“My intention is to portray a really beautiful soul.” - DostoevskyIn The Idiot, a saintly man, Prince Myshkin, is thrust into the heart of a society more concerned with wealth, power, and sexual conquest than the ideals of Christianity. Myshkin soon finds himself at the center of a violent love triangle in which a notorious woman and a beautiful young girl become rivals for his affections. Extortion, scandal, and murder follow, testing the wreckage left by human misery to find “man in man.”
The Idiot is a quintessentially Russian novel, one that penetrates the complex psyche of the Russian people. “They call me a psychologist,” wrote Dostoevsky. “That is not true. I’m only a realist in the higher sense; that is, I portray all the depths of the human soul.”
(P)2001 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
I have read other Dostoevsky books before, and for some reason The Idiot has never appealed to me. I love Dostoevsky but did not have high expectations for this book. To my surprise,I really enjoyed this book when I finally decided to listen to it. The story is catching with the typical Dostoevsky observations on life, human behaviour, philosophy without being a lecture on these themes. It is worth reading/listening. Plus, the narration is great.
Narrator Robert Whitfield gives individuality to every personality in this character-driven novel. The Idiot careens from drawing room comedy to pathos to political satire sometimes in a wink. Whitfield is up to all the challenges and renders all the tension and nuance found on the page. The only lapse is the light fluttery voice of Natasha Filipovna which does not match the seductive beauty's willful character.
One star is withheld because of the translation which at key moments opts for a word that, although correct, misses the sarcastic or hyperbolic intent.
This book will entertain you while you listen and haunt you with its personalities long after.
"... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^
At once 'The Idiot' is a complicated, beautiful and yet ultimately a somewhat flawed novel. Written shortly after 'Crime and Punishment', it seems like Dostoevsky wanted to invert Raskolnikov. Instead of a mad killer, Prince Myshkin the 'Idiot' is an innocent saint, a positive, a beautiful soul and holy fool motivated by helping those around him. He is a Christ in an un-Christian world, a tortured Don Quixote.
Dostoevsky is able to use Prince Myshkin's spiritual intelligence and Rogozhin's passion to illuminate the main problems and idiosyncrasies of Russian society. But the story still falls a bit short of perfection. It literally falls between 'Crime and Punishment' and 'Brothers Karamazov'; failing to achieve the simple greatness of 'Crime and Punishment' and the complex greatness of 'Brothers Karamazov'. Like Myshkin himself, the novel's intent is nearly perfect, but the execution is just a little off, a little unstable. That doesn't mean I didn't love it. As a novel I adored it. I was both taken by and frustrated with Prince Myshkin.
Perhaps my favorite parts of this novel fall into the scenes where Dostoevsky is focused on a painting or an execution. He isn't content with a superficial look at the world. He examines things for depth and poignance that actually left me shaking. He studies Holbein's grotesque 'The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb' with a patient, detailed eye that at once appears to capture the whole life and death of Christ. He describes the beheading of John the Baptist; looking for details of his face in that still and eternal second before his execution. In this Dostoevsky is recreating his own near execution and the horror and magnificence that death (or a near death in Dostoevsky's case) brings to a person's fragile, beautiful and flawed life.
Robert Whitfield's narration is nuanced and gentle.
The story reads much like a soap opera in high society. Some analysts of "The Idiot" claim Dostoevsky designed the characters to be representative of various aspects Russian society in the 1800's while others claim that the main character's are representative of Christ and the devil. Neither were apparent to me. There are also many characters, which make the story the little difficult to follow. (However, kudos to the narrator, who's outstanding performance minimized this particular difficulty with the story.) The story seemed long and at times, seemed to go around in circles without contributing to the whole. While "The Idiot" is not necessarily bad, it does not soar to the heights of Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment".
Such an author as Dostoevsky can seem daunting on audiobook. The Idiot proved slightly challenging at the outset due to the subtle details of relationships between the characters, and the unfamiliar Russian names. I was certainly not prepared for each character to go by two titles interchangeably. Yet I found it well worthwhile to exhibit some patience in learning this facet of Russian culture.
Though the story is quite detailed, I am glad to have experienced it on audiobook for the first time reading it. Robert Whitfield employs his voice to great effect in reinforcing the characters' traits - for example Myshkin's innocence, Rogozhin's darkness, or Nastassya Filippovna's insanity.
In this, Whitfield delivers one of my favorite audiobook performances. In performing each personality uniquely, he by no means does it to such an extreme as to be artificial or cheesy. His conveyance of the characters is in fact very natural and easy to follow by ear.
As for the story itself, I regret that the Constance Garnett translations of Dostoevsky prevail on Audible. Nonetheless, I found it a riveting and meaningful tale. So many complex themes intermingle flawlessly in this story. I always looked forward to long drives when I was working on The Idiot. Certain passages were so magnificent that I would re-listen to them over and over again.
I highly recommend this for both author and narrator. It is a combination difficult to beat.
Robert Whitfield's reading of Prince Myshkin is perfect. It is worth buying the audiobook. There is a certain genius in the way Whitfield's inflection unveils the personality of Myshkin - the personality Dostoevsky surely considered "heroic." This reading is truly a unique accomplishment.
This novel has a bewildering number of characters.
Robert Whitfield manages to give each of them a different voice.
Artist in Northern Kentucky. Loves listening to books. My likes are history, mystery and some , and mostly writers of the twentieth century
It's amazing to see the different directions people will go to in their conceptions of a another person's behavior.
Truly enjoyed this book -- Narrator did a great job!
"A great story but a mixed experience"
It is a shame Audible often do not indicate which translation they use of foreign books or which publisher if no translator is names. I like to have the text as well as the book and it took me some time to establish this version is from Wordsworth Classics.
I know no Russian but the translation seemed to be literal at times at the expense of flowing. It also would be better to have a translation with more contemporary use of language that felt more natural. For example, opening the book at random I read: "Learned daughters,in the first place.." It is hard to imagine anyone saying this today. A more natural version might be: "First of all you clever girls.."
It is also unfortunate that part of a very insightful psychological vignette regarding a hedgehog at pages 477-478 in my copy has been accidentally overlooked and missed out in the reading.
As to the audio this was in many respects very good but suffered from the principal limitation of audio books - that of opposite sex rendition. Robert Whitfield was not that good with the female voices. I don't know why Audio book publishers don't try using two readers of opposite gender - one to be the gender of the story teller and all speech in that gender and an opposite gender person to do all the speech belonging to the opposite gender. So a male story teller would do all the male parts and a woman just the female speech or alternatively a female story teller would do all the female parts and a man just the male speech.
Not with standing this - a great story.
It worked very well for me. Basically it helped me to finish a rather long story which if it hadn't been for Whitfield's narration I would have probably dropped it right before the end. Whitfield's narration gives a different spirit and energy to the novel as it sometime lacks the skills that Dostoevsky shows in, for example, Crime and Punishment.
Great book, beautifully read. The reader does an especially good job of differentiating the characters.
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