PDA

View Full Version : Fyodor Dostoevsky - Idiot



Veva
07-12-2008, 08:45 AM
Hi, I am currently reading Fyodor Dostoevsky's Idiot and I would really like to know what do u think of it.... :D

Kafka's Crow
07-13-2008, 04:41 AM
My teacher rated it higher than even The Brothers Karamazov. I think this one is Dostoevsky's second best. I want to re-read it, read it 18 years ago (do I feel old? Hell, yes!)

I found it a bit slow-paced, specially when compared to Crime and Punishment and even Karamazov but it deals with my favorite Dostoevskian theme, the plight of a good man in an evil society. A very, very rewarding read indeed.

kelby_lake
07-13-2008, 09:16 AM
Poor Myshkin!

lyamshin
07-13-2008, 10:17 AM
An incredibly difficult book to read. It's three different books, not just though plotline, but mainly because the main character has a different personality in each one. I would applaud you for making the effort, though.

johann cruyff
07-13-2008, 12:05 PM
It's one of Dostoevsky's slowest novels(some may even say,his most boring one),but I really liked it,even though I may not have been ready for it back when I read it,three years ago. Come to think of it now,it ranks amongst the very best of Dostoevsky's works in my opinion.

Gladys
07-13-2008, 06:38 PM
'The Idiot' is one of those wonderful books that impels you to ponder, days and weeks after finishing. I found 'The Idiot' complex but spectacularly unified in that, on long reflection, almost everything makes exquisite sense. And 'exquisite' is no exaggeration because Dostoevsky tells the story with so light a touch that the reader is enchanted by every page.

Years ago I adored 'Brothers Karamazov' and this book is as good or better. So much of the poignantly human is packed into a smaller book.

I’m a third way through ‘Crime and Punishment’ and feel as though I have been tortured. Unlike the breezy Myshkin, Raskalnikov is a lead weight around my neck.

Trystan
07-14-2008, 05:34 PM
The Idiot is a beautiful book. There are books which I really enjoy and there are books that I feel are "OK". I do not fit the idiot into either of these categories .. . for it is so well written, so well characterised and has possibly the most likable character in fiction: P. Myshkin, a real Christ-like figure destroyed in an evil world. I loved the book so much, I was unable to put it down (I should've been studying!). Reading it was just great. A real classic.

I have read about half (had to drop because I needed to read other things) of "Crime and Punishment" and it was great, but it didn't have the magic of The Idiot (though I will reserve judgment until I read it again). If it's true that Karamazov is the best, I look forward it!

Gladys
07-14-2008, 08:31 PM
P. Myshkin, a real Christ-like figure destroyed in an evil world Destroyed? I'm not so sure.

There seems something of a resurrection, if we are to believe Vera Lebedev, Lizabetha Prokofievna and the skeptical playboy Evgenie Pavlovitch, in the closing paragraphs of 'The Idiot'.

Loike
07-15-2008, 12:12 PM
I liked The Idiot but much preferred The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment. Having said that, though, those two are my favourite novels anyway, so I'm bound to say I prefer them. *Oh, sweet bias!* The Idiot is a very rewarding read, although a little difficult at times, as I think a previous member has commented. Myshkin is lovely, but again Alyosha is, in my opinion, far more lovely. It's definitely worth reading, anyway. :D. xx

jkohn
07-16-2008, 08:11 AM
Greetings and hello. This is my first post.

The Idiot is the first and only novel I've read by Dostoevsky so far. I agree with alot of the sentiments here that it is a tough book to get through largely in part to its complexity, not neccessarily because it bogs down which it does a bit but I dont mind a good bogging. I fell in love with alot of the characters in this book, even if some seem a little underdeveloped. Overall I think its a perfect account of what greed and jealousy can drive people to when presented with a completely exploitable and un-selfish outlet (The Prince) who would happily help anyone. With that in mind I present this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mB60OaNT6VA

Jozanny
08-05-2008, 10:30 AM
Greetings and hello. This is my first post.

The Idiot is the first and only novel I've read by Dostoevsky so far. I agree with alot of the sentiments here that it is a tough book to get through largely in part to its complexity, not neccessarily because it bogs down which it does a bit but I dont mind a good bogging. I fell in love with alot of the characters in this book, even if some seem a little underdeveloped. Overall I think its a perfect account of what greed and jealousy can drive people to when presented with a completely exploitable and un-selfish outlet (The Prince) who would happily help anyone. With that in mind I present this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mB60OaNT6VA

I just finished the Project Gutenberg plain text version, and I think I've had enough Dostoevsky to last me awhile. What kills this novel is its terrible structure; it makes Crime and Punishment look virtually Shakespearean by comparison, and in my estimation, Parfen and Nastassya have so much potential to be more complex foils than Dostoevsky gives them room for; instead Hippolite runs around like an ill-controlled Caliban.

Huh! If Dostoevsky's structure was meant to reflect the mental hysteria so prevalent in the major characters, it simply and utterly falls short.

Gladys
08-05-2008, 06:21 PM
If Dostoevsky's structure was meant to reflect the mental hysteria so prevalent in the major characters, it simply and utterly falls short. Having just read the straight-jacket of Crime and Punishment, I much prefer the joy, breezy humor and real-life complexity of 'The Idiot'. Its structure gives insight into the field of vision available to Myshkin and others. One only understands so much about people: Parfen and Nastassya are as vivid as your imagination makes them, and frenetic Hippolites do exist.

'The Idiot' is a bit like Picasso's Guernica in structure, scope and quality.

http://www.marseilleveyre.org/guernica1937/imguernica/guernica1.jpg

Jozanny
08-06-2008, 07:31 AM
Having just read the straight-jacket of Crime and Punishment, I much prefer the joy, breezy humor and real-life complexity of 'The Idiot'. Its structure gives insight into the field of vision available to Myshkin and others. One only understands so much about people: Parfen and Nastassya are as vivid as your imagination makes them, and frenetic Hippolites do exist.

'The Idiot' is a bit like Picasso's Guernica in structure, scope and quality.

I do not think the comparison to Picasso holds, because Picasso knew what he was doing with form in its challenge to representational accuracy. When Dostoevsky takes the time to critique himself in his own novel by saying he lets Hippolite get away from him, then that is when I begin to think that the application of the superlative--in terms of The Idiot being his best work, is problematic.

I am too Jamesian to offer an apologia for such sloppiness; if one wants to play a fools game with the reader, that's fine. Farce is a form, and there is Tristram Shandy, which sustains itself remarkably, and defines post-modernism before the movement existed, but to me The Idiot never finds its balance, doesn't know what it is, and the fact that its narrative is disjointed in no way reinforces the Prince's indecisiveness.

I will add this however: I have read a lot of Dostoevsky, and I'm too saturated with him not to feel frustrated with how heavy handed he is, how cliched his criminals and their mental states are. Time to move on to other voices.

Gladys
08-06-2008, 09:17 PM
…he lets Hippolite get away from him Perhaps. But isn't the tolerance and beneficence of the prince magnified, to divine levels, as result? Here is Picasso magic.


The Idiot never finds its balance, doesn't know what it is, and the fact that its narrative is disjointed in no way reinforces the Prince's indecisiveness Lack of balance is almost implicit in the book's title, and is true of all characters apart from the prince. An instance is the unanimous about-face in attitude by the guests at the house of General Yepanchin, where the prince confronts the Nihilists.

But you say that the prince is indecisive? No way. Never. He hesitates not through indecision, but in boundless compassion, in love. While 'heavy handed' may apply to 'Crime and Punishment', for me, 'The Idiot' dances bathed in flickering sunbeams.

AdrianLeverkuhn
06-04-2009, 02:33 PM
In defense of Fyodor I will quote Ms. Woolf

"The novels of Dostoevsky are seething whirlpools, gyrating sandstorms, waterspouts which hiss and boil and suck us in. They are composed purely and wholly of the stuff of the soul. Against our wills we are drawn in, whirled round, blinded, suffocated, and at the same time filled with a giddy rapture."

I'm not a student of literature so I can't really follow or understand much of the criticism in this thread but I can certainly understand where Virgina Woolf was coming from since that is exactly how I feel when reading F.D.

Gladys
06-06-2009, 06:41 AM
Virginia puts it so well.

Barbarous
07-31-2009, 05:45 PM
This is my favorite work by Dostoevsky and I've read Crime & Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov (second to the novel in question), Notes From Underground, and Demons. The Idiot is the novel I am struck by the most, there is nothing more profound to me than certain passages of the novel, which generate the infatuation with the geniality of balance (which I am not only referring to Myshkin here, but the balance of other things). With that said, I'm currently re-reading one of my favorite novels!

Gladys
07-31-2009, 09:14 PM
The Idiot is the novel I am struck by the most, there is nothing more profound to me than certain passages of the novel, which generate the infatuation with the geniality of balance

Ah, a kindred spirit!

DanielBenoit
08-26-2009, 03:28 PM
Just started it. I find Myshkin's story of Marie to be so moving.

Gladys
08-26-2009, 06:00 PM
The following post speaks of Marie:


Childhood/ Children in Dostoevsky's view. (www.online-literature.com/forums/showthread.php?p=628087#post628087)

country doctor
06-13-2011, 11:35 AM
'The Idiot' is one of those wonderful books that impels you to ponder, days and weeks after finishing. I found 'The Idiot' complex but spectacularly unified in that, on long reflection, almost everything makes exquisite sense. And 'exquisite' is no exaggeration because Dostoevsky tells the story with so light a touch that the reader is enchanted by every page.

Years ago I adored 'Brothers Karamazov' and this book is as good or better. So much of the poignantly human is packed into a smaller book.

I’m a third way through ‘Crime and Punishment’ and feel as though I have been tortured. Unlike the breezy Myshkin, Raskalnikov is a lead weight around my neck.

sorry gladys the doc can't agree w/ the opinion...he was disappointed w/ the book...a real letdown after looking so forward to cracking into it this spring...

a big fan of dostoevsky's work, the doc has always been uplifted when finishing his stories...on this one, not so much...

put it behind bk, c&P, the gambler, notes...and not even close for the doc...

one thing that took away from the story was the introduction where the guy writing it had to put down what was gonna happen in the end in his explaining of the book...so there was no build up as to what was gonna happen to nastassya...

the doc's opinion, fwiw...

Leo Bloom
06-13-2011, 11:58 AM
There is a brilliant screen version of the book. Quite authentic (especially Parfen). Sorry for original language without subtitles.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THcP5CkhNp0&feature=related

I would like to add something else: The meaning of main characters' names is extremely important for interpretation of this masterpiece (however, the name of Raskolnikov's too).

Gladys
06-14-2011, 01:12 AM
I enjoyed the YouTube.


one thing that took away from the story was the introduction where the guy writing it had to put down what was gonna happen in the end in his explaining of the book...so there was no build up as to what was gonna happen to nastassya...

How can the doc say that!

Dostoevsky foreshadows early the murder of Nastasya Filippovna by Roghozin because it's almost peripheral to the ending. The earth-shattering shock lies in Prince Myshkin shedding tears on the murderer, Roghozin's, cheek. And in the most curious nature of the final fate of the Prince (and Aglaya).

Did you think his actions mere madness? As for being "uplifted when finishing his stories", the ending of The Idiot is euphoric like no other Dostoevsky work.

country doctor
06-14-2011, 03:31 PM
true dat on the foreshadowing...but still, when you already know from reading the intro, there was something lost there for the doc...

sorry, but there was nothing euphoric on the finishing of the book for the doc besides the fact that he could move on to another read...the pages were easy enough to turn throughout the book, but after a nice beginning, the story never took hold...

as for madness...who's to say and the doc didn't really care...just was expecting more from this one, that's all...

the afterword was filled w/ words to the effect that this was dostoevsky's most relevant novel, but it just didn't do it for the country doctor...

Theunderground
06-18-2012, 12:30 PM
Read the first part again recently. Fabulous portrayal of a 'genuine man' in a world of selfish personalities. Prince M is the most astute and intelligent of all the characters,in no way an 'idiot'. And he pursues his love despite adverse circumstances. The only fault i may attribute to him is maybe he loved the wrong person?
Anyway,i wish someone would make a sequel with a happy ending.
Even that other great comparable story ends in death.
I think Dostoevsky really understood christ better than all the theologians and even many of the disciples.
And yes, real love is god!

Gladys
06-20-2012, 02:21 AM
Anyway,i wish someone would make a sequel with a happy ending.

The ending is happy: THE ENDING: ‘like a lamb dumb before his shearer’ (http://www.online-literature.com/forums/showthread.php?t=34352)

JCamilo
06-20-2012, 05:59 AM
The end still has sad elements (there is elements of tragedy in this whole comedy, in a very Shakepearean way), those friendship could be the prince capacity to redeem individuals, just like Jesus dying redeem the thief at this side. It is doubtful that dostoievisky main target (the society that shuns the traits of virtuous man) is "saved", but some individuals. But then, Dostoievisky also goes to say the majority of the people in Jesus society shunned him. Which is also sad, ressurection or not. The great Inquisitor perhaps answers well that Dostoievisky was not so optmistic towards the changes, even if the great inquisitor is a tirade against western christianity.

The end is also a bit similar to the melancholic end of Quixote (the prince is Quixote as much or even more than Jesus). He is forced by society to die. He accepts it, Quixote (the idiot) is abandoned, Alonso Quijano is there.

I would say the end is unconclusive, neither optimistic or pessimist, as pretty much all dostoievisky great books are. It is better a world that had the prince and lost, than one that never had him.

Theunderground
06-20-2012, 08:38 AM
Yes,there are some redemptive aspects in the way that the prince effects other people positively. But i would like to know that the prince Himself is still the same loving person,but a little more selective after his experiences. We want to see the prince ressurected!!! Jesus was,and even quixote finished on his 'epiphany or his 'new understanding of life'. Dostoevskys ending are generally dodgy,excepting the gambler and TBK to some extent.

JCamilo
06-20-2012, 10:16 AM
But the problem of the prince is not due a "flaw" on his character. Dostoievisky is talking about a man falling because of others . He seems an idiot, but the function of the idiot in a story is to reflect someone else. The prince does it, so the sequel would be positive if the society or the individuals the prince touched (lets say his apostles) changed, not the prince. If he get this judgement call you ask (a sellective prince) he would lost his basic prnciples somehow. Would be a failled Jesus.

Dont you want to know what happens after Hamlet death?

(btw, not saying you cannot be moved by the character to wish him more success, but such is life :D)

Theunderground
06-22-2012, 07:25 AM
Even the prince can learn! Anyway,i suppose its dificult to judge really. For the same reason i sometimes think why didnt jesus save himself in front of pilate? Then he could have lived happily somewhere else with his disciples and his beloved. Maybe you had to be there?

Gladys
06-22-2012, 08:56 PM
I can't accept the view that Prince Myshkin ultimately fails, any more than Jesus can be said to have failed. Physically, humanly speaking, of course both do fail, but this is as nothing. We should no more characterize Myshkin's life as failure than millennia of Christians would Christ's. The spirit of both men lives on - triumphantly!

Jesus, the God-man, didn't save himself before Pilate for our sakes, and is crucified, and soon resurrected with a spiritual body. Myshkin, merely a man, doesn't save himself for he returns again to Nastasya Filippovna (there's no romantic love here) for her sake and for Roghozin. And Myshkin too is crucified, socially and mentally, by his peers. And he too is resurrected in an essentially spiritual way, appearing briefly to Vera Lebedev, Lizabetha Prokofievna, and Evgenie Pavlovitch.

As for success in this life, tangible and timely, both Jesus and Myshkin achieve nothing. But Dostoevsky asks us to see a bigger picture.


Dostoevsky's ending are generally dodgy, excepting the gambler and TBK to some extent.

Yet even in The Gambler, it is astonishing beyond belief when Alexei Ivanovich, of all people, runs off to Paris with the pragmatic siren, Mademoiselle Blanche De Cominges!

JCamilo
06-22-2012, 09:16 PM
Sucess or failure is not a theme of the book. And more, we can see what happened with the world after Jesus and we will never see the fictional world of the Prince after his death. It is open and considering Dostoievisky saw negative aspects on Christian societies,any conclusion he thinks in terms of sucess is far to optimistic.

The bigger picture is obviously that any individual could be the Prince. He is an example, not his story. We know if he "suffers" in the end is not because of his own good, it is because the evil in society.

Anyways, the Gambler ending is so open that even space and time still open. Considering the conditions that dostoievisky faced to write it,it is more natural this way.

Gladys
06-22-2012, 11:50 PM
Success or failure is not a theme of the book. And more, we can see what happened with the world after Jesus and we will never see the fictional world of the Prince after his death. It is open and considering Dostoievisky saw negative aspects on Christian societies,any conclusion he thinks in terms of success is far to optimistic.

Any success I see is not in the world at large - neither Myshkin nor Jesus are so ambitious - but rather in the lives of a few. Isn't that enough?




Matthew 7:14___Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Matthew 22:14___For many are called, but few are chosen.

JCamilo
06-23-2012, 01:25 AM
Jesus is supposed to redeem all humankind. Not just a few. Let's not transfer Jesus to The Idiot, it is a model, as much a Quixote is, but not the samething. Plus, Dostoievisky does not believe all christianity is correct, so, beliving he is claiming the Prince had absolute success to change the society Dostoievisky kept accusing of several flaws is a long stretch.

Anyways, since he is not a true idiot, the Prince does not need (as suggested) to learn or to succeed, he just is (Just like his "double" just is). If you want we can say the end shows the success of Vera, ou Evgenie, etc to understand the Prince and the failure of others who do not. An open end, both good and happy as evil and sad.

Theunderground
06-25-2012, 10:50 AM
I hear you both. But i think even spiritual happiness/success is individual not universal. Surely true love can only apply to individuals and not humanity carte blanche. My biggest argument against loving all mankind is that it degrades true individual love.

JCamilo
06-25-2012, 11:24 AM
I see your point. One of themes of Dostoievisky is Individual vs. Society. But the Prince as individual does not fail, he is already one step ahead of others. If he has a failure is "social".

But my point it is that you should consider his success beyond his own "lifetime" (or book length).

Gladys
06-27-2012, 06:16 AM
Surely true love can only apply to individuals and not humanity carte blanche. My biggest argument against loving all mankind is that it degrades true individual love.

Quite so. The prince simply loves his neighbour: she in greatest need. And his success in love does continue beyond his lifetime in the sense that, "his brain fatally injured", he engenders "a growing feeling of friendship and sympathy" with Evgenie Pavlovitch, of all people.

As the novel begins, Nastasya Filippovna is in greatest need. Then, among others, Ippolit and Aglaya but, most of all, Rogozhin! It's no coincidence that the novel essentially begins and ends with Rogozhin.

As regards Jesus, Christendom and saving all humanity, Dostoevsky takes a similar line to the Danish existentialist genius, Soren Kierkegaard, whose individualist perspective is manifest:




Luke 18:8___And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?

I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth??

Theunderground
06-28-2012, 06:28 AM
So the neighbour is the greatest in need? And what if i have a family or partner? Are they not first regardless of the 'need' of the neighbour?
Why the preoccupation with saving certain 'neighbours' to the exclusion of a real commitment to one person?

JCamilo
06-28-2012, 09:30 AM
Neighbour in this case is the next person, any person and love in this case belongs to the realm of ethics.

So, you can love one person in both ways, but the idea is that your question is pretty much the key question of dostoievisky, how to balance it. No definite answer, the prince, as us, fail and succed at the sametime.

Theunderground
06-29-2012, 10:42 AM
Yes,that makes sense. Dostoevsky has 'posed' a question and left it indeterminate or for us to decide. He tends to be excellentin that sense as an artist. And alludes to various alternative interpretations. I think he himself admitted the impossibility of potraying the 'perfectly good' man sucessfully. Alyosha is more like it.

JCamilo
06-29-2012, 01:49 PM
Yes, what makes Brothers K so powerful is that it seems like Dostoievisky looks back to his best works and manages to make a work where he brings all the best elements in those previous stories to a single, more polished Diamond.

Buh4Bee
11-19-2012, 06:38 PM
Just a few thoughts concerning this book:

I have skimmed the thread as to avoid spoilers. I am not quite half way through and I feel like the pace is awfully slow. I am also still working on this theme of the Prince Myshkin being an idiot, even though he is very intelligent. I have just read the part in which Myshkin and Rogozhin exchange crosses. I suppose the prince is a fool for believing in this murderer and considering him like a brother. I guess that the prince symbolizes a certain level of innocence and faith in all of humanity that we can redeem ourselves, even if we are evil.

Gladys
11-20-2012, 04:46 AM
You're on the right track and, be assured, the pace does begin to quicken about now. :smile5:

cacian
11-20-2012, 05:26 AM
I hear you both. But i think even spiritual happiness/success is individual not universal. Surely true love can only apply to individuals and not humanity carte blanche. My biggest argument against loving all mankind is that it degrades true individual love.

Hi Theunderground how does love for mankind degrade true individual love?
In fact what is true love?
Love and true love is there a difference?
To love everyone it is a ridiculous concept.
To love oneself is more important and I think that is where the failure is not on society but on the individual who does not know how to love themselves.

cacian
11-20-2012, 05:30 AM
Luke 18:8___And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?

I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth??

Galdys reading through this the word 'avenge' caught my eye.
It left me with this thought:
Avenge usually means ransom anger and the need to take revenge because one does not know nor understand how to settle differences or even forget or forgive.
Is god this avengful character? full of remorse to the point of unforgiveness? I am not sure.

Buh4Bee
11-20-2012, 09:02 AM
Thanks. I'll post again after I have read a bit more.

Gladys
11-20-2012, 11:54 PM
Avenge usually means ransom anger and the need to take revenge because one does not know nor understand how to settle differences or even forget or forgive. Is god this avengful character? full of remorse to the point of unforgiveness?

I see it this way. To avenge is to punish a wrongdoing with the intent of seeing justice done. Revenge is more personal, less concerned with justice and more about retaliation by inflicting harm. To avenge inflicts punishment as an act of retributive justice or as a vindication of propriety: to avenge a murder by bringing the criminal to trial.

In the ending of The Idiot, it seems to me that Prince Myshkin is rehabilitated or, better still, vindicated. Though this world scarcely notices, the Truth prevails, albeit in the most subtle of ways.




Matthew 20:16___So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

As for God: God is love.

mvrmoorthy
01-20-2014, 02:36 PM
'The Idiot' is one of those wonderful books that impels you to ponder, days and weeks after finishing. I found 'The Idiot' complex but spectacularly unified in that, on long reflection, almost everything makes exquisite sense. And 'exquisite' is no exaggeration because Dostoevsky tells the story with so light a touch that the reader is enchanted by every page.

Years ago I adored 'Brothers Karamazov' and this book is as good or better. So much of the poignantly human is packed into a smaller book.

I’m a third way through ‘Crime and Punishment’ and feel as though I have been tortured. Unlike the breezy Myshkin, Raskalnikov is a lead weight around my neck.


I have found that Dostoevsky's "The Idiot" is eminently re-readable. Regarding pace it is unequal and at times the narrative gets bogged down.Still certain aspects of the theme draw us to it .Also the depth in characterization is fascinating and it grows on us with every fresh reading. I think this is the hallmark of a great work. "The brothers Karamazov " has it in abundance. I read these two books a number of times. However I could not bring myself to read "Crime and Punishment" a second time.