Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1869, translated by Eva Martin)

"The contents of Dostoyesky's  Idiot pursue me. Lapdogs interest me greatly. I’m not searching for someone as lively as an Aglaya. Unfortunately, she would, of course, take someone else."  Robert Walser - 1925

If my memory serves the Romanov's were in power when I first placed Fyodor Dostoyesky's The Idiot on my To Be Read List.  It was pushed to the fore by my recent reading of Robert Walser's feuilleton on the novel.  

The dominating character of the novel is Prince Lev Myshkin, 28 years old and just returned from a long treatment in a Swiss sanatorium for epilepsy.  He was considered simple minded by some.  He returns to St. Petersburg, planning to meet a distant relative.  When he goes to her palace her business manager assumed by his inexpensive clothes that he was there to ask for money.  He ends up meeting the woman's husband who offers him a place to stay.  There is a decent plot summery on Wikipedia so I will spare you that.  

I found it very interesting that both Hamlet and Don Quixote are referenced.  Both are characters that transcend the works in which they originated and both are figures of great and profound symbolic resonance.  There is a lot of conversations about the nature of the "Russian Soul" in The Idiot.  

The Brothers Karamavov and Crime and Punishment are on all lists of world's greatest novels. I think these works are among the greatest literary works, as do most others.  The Idiot is, my guess only, is a perhaps a more loved work.

I read thus in a translation by Eva Martin.  I tried to find information on her but could find only refrences to this translation.  

I am so glad I at last read The Idiot.

Mel u

1 comment:

Fred said...

mel u,

If it isn't on any list of great novels, it should be. It is one of Dostoyevsky's four great works: The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Possessed (aka The Demons, The Devils).

Well, maybe five--House of the Dead perhaps.