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The Idiot (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
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The Idiot (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

4.5 111
by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Joseph Frank (Introduction), Constance Garnett (Translator)
 

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The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

Overview

The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

Just two years after completing Crime and Punishment, which explored the mind of a murderer, Dostoevsky produced another masterpiece, The Idiot. This time the author portrays a truly beautiful soul—a character he found difficult to bring to life because, as he wrote, “beauty is the ideal, and neither my country, nor civilized Europe, know what that ideal of beauty is.” The result was one of Dostoevsky’s greatest characters—Prince Myshkin, a saintly, Christ-like, yet deeply human figure.

The story begins when Myshkin arrives on Russian soil after a stay in a Swiss sanatorium. Scorned by St. Petersburg society as an idiot for his generosity and innocence, the prince finds himself at the center of a struggle between a rich, kept woman and a beautiful, virtuous girl, who both hope to win his affection. Unfortunately, Myshkin’s very goodness seems to bring disaster to everyone he meets. The shocking denouement tragically reveals how, in a world obsessed with money, power, and sexual conquest, a sanatorium is the only place for a saint.

Joseph Frank is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature and Slavic Languages and Literature at Stanford University. He is the author of a five-volume study of Dostoevsky’s life and work. The first four volumes received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography, two Christian Gauss Awards, two James Russell Lowell Awards of the Modern Language Association, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and other honors. Frank is also the author of Through the Russian Prism: Essays on Literature and Culture, The Widening Gyre, and The Idea of Spatial Form. He also wrote the introduction to the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of Dostoevsky’s The House of the Dead and Poor Folk.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781593080587
Publisher:
Barnes & Noble
Publication date:
02/01/2004
Series:
Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages:
608
Sales rank:
33,575
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.52(d)

Read an Excerpt

From Joseph Frank's Introduction to The Idiot

The Idiot is the most autobiographical of Dostoevsky's novels, or at least the one in which autobiography obtrudes most overtly. There is the scene, for example, in which the prince attempts to gain admission to the Epanchin mansion from a recalcitrant footman, who is inclined to think him an impostor because of his far-from-fashionable clothes and modest manner. The prince succeeds in gaining entry, however, after recounting his impressions of an execution by the guillotine that he had witnessed in Europe. Intuiting the agony undergone by the condemned man as he faced the ineluctable certainty of death, which the prince compares with the "torture" and "agony" of which "Christ spoke too," he then muses: "Perhaps there is some man who has been sentenced to death . . . and then has been told 'you can go, you are pardoned.' Perhaps such a man could tell us."

Dostoevsky himself was such a man, having experienced these same torments in 1850 during the mock execution staged by Nicholas I to punish the Petrashevsky Circle, all of whom were officially condemned to death and then pardoned. And he utilizes the ordeal of his mock execution again in Prince Myshkin's scene with the Epanchin sisters, who at first tend to regard the unassuming prince as something of a pious fraud. Not only does Dostoevsky here reproduce the exact details of this lacerating event, but he also expresses sentiments similar to those he employed in a letter to his older brother Mikhail just after returning to prison. "Life is a gift," he wrote then, "life is happiness, every minute can be an eternity of bliss." These are the very emotions that Prince Myshkin attributes to a condemned man who then was pardoned: "What if I could go back to life—what eternity! . . . I would turn every minute into an age; I would lose nothing." The mock execution again appears when the prince, asked to suggest a subject for a picture to be painted by Adelaida Epanchin, can think only of the face of a condemned man and a priest holding up a cross. The prince's sensibility is thus haunted by the shadow of eternity, and the absolute sense of moral obligation that he exhibits can be attributed to this overhanging presence.

In The Idiot as well Dostoevsky also draws on his own ailment of epilepsy more explicitly and directly than anywhere else in his writings. Just before the onset of a fit, when he loses consciousness and is overcome by spasmodic convulsions, the prince felt an "aura" of ecstatic plenitude that, as we know from other sources, reproduces the sensations felt by his creator. At such moments, the prince became aware of "the acme of harmony and beauty . . . a feeling, unknown and undivined till then, of completeness, of proportion, of reconciliation, and of ecstatic devotional merging in the highest synthesis of life." It was a moment of "infinite happiness," which "might well be worth the whole of life." And it was then that the prince "seem[ed] somehow to understand the extraordinary saying [from the Bible, Book of Revelations 10:6] that there shall be no more time." Moments such as these may well have strengthened Dostoevsky's own belief in the existence of a supersensuous realm transcending ordinary earthly existence. If so, however, he did not employ it in The Idiot for such a purpose. On the contrary, the loftiness of the vision is depicted as a sublime illusion; and when the prince acts under its inspiration, he provokes Rogozhin into an attempt on his life.

This first section of The Idiot contains some unforgettable scenes in which the "angelic" character of the prince is superbly portrayed. One such is the story of Marie, a consumptive little slavey in the Swiss village where the prince is being treated for epilepsy. She has been seduced and abandoned by a traveling salesman, and then becomes a despised outcast mistreated by everyone and ridiculed by the village children. Moved by her misery, the prince gives her a few francs and persuades the children that she has been unjustly abused and condemned. The last days of her life are thus irradiated by the warmth of their love, and she dies surrounded by their care and devotion. The children, when they observe the prince kissing her out of compassion, are unable to distinguish between this and the kisses exchanged between their parents; this leitmotiv will later be developed on a large-scale in the rivalry between Nastasya Filippovna and Aglaia Epanchin.

The completion of this first part, however, posed new problems for Dostoevsky because he had written it without any overall plan, and it is clear from his letters and notebooks that he scarcely knew how to continue. "As I go along," he wrote to his niece, "various details crop up that I find fascinating and stimulating. But the whole? But the hero? Somehow the whole thing seems to turn on the figure of the hero . . . I must establish the character of the hero. Will it develop under my pen?" Even though Dostoevsky seemed to see other characters quite clearly, he confesses that "the main hero is still extremely pale." The notes reveal that he continued to struggle with this problem all through the remainder of the book. On the one hand, as he writes in a note, it was necessary to show the Prince in a field of action" [italics in text]; but on the other, as Reinhold Niebuhr has written of Christianity, "it is impossible to symbolize the divine goodness in history in any other way than by complete powerlessness." Dostoevsky thus was faced with the dilemma of creating a hero lacking all the usual attributes associated with such a figure, but whose moral-religious purity would somehow shine through and redeem his practical impotence.

Meet the Author

Few authors have been as personally familiar with desperation as Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881), and none have been so adept at describing it. His harrowing experiences in Russian prisons, combined with a profound religious philosophy, formed the basis for his greatest books: Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Possessed, and The Brothers Karamazov. When Dostoevsky died in 1881, he left a legacy of masterful novels that immortalized him as a giant of Russian literature.

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The Idiot (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 111 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book around 20 years ago. Unlike many books, this has never left me. In fact, it has become part of my theology in a way. Kindness, love, forgiveness, mercy, are, have always been, and always will be looked upon with contempt by the majority of the world. Yet, in reading the Idiot, unlike some readers, I was not left with a feeling of pessimism, but of confidence that if you can bear the contempt of your fellow man, you can easily be great. Truly, love man but not his praises.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is great intellectual work that we should to take seriously in general, a book to read with a serious mindset. Then you will understand the unique nature of Russia which our western minds have difficulties to comprehend. This strange land called Russia that has a bigger soul than any other is explored here in this story in a way that only Dostoyevsky unveils. Read it and you will finish it enriched. The Idiot is a thoroughly enjoyable novel of ideas that explores the nature of man and society and gives you a better idea of man and his actions. You shouldn't find it strange that the characters are philosophical, impulsive, introspective, energetic, colorful, and extreme in their passions. That is Russia, a land of extremes. This book is likely to impact you. It is one of the few of our times.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Truly one of the finer novels ever written. The full development of characters and plot through dialogue is a triumph upon itself. It's a tricky read, but it's a great introduction to dostoevsky. The culmination of the plot at the end is truly a treat.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Personally this is Dostoevsky's best. It is the hardest topic to cover as a writer--especially in serial form such as Dostoevsky wrote all his novels--truely speaks to his talent. Also if you are go to read any Dostoevsky read the Pevear and Volokhonsky translations--they are the best by far.
Ninja_Dog More than 1 year ago
Rarely does one have the experience to read a novel that truly packs a shocking ending. Being Dostoevsky's more overshadowed works, "The Idiot" manages to do exactly that. In the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation, Richard Pevear writes in his introduction that while the novel features the most morally sound character in Dostoevsky's works, the ending is perhaps the darkest of all his other novels. This is a serious understatement, to say the very least! While there are very few instances of physical violence, the kind of psychic violence perpetrated in this novel is believable to the reader and absolutely devastating to the characters. Nastasya Fillipovna, the novel's would-be heroine, is the best example of this kind of "psychic violence" I speak of, as she has an utterly explosive effect each time she appears in a scene. Later on in the story, both Ippolit and Lebdev refer to being "slapped in the face," but "morally, not physically." These kinds of moral attacks run rampant throughout the novel and the effects upon the characters are far more damaging than physical trauma... with the protagonist himself being the greatest victim of this kind of violence. The "moral beauty" and ultimate fate of Lev Nicholievich Myshkin is like a Christian allegory and a Lovecraft horror mixed into the same narrative. He is a moral superior, a spiritual superman, who gives so freely of his time and his fortune to people who otherwise deserve neither. The Prince's singular and fatal flaw was his inability to accept a sense of moral superiority. While this would have likely provided the perspective he sorely needed to escape his fate, it would also have been cognitively impossible to remain in this state of superiority while consciously acknowledging it. This novel plays out the deep moral paradox; that we can be good only if we rigorously question our goodness. The strength a truly good person can lend to another may make that good person vulnerable in many ways. "The Idiot" dares to explore these deep themes, while delivering a dramatic narrative that is horrifying, heartbreaking and classically tragic. Though I am an avid reader, I can honestly say that I have not been so powerfully moved by a novel in a long, long time. "The Idiot" encompasses romance, class warfare, political philosophy, Christian philosophy and social norms in a way that forces the thoughtful reader to examine morality and madness in a way that to me is utterly unique in literature. For that, I give "The Idiot" my highest possible recommendation. I view this novel as a standard by which moralist narratives must be measured.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book, even by Dosoevsky's standards, and has been giving an excellent translation. However, it's not as compusively readable as say Crime and Punishment, so if your new to Dostoevsky it's best not to start with The Idiot. Readers will get much more out of this one if they have wider knowledge of his other books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
To be honest, I didn't expect much from this novel. I loved Crime and Punishment but only mildly enjoyed The Brothers Karamazov so I wasn't sure I'd even enjoy The Idiot. However I found the novel to be fascinating, engaging, and beyond enjoyable. While I still feel Crime and Punishment is a superior novel I would still strongly recommend The Idiot.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Idiot is one of the finest novels in history, perhaps the finest. In this novel, the enigma that is often referred to as 'THE RUSSIAN SOUL' is variously dissected through the different characters and more so by the hero of the story Prince Myshkin. In its simplest explanation, it is a soul with good intentions but faulty in executing the intentions. It is a soul in conflict, driven by the zest for life and a search of its meaning. Certainly the most Christian of Dostoyevsky's novels, THE IDIOT portrays how disastrous a good life can be.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i'm a tenth grader who was assigned to read three books of similar theme for a paper. one of the books i chose was the idiot. though extremly wordy, the things the reader takes out the book make it all worthwhile. for sure, when one is reading the book, it can seem to be a drag, but once the book is finished, it makes u want to open it up and reread it, so thought provoking and masterful is the weaving of dostoeveskys message. it is a fantastic book and one ill have to pick up in later years, perhaps when my own reading level has become on par to that of the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i thought it was going to be depressing but it actually wasn't, atleast the way dostoyevsky described the events. so many nice twists, good book, recommended, esp for guys who have to deal with girls like aglaya...
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the simplest and most beautiful of all Dostoevsky's books, and perhaps also the most approachable to modern readers.
LibrarianJP More than 1 year ago
Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Idiot is my favorite of his novels. The characters are so real, and the story is so absorbing that one almost feels as if they are a first person observer. One cannot help but become attached to Prince Myshkin who is naive and loving to the extreme. The book has impacted my life in several ways, not the least of which is that it woke me up to the truly amazing author that is Dostoevsky.
annunaki More than 1 year ago
other than the unusual side stories that deviates from the plot, it is a wonderful story. very dramatic and even on the boderline melodramtic. the writing itself is easy to read and it really drew me into the emotions of the characters. speaking of characters, they are definitely one to remember. i would recommend this book to all but i feel many people will be agitated by the unecessary side stories with all the philosophies that aren't really revlevant to the story.
Anonymous 8 days ago
Name: Willow Jupiter <br> Age: Unknown. She looks 13-18 <br> Gender: Female <br> Sexuality: Straight <br> Ethnicity: Unknown. In fact, from now on, anything unknown will not be stated at all. <br> History: Raised on a small farm in the countryside. There and here are the only worlds she ever knew. <br> Family: She calls the people who raised her, foster parents, her family. Eve and Bart Jackson. She lives with ten other siblings, her favorites being Maya and Charlotte. <br> Personality: Meet her. She's.. quite average. But she's kind, and likes joking around. <br> Likes-Dislikes: Meet her, honestly! She likes most kinds of music, though. <br> Appearance: Willow has silky straight auburn hair, light grey eyes, and a light tan sprinkled with freckles, matchibg her dimples. <br> Why She's Here: Find out, or try to. <br> Other: Willow has a few pets she has with her here; Two hamsters, Sugar and Spice, a kitten called Tabs, three goldfish (Splots, Splash and Spinny) and a trained hawk called Meggie.
Anonymous 17 days ago
[Name] ~ Chase Hart <p> [Gender] ~ Male <p> [Appearance] ~ <br> [Hair] ~ Dark Brown & Shaggy, Parted On The Right Side. <br> [Face] ~ Deep Brown Eyes, His Smile Will Make Your Heart Overflow With Happiness. <br> [Clothes] ~ Black Hoodie w/ White C On It. Jeans. Just Jeans. White Sneakers. <br> [Accesories] ~ Gold Choker, Sometimes Wears a Plain Black & White Baseball Cap, Accurate Mood Bracelet. <p> [Age] ~ 13 <p> [Height] ~ 5'2 <p> [Personality] ~ Polite, Mood Changes A Lot, Friendly, Honest, Loyal. <p> [Other Qualities] ~ Would Die For A Close Friend, Loves Trying To Get More Friends. <p> [Reason Why He Is Here] ~ Unknown [Dropped Here As A Baby.] <p> [Favorite Song[s]] ~ X Ambassadors - Unsteady, Shawn Mendes - Life Of The Party. <p> [Abilitiy] ~ Shapeshifter. Can Shapeshift Into Any Animal He Desires. Loses A Bit Of Energy When He Shapeshifts. <p> [Likes] ~ Music, Friends, Books, Animals, Etc... <p> [Dislikes] ~ Unfriendly People, People Or Animals Getting Hurt. <p> [Weaknesses] ~ Elemental Powers, Telekanesis. <p> ["Sicknesses"] ~ Has Mild Bi.polar Disorder & ADHD. <p> [Other] ~ Ask :)
Anonymous 19 days ago
Name-... Loki Gender- female Height- 5'9 Appearence- Black hair streaked with white highlights. Or white with black. Whatever is good fir you. Skinny body with lean muscles. Eyes are dark crimson. She wears dark gray shorts w/ black leggings. On top she wears a navy blue hoodie and white scarf. Power- secret( honestly i cant think of anything right now so i will get back to ya Personality- does not really like people. Antisocial and keeps to herself
Anonymous 3 months ago
Name:Lilja of Ulfur(no last names when she was born) Age:459 Gender:female Sexuality:straight Personality:loves partying, doesnt easily pen up to people, doesnt show emotion unless you really get under her skin, doesnt have relationships because she doesnt get interested in guys that often, loves people who are fun in a heathen way, will do anything to protect her close friends, only trusts people she knows well Appearance:white blond medium length hair, dark green eyes, pale skin, slight curves, skinny, usually wears dark clothes and a scarf(to cover the scar on her neck that shes had since she was 10), looks like shes somewhere between 18-20 because her body ages slowly Background:ask if you want to know because she doesnt like to recount the over 500 years that shes been alive Special powers:immortal(can still be killed but only with a ton of effort, and only dies if she is killed because she cant die naturally), posseses an ancient magick which can be channelled through her amulet or her moonstone Relationship status:single Crushes:he.ll no Other:just ask and maybe shell tell you if it doesnt give too much away
Anonymous 4 months ago
Name-Leah Wynter Blackwell Age-14 almost 15 Peculiar-Telekinesis but when she gets upset things explode Appearance-Waist length chocolate curls and navy blue eyes ringed in gold shes about 5'6 and is very skinny History-A few months ago a man with a gun broke into ber house and shot her family and Leah accidentally killed him Crush-None yet
Anonymous 5 months ago
Name] Pandora Lynn Bandini <br> Reason for name] N/A <br> Age] 17 <br> Gender] &female <br> Place of birth] Amsterdam,Netherlands <br> Social status] ._. <br> Relationship status] *-* <br> Status] Alive o.o <br> Sexuality] Straight <p> ---- <br> Body build: She has a feminine, slim build that enables people to distinguish her as a female, but also recognize that she is a bit athletic. Nothing special. <br> Height/Weight: She stands at a strikingly 5'5, weighing in about 120 pounds, which is an average weight for someone that height. <br> Eye/hair/skin color: Her eye color exchanges from a dark, hazelnut color to a more emerald shade when agitated. Around the iris surrounds the color, with golden specks./ Her hair color is a pitch black color, and the tips of her hair vary[depends on her mood]./ Her skin color is purely white, but not ghostly pale. Therefore, she is not fairly acquainted with the sun. <br> Other, things] Her nose is what you may distinguish as, small? She has an angular jawline, and her cheekbones are quite prominent. <br> Accent: Pandora has a fluent Dutch accent, but can easily speak in various accents , except for American. I'm not saying she can't speak english, but yes, Americans do have an accent. And she just can't seem to do it. Her voice is mellow and quiet, yeh. Talk about anti-social alert. <p> Attire] bleh. O.o . Depends on her mood. <br> History] seriously. Seriously. Ew . EwxD. Jk, but bleh. Nu <br> Persona] meet her if you can find her. <p> Abilities: Last thing. Promise. Her power is basically based off Kitty Pryde(Shadowcat, if you prefer), she posses 'phases' enabling whomever or whatever she makes contact with, unable to be touched or grasped; not really having a physical presence. She also can allow elemental attacks to pass harmlesssley through her. Basically she can go through things and bring people or inanimate objects along. Yey :3. She also can resist telepathy. :3 k bai
Anonymous 6 months ago
Will be up shortly.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Name:Tornado <br> Age:16 <br> Hight:6ft10in <br> Looks:Dark purple hair,red eyes,pale skin <br> Wears:A gray shirt,black pants,gray shoes and lether glaves that can turn into metal claws <br> Powers:Can control wind and turn in to a hawl(in is hawl form he has metal battle claws) <br> Crush:None <br> Brother:Shadow <br> Other:Can Hack
Anonymous 7 months ago
Name: Amser <br> Gender: Female <br> Age: Doesnt remember. Seems to be 11 or 12. <br> Looks: She had long curly pink hair and soft green eyes. She often wears anything, from a victorian style dress to jeans and a teshirt, although she does tend to favor victorian era clothing. But she always has her satchle and leather bound book with her at all times. <br> Powers: Why dont you get up the nerve to ask? I mean, she probally wont tell you unless she trusts you, but still. <br> Favorite Saying: Realities an illusion, the universe is a hologram, buy gold, bye!
Anonymous 7 months ago
NAME: Lena Lynn Wolfe AGE: 16-17 ish BIRTHDAY: Februrary 14 POWERS/ ABILITY: her entire body lights on fire unexpectedly. She cannot control it. She is also always freezing unless she is sitting in a fire. LOOKS: straight black hair that falls to the middle of her back. She has pale skin and is always sporting goosebumps. She has silvery blue eyes. She is 5'5 and has slight curves. PERSONALITY: to strangers she is guarded and shy, but once you earn her trust, she is loud, kind, funny, clueless, brave and will generally do anything for anyone. LIKES: italian food, people, music, animals, and french fries. DISLIKES: mean people, spiders, thunder, lightning, and peas. HISTORY: her parents kicked her out when she was five, and she went from place to place not welcome any where. STATUS: single OTHER: just ask
Anonymous 7 months ago
Bio will be posted soon...
Anonymous 7 months ago
Biography will be coming soon.