Literature is what we would like to have read but not necessarily want to read now. Getting through 696 pages of Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot” was quite an achievement. About fifteen or twenty years ago, I laboured through “Crime and Punishment” which really was for me a drudge. I have no plans to imminently attack other great Russian literary giants like Chekhov, Tolstoy, Gogol or Pushkin. “The Idiot” was more engaging than “C & P“, but the protagonist Prince Myushkin was indeed an idiot, but not a holy fool. He begins the novel arriving on a train having come from Switzerland where he was being treated for epilepsy and mental ineptitude. He is plunged into the social intrigues of nineteenth century Petersburg: a society more concerned with wealth and power than moral values, some echoes of contemporary Russia there.
“We toil like cattle, we labour, we are poor and hungry as dogs. Others don’t toil, and don’t labour, and they are rich. (The everlasting story!)”
The Prince falls in love with two women, who are unsuited to him, and naively gives away money and is taken in by various devious people. One woman has a salubrious past, the beautiful Nastasya, the other a beautiful young 20 year old from a proud family, Aglaia. The novel is full of overwhelming Russian drama, the poor Prince doesn’t stand much chance of succeeding with either woman. The only thing the Prince is good at seems to be a card game called “fools”, where he easily beats Aglaia despite her cheating. Like C&P and indeed Dostoevsky himself, one of the main characters ends up being sent to Siberia for a number of years but not the Idiot.
My rating: 3 out of 5