Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Idiot: A Novel by Elif Bautman - 2017, 427 pages - Finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize

Personal Webpage of Elif Bautman

The Idiot A Novel by Elif Bautman, a finalalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, is a classic bildungsroman focusing on Selin, entering Harvard in the middle 1990s just as E mail begings to emerge as  a dominate way of communicating, starting first in elite colleges.  She is an American of Turkish ancestry.  She wants to learn Russian and is, for a 19 year very well read.  

Like most first year college students Selin wondered how to fit in, muses over whether or not she will find love (and have her first sexual encounter, ponders what classes to take and begins to redefine her relationship with her mother.

In cooperation with a boy in her Russian class, she places both of them as characters in an evolving E novel.  Selin tutors disadvantaged persons seeking to pass an exam to get a high school degree or become citizens.  She is told to not reveal she is a Harvard student.  I found these encounters really well done, exposing huge cultural gaps in American society.  A big chunk of the novel is devoted to her time in Hungarian Villages teaching English.

This book deserves a long post than this but I am getting behind in my posting. 

Here is a well done review from The Guardian

This is the publishers press release 

"A portrait of the artist as a young woman. A novel about not just discovering but inventing oneself.

The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings. 

At the end of the school year, Ivan goes to Budapest for the summer, and Selin heads to the Hungarian countryside, to teach English in a program run by one of Ivan’s friends. On the way, she spends two weeks visiting Paris with Svetlana. Selin’s summer in Europe does not resonate with anything she has previously heard about the typical experiences of American college students, or indeed of any other kinds of people. For Selin, this is a journey further inside herself: a coming to grips with the ineffable and exhilarating confusion of first love, and with the growing consciousness that she is doomed to become a writer.

With superlative emotional and intellectual sensitivity, mordant wit, and pitch-perfect style, Batuman dramatizes the uncertainty of life on the cusp of adulthood. Her prose is a rare and inimitable combination of tenderness and wisdom; its logic as natural and inscrutable as that of memory itself. The Idiot is a heroic yet self-effacing reckoning with the terror and joy of becoming a person in a world that is as intoxicating as it is disquieting. Batuman’s fiction is unguarded against both life’s affronts and its beauty–and has at its command the complete range of thinking and feeling which they entail."

Her blog has bio data and links to lots of her articles

1 comment:

Buried In Print said...

This is one I intend to read...someday! Glad to hear you enjoyed it so much.