Tag Archives: Russia

Idiocy

I’ve come back to Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot after more than 20 years away. It’s a total pain in the ass to read. I’ve read his other big ones more recently and found them riveting. I suppose my problem with this one is I don’t find Petersburg’s interpersonal intrigues among its 19th-century elites as intriguing as I once did. I find them frustrating, like adolescents. Still, there’s something in The Idiot that makes me keep going, and it’s the Prince, who’s at the center of it all but who’s also the book’s main observer. He’s presented as the pure-of-heart innocent, “the idiot” who’s not really an idiot at all. What’s the most interesting to me now, after all this time away, is the insight into the Prince’s mind’s workings written sometimes across several pages. This is something that influenced me, and stayed with me for a few years after the initial reading, but I guess I’d forgotten. Now, it reappears like an old friend reminding me: You can go in-depth into a character’s consciousness, and it can be more interesting than the physical action around him.

Also I’m reminded of this masterpiece, maybe not as pure of heart: