Helen reviews Free Books

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Posted on: March 23, 2011

Considered ‘an idiot’ due to his illness and his simple approach to life, Prince Lef Nicolaievitch Muishkin, becomes entwined with, and has a strong effect on, the lives of the many characters he comes in contact with.

We first meet the Prince as a young man, travelling back to Russia after many years of living in Switzerland where he was being treated for his epilepsy.

He has received a letter and, as he has no close living relative he intends to call on a distant relation before commencing his life back in St Petersburg.

From the very start he meets Parfen Rogojin who becomes both friend and nemesis.

As the story progresses he meets a variety of characters, including the beautiful Nastasia Philipovna, who will continue to play havoc with his life until the very end of the book.

Like many Russian novels, it is quite a long read with a great number of characters whose lives continue to intertwine. Murder, philosophy, religion and politics are all matters discussed and examined within the life of this novel.

While many commentators consider Muishkin to be ‘Christlike’, I tend to disagree.

I like that Muishkin has the ability for seeing people as they really are. This combined with always attempting to see the very best in them gave him a great simplicity.

But, I also found him a bit wishy washy and by the end of the novel I wanted him to just make up his mind about which woman he loved!

Prepare yourself for a long read of over 650 pages. (depending on the publisher and the translation)

If you struggle with Russian novels at the best of times, try a later translation of the work to make the job a bit easier.

I found the Project Gutenburg version very good, but it depends on your reading choice and the challenge you would like to give yourself.

The print version can also be purchased new or secondhand at Amazon.com and other booksellers.

Please feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.


1 Response to "The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky"

I think I may have started this book but never finished it!!

I also think I read somewhere that Dostoevsky is famous for beginning a psychological tradition in literature. Maybe when it’s friggin’ cold and you are poor, you don’t have much else to do but study human characters!!

By the by and I know it’s not about Dostoevsky but it’s Russian right?….I still haven’t seen The Last Station – did you ever see that? Must put it on my To Do list and do it!

Also by the by and speaking of Russians, a friend and I went to see How I ended the Summer at the Barracks last week……another long tortured story. It was shot on the Red camera – hence a lot of fuss about it I think….David and Margaret loved it but, if you want a laugh, do read other people’s comments about the film – many differ quite markedly from David and Margaret’s opinion. Some nice scenery and the polar bear was quite exciting but I think could have been given a bigger role.

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  • Mary: I just finished "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and I have to say that in my 58 years of reading that it is by far the best book I've ever read. I can't believe
  • Alex Daw: Can't help myself and I know you have more than enough to read but you might be interested in this site too.... http://girlebooks.com/
  • Alex Daw: Luvski You have been reading so many interesting books. I quite missed this one. Wasn't this made into a movie with that dreadful man - here in Q


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