Superfluous Matter
Books - The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I haven't been reading much lately but when I have made the time I've been very slowly working my way through Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot," considered to be one of his best. My final project in OAC English focused on his novel "Crime and Punishment" and I've been meaning to read more from him ever since.

Neither book is an easy read, although after some research this morning I learned that I had read rather old translations of each. More modern translations are considered to be not just more accessible but also better at conveying the intent of the original text. So if you decide to pick one up I recommend choosing your translation carefully.

I enjoyed The Idiot, much as I enjoyed Crime and Punishment, however I only achieved a superficial understanding. Although Dostoyevsky's novels are very much a study of people they are all set in 19th-century, pre-revolution Russia and my knowledge of that period is extremely limited. There is just so much context I don't have.

"The Idiot" centres around a man, Myshkin, who is so kind-hearted and selfless that his peers are often baffled by his behaviour. They call him an "idiot" as a shorthand for their confusion and also as a reference to his mild case of epilepsy. The book explores his interactions in a world that doesn't understand him and uses those interactions to provide criticism of the Russian ruling class of the day. Again, I'm sure there's a lot going on for Russian history scholars, or even the average Russian, but for me I mostly paid attention to the human element. I really enjoyed the stream-of-consciousness type of narration as Myshkin tries to work through the troubles he encounters. His character feels like a very real person.

Anyway, good stuff, but very heavy. I will be going lighter for my next few books which will maybe help me reestablish a more regular reading habit.

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