. Nastasia Filipovna whom Myshkin has compassionate love for is a tormented soul that can only love Christ and in Myshkin she found that Christ-like figure. Her rival Aglia has Myshkin's heart but failed to understand Myshkin's serene love for her and abandons him to the destructive love of Nastasia.
This is great intellectual work that we should to take seriously in general, a book to read with a serious mindset. Then you will understand the unique nature of Russia which our western minds have difficulties to comprehend. This strange land called Russia that has a bigger soul than any other is explored here in this story in a way that only Dostoyevsky unveils. Read it and you will finish it enriched. The Idiot is a thoroughly enjoyable novel of ideas that explores the nature of man and society and gives you a better idea of man and his actions. You shouldn't find it strange that the characters are philosophical, impulsive, introspective, energetic, colorful, and extreme in their passions. That is Russia, a land of extremes. This book is likely to impact you. It is one of the few of our times. I highly recommend it along with DISCIPLES OF FORTUNE.
Also recommended: THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, THE UNION MOUJIK, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, TRIPLE AGENT DOUBLE CROSS
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on May 29, 2015
This book was my first ever that was over 500 pages long. It was a big step, but after deciphering the various names it was a decent read. I find the English used to be appropriate and may have had to translate a dozen words to get their meaning.

The story is rather broad, I enjoyed it, but I felt a bit worn down at the end. Some parts suddenly bring the reader to understand things such as the human condition, Russian politics and history. I found them interesting and they bring a different dimension to the main plot. I can't said that I really felt like I could identify myself with most of the characters depicted who seemed to portray very strong traits in specific attitudes.
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on January 27, 2015
good book, very classic. slow old fashioned story that takes a long time to get through and doesint have a fast paced story more of a collection of life stories for one character, highly recommended.
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on September 22, 1998
This is probably one of the five most important books in my life. I sincerely believe that reading it will make anyone a better person. This is, by far, Dostoyesvkys' proudest achievement.
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on July 10, 2015
Well written. Interesting, easy to read.
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on July 31, 2016
Brilliant book very clever....
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on March 13, 2015
Great book and Quick shipping
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