22gigantes.com - The Ideot is an ironic reference to the central character of the novel, Prince Lyov Nikolaevich Myshkin, a young man whose goodness and open-hearted simplicity lead many of the more worldly characters he encounters to mistakenly assume that he lacks intelligence and insight. In the character of Prince Myshkin, Dostoyevsky set himself the task of depicting "the positively good and beautiful man". The novel examines the consequences of placing such a unique individual at the centre of the conflicts, desires, passions and egoism of worldly society, both for the man himself and for those with whom he becomes involved. The result, according to philosopher A.C. Grayling, is "one of the most excoriating, compelling and remarkable books ever written; and without question one of the greatest."
Best Review of The Idiot: Bestsellers And Famous Books:
Most helpful customer reviews 1 of 1 people found the following review helpful. It's classic novel. I'll say no more. Warning-it ... By AMD It's classic novel.I'll say no more. Warning-it is a long read. 0 of 0 people found the following review helpful. Longer than a Russian Winter! By Piggy An interesting plot, but way WAY too long. Brevity must have been a foreign concept to the19th century Russian novelist. 2 of 2 people found the following review helpful. My new favorite novel. By jim rice This is ridiculous. I have six separate failed attempts at writing a review for this. Every one is different, they are all terible, and nothing does justice to this novel or what it meant to me.I believe I have just found my new favorite Dostoevsky novel.Which, of course, also means I may have found my new favorite novel.A few days ago I was telling a friend of mine how, with his novels, I’m rarely sad once they are over as everything always seems to be wrapped up so nicely that there is simply no more story that needs to be told. This one, however, got me. Despite having based most of my own personal philosophy on The Underground Man (and Meursault) Myshkin is, for me, the most relatable of Dostoevsky’s characters I have thus far encountered, which likely explains the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that arose at the conclusion of the novel.I can’t imagine that anyone reading this would not want to see themselves reflected in our idiotic prince. Allusions to Christ aside, Myshkin portrays, for the most part, the best parts of being human. The parts that we all know are right, wish we exhibited in our daily lives, but hide for fear of, well, looking like an idiot. Our relationships with one another are fraught with half-truths as we try to save face, play the game, and make ourselves come out on top. Even our relationship with our own Self often suffers from the same lack of honesty as we succumb to the fear of knowing who we really are and having that person be rejected by others. So the fight goes on between Truth and perception and between head and heart. As much as I may want to believe that a pure “heart is the main thing, [and] the rest is nonsense,” Lizaveta Prokofyena may has summed up the lessons of the novel within the first 100 pages as she imparted her wisdom to Aglaya saying, “a fool with a heart and no brains is as unhappy a fool as a fool with brains but no heart.” This idea is even half-reflected by the end of the novel as Ippolit ponders that, “it is better to be unhappy, but to know, than to be happy and live… as a fool.”Sadly, however, it may have been one of Aglaya’s earliest suitors whose advice is best taken to heart as perhaps it is simply “better not to talk” for I too, “don’t want to be ridiculous; above all, I don’t want to be ridiculous.” Yet speak I do, and ridiculous I become. I find myself on the extremes of this battle between head and heart with the elusive state of moderation mocking me in my attempts to find and define myself in a society unwilling to truly accept anyone as they are. Myshkin seems to innately understand this ongoing battle even as he fumbles for the words to describe his motivations. His “love” for the tragic Nastasya Filippovna is a love of compassion and a love that forgoes his own heart in a misguided attempt to balance the unjust scales on which she is precariously balanced with her true self and society’s perceived notion of her character. Nastasya, for her part, is so enamored with this idea of being taken as she is… of being saved… that she forsakes a love of the heart for this ephemeral idea multiple times throughout the novel in search of a happiness that, ultimately, proves to be her undoing. Myshkin too, out of misguided kindness, finds himself forsaking Love for the idea of playing at being a savior. Again, allusions to Christ notwithstanding, how many of us and how often are drawn to someone whose presence in our life gives us a false sense of belonging, of love, and of self-worth? Making this distinction between compassionate love and Love of the heart has proven my own undoing on more than one occasion as my own appreciation of Self leads me to also believe that “to love this woman passionately would be unthinkable, would be almost cruelty, inhumanity.”In my heart all I want to do is, “without thinking… raise all anchors and set out for the open sea without checking the weather,” yet I securely fasten myself to the shore too often and too late until the sailing wind has passed. Even as I write this, despite my desire to believe “it would be better for us to be completely sincere with each other,” I understand that laying bare my thoughts and feelings is more apt to attract derision and laughter than any amount of understanding, so in life out from behind this keyboard, I find it easier to stay rooted in silence and to love compassionately rather than fully. So Myshkin puts the question to me as much as to Lizaveta when he asks, “Why are you ashamed of your feelings,” and then drives home the point noting that, “these are your best feelings, why be ashamed of them? You only torment yourself.” That, however, doesn’t work so well either – does anyone ever end up happy? Aglaya, at least, does not end up alone, but how can that be the goal? Prince Shch. becomes the voice of reason and attempts to persuade us all that, “paradise on earth is not easily achieved… paradise is a difficult thing… much more difficult than it seems to your wonderful heart.” Surely we shouldn’t stop trying?Midway through, Myshkin’s pain is laid bare in what surely must be a universal truth in that, at some point, all of us have felt “superfluous to society.” The epilepsy from which he suffers is symbolic of whatever ill anyone sees within themselves or, perhaps, the ills that society sees within the individual. Whether a physical, emotional, or mental affliction, can anyone say that they have not felt like saying, “my gestures are inappropriate, I have no sense of measure; my words are wrong, they don’t correspond to my thoughts, and that is humiliating for the thoughts?” No matter how convinced we may be that we, “cannot be offended in this house” or that we “are loved more than [we] are worth” are we all not plagued by the self-doubt of knowing that there is “some trace” of our own illness left that we say to those whom we love and who love us “that it is impossible not to laugh at me?” How many times have I wanted to “reach out [my] hand and touch [her] face with my finger in order to feel it?” How often has she been “sitting before [me], and [I] was looking at her, and what she talked about at that moment made scarcely any difference?” Yet I find myself simply wanting to “go away somewhere, to disappear from there completely, and… even like some dark, deserted place, only so that [I] could be alone with [my] thoughts and no one would know where [I] was.” I cannot believe this is simply the lamentations of a sick man searching for his place in society or in the heart of one he loves… it feels too real to be anything less than universal. Is it the curse of the introvert, the weakness of the doubter, or simply a fear though which we all must live that, “the possibility of loving… a man like [me]… would [be] considered a monstrous thing?”Throughout all of Myshkin’s wandering, Lizaveta’s prodding, and Aglaya’s mean-spirited taunting, it was Ippolit who finally put things in perspective for me. Not from his answers, necessarily, but from his questions. “Why did I actually begin to live, knowing that is was no longer possible for me to begin; why did I try, knowing that there was no longer anything to try?” What a wholly depressing question whose answer, for me, only leads further down the rabbit hole. I think we all try to hold on tighter to something once we see it begin to slip away, even if we didn’t fully understand its value to us when we had it. Whether it’s life itself or Love… which, honestly, what else is “life itself?” I felt like Ippolit’s answer came later in an echo of Myshkin’s earlier fear that his “words are wrong” and “don’t correspond to my thoughts.” Ippolit simply expands the argument of why language can simply never be an accurate representation of ideas as he laments that, “though you may fill whole volumes with writing and spend thirty-five years trying to explain your thought; there always remains something that absolutely refuses to leave your skull and will stay with you forever; you will die with it, not having conveyed to anyone what is perhaps most important in your idea.” Not to say that it is impossible to fully convey your thoughts, but when the outcome of the conveyance is not the one desired, it is easier to believe that you are simply eternally misunderstood than it is to believe you were understood yet still relegated to meaninglessness. Do we continue to hold on to that which is already lost in a vain attempt to ensure we are, at least, understood? But, if we are understood, why are we still losing the thing which we continue to desire? Thankfully there is some solace to be found. We may not get what we want… we may never even feel understood, but “how can you know what share you will have in the future outcome of humanity?” It is folly to underestimate the potential of “what was received from you” that is “passed on to someone else.” In the same way that Bradbury’s butterfly changes the course of history, so too can our most mundane or misunderstood actions create ripples we could never predict. Not only for others but also for ourselves as we “give away part of [our] person and receive into [ourselves] part of another’s; [we] mutually commune in each other; a little more attention, and [we] will be rewarded with knowledge, with the most unexpected discoveries.”Ippolit continues to delve into some of life’s most important questions as he ponders his own demise and attempts to impart his explanation to his friends (or acquaintances as the case may be). He echoes C.S. Lewis and strikes directly at my own heart stating that, “if it had been in my power not to be born, I probably would not have accepted existence on such derisive conditions.” He begins to grasp the futility of attempting to understand that which cannot be understood and finally arrive at the conclusion that, if we cannot possibly understand, how can we be held to account for that thing which we cannot understand? This was a major occurrence in the novel for me and one that appeared quite unexpectedly… even Ippolit bemoans the fact that religion is simply a topic “we had better leave… alone” once he makes his assertion. “… in spite of all my desire, I could never imagine to myself that there is no future life and no providence. Most likely there is all that, but we don’t understand anything about the future life and its laws. But if it is so difficult and even completely impossible to understand it, can it be that I will have to answer for being unable to comprehend the unknowable?” In this question we see the genesis of some of the themes later expounded upon in The Brothers Karamazov… although it is left alone here, I had to pause and consider this deeply as, again, it was as though the novel was simply holding a mirror to my soul. The connection I believe I felt with Ippolit didn’t end with his words, but in the reaction of those in which he confided. After delivering such a heartfelt and meaningful speech… recognizing the end of his existence… baring his soul… the reaction was yawns, disinterest, and boredom. I couldn’t believe it, and my heart broke. I could hardly blame him for his attempted action. Though it would have saddened me greatly, I nearly wished he had succeeded in his final act of defiance in the face of an uncaring world. Past Ippolit’s sad monologue, I found that I had to combine the thoughts of Myshkin and Nastasya to fully feel myself and my own sadness. It is not loss of life I lament but loss of Love, and it is the moments… the ones not premeditated that stick with me the most. Those that make me know that “never afterwards could [I] forget this meeting with her, and [I will] always remember it with the same pain.” It is those moments… the loss of Love… the loss of friendship… the understanding of never being understood that make me feel as though “I almost do not exist now and I know it; God knows what lives in me in place of me. I read that every day in two terrible eyes that constantly look at me, even when they are not before me.” Knowing that “those eyes are silent now” is the worst possible feeling.Part Three was, by far, the most engaging and personal for me, but the last section of the novel continue to poke at me and lay the pieces of me I tend to bury on the table and force my attention to them. I suppose that we all do want to be special… universally or, at least, to another person. If we are not, however, do we all tend to look to a source of our problems other than ourselves? “If it hadn’t been for that, I’d certainly have discovered either gunpowder or America!” If it hadn’t been for this… or for that… certainly Love would exist. Or, if Love existed, then certainly whatever I did possess would not have been wasted. Is a lack of Love any worse than its presence without an object to receive that affection? I come to believe that the greatest gift the happy among us can give to the unhappy among us is to, “pass [us] by and forgive [us] our unhappiness.” And is that how we all end up? What, if anything, changed over the course of this narrative? The prince, Aglaya, Ippolit… even our brother – or villain – Rogozhin end with nothing more – and perhaps less – than that with which they began. Some were destroyed by heart and others by head, and all due to a lack of honesty and understanding. The ideal, I still believe, is to be fully open but as if often the case with Dostoevsky, we the Reader are prompted to learn what the characters in the story did not or could not. I am left sad and empty without a clear path… without even a clear destination. It is a rarity in my life that I value the journey over the destination, but this has become one of those rarified moments. I do not think I will approach myself nor others nor my relationship with others in the same way now that this has become a part of who I am. And, really, can I ask anything more? I too have my own green bench. (How is it possible that even the color is the same?) I am sitting there now and return there daily, yet I will never approach it in the same way again. Given another opportunity to find myself in that park I can only hope that I have learned how to mold, accept, and react to myself and others in such a way that head and heart combine to reach a level of happiness and understanding heretofore unknown.Now I feel as if my pretentiousness in claiming to understand universal truths and my reliance on quotations has pushed my thoughts into the realm of the unreadable. But how can I possibly say anything better than a master who speaks to me so directly an ocean and a century and a half removed? From Love, self-worth, and religion, everything about which I ponder was touched on in this novel. Nearly every passage was deserving of a quotation, and every character reflected a facet of who I believe I am, was, or could be. The novel itself became a character on its own – an amalgamation of extremes and stark contrasts that ultimately congealed into a singular (and often painful) recreation of what life is and a reflection of what I wish it to be. What more can one ask? Perhaps one day The Underground Man and Prince Myshkin will finally meet in the middle, and hopefully I will be there waiting. See all 5 customer reviews...
About the Author Fyodor Dostoyevsky was born in Moscow in 1821. He died in 1881 having written some of the most celebrated works in the history of literature, including Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov.
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