©2000 Blackstone Audiobooks. Originally published in 1880 in Russia.
"Nothing is outside Dostoevsky's province....Out of Shakespeare there is no more exciting reading." (Virginia Woolf)
I love Dostoevsky. But I wasted my money on this audiobook because of the narration. Robert Whitfield is technically excellent: his enunciation, his voices which vary according to character, his fluidity. All this is great. For me, however, there was one big drawback which is a deal-breaker: the super fast, breakneck speed at which he reads the book. Actually, I listened to the sample first, and choose it because I really did want a narrator who read relatively quickly. I have a restless mind and do not like slow poke readers. And in the sample this sounded good. But when I began listening for long periods of time I realized that I hated the way Whitfield rushes through everything with barely a pause for a breath. In a novel with Dostoevskian depth, this just will not do. One has no time to appreciate subtleties, nor even non-subtle, grand sweeps of emotion, because everything gets breathlessly passed by in what quickly begins to feel like a rush through the text. I had almost no time to absorb the feeling of the narrative, or appreciate the import of events. I kept thinking, "My God, man, slow down just a bit!" Eventually I gave up listening. It was a painful $20-something lesson.
This novel is always interesting, but often difficult to follow and I think many people will be tempted to give up in a few spots. I would concur with the other reviewers that the narrator did a good job with a challenging cast of characters to distinguish. I would also suggest that this is not the easiest introduction to Dostoyevsky -- Crime and Punishment or even Notes from the Underground would be better.
The audible transcription cuts off 30-60 seconds from the end of each part. Very disconcerting. The book and narrator, however, are worth every minute. (I do think Crime and Punishment was more engaging, though.)
This is said to be Dostoevsky's favorite novel. It has a protagonist who he had desired to be, even though in the story, it is questionable whether Prince Myshkin succeeded or not and what was to be accomplished. And it is more questionable as to whether or not Myshkin is a hero or anti-hero or none at all because of the whirlwind he caused when he entered into these people's lives. Nevertheless, it is a great novel, even if it does drag a bit (Aglaia was a bit annoying). The audio was superb. It is great when a male narrator can pull off the female characters fairly well. I had in mind though that Nastasya would sound a bit more stronger in tone of voice. I guess I say this because she was independent-minded, and really took control of her own fate for a while after Totsky. Aglaia was done perfectly -she sounded innocent and like a know-it-all sometimes but in a child-like way - as was Prince Myshkin and many others. Rogozhin had to be my favorite. The narrator portrayed him as cold and crafty, and you can really feel the bitterness in his voice, even when it seems he is being nice. The bitterness dies out in the end in chapter 11 or the last part.
Overall, this novel leaves a lot of questions to be answered, specifically about Myshkin. It is not better than Brothers Karamazov, but it is the most in-depth psychological book Fyodor ever wrote in terms of his characters.
This is another triumph for Robert Whitfield, the master narrator of the classic novel. Readers who assign a low rating to such a great work of literature and such a masterful reading should probably stick to popular, lighter modern works. There are lots of great pieces in that catergory.
Filled with a panoply of impossible characters remains interesting until the end. The Russian character is revealed through this unlikely collection from the rich to the poor, the smart to the stupid, the scheming to the naive. Wonderful read
It can seem daunting to make one's way through a large tome such as this one. However, this version of The Idiot was so well narrated that the many nuances of the story, including the complicated Russian names, were intelligible and easy to follow.
The performance was excellent. I purchased "The Iditot" because I enjoyed both "Crime and Punishment" and "The Brothers Karamazov" enormously and found them both to be books that provoke thought. They had depth. But though I was intrigued and engaged while listening to "The Idiot", I kept hoping to see what the point of it all is, and did not see a point to it. It is almost a soap-opera like story, doesn't even have humor (the D'Artagnan books are also soap-opera-like, but there is adventure and humor). Myshkin is not an idiot, of course, and modern-day psychologists would certainly deal with him differently. At times he seems, aside from being an epileptic, like he is on "the spectrum", as we might say today. He is certainly very naive, has no concept of what love or marriage should be, and it is almost hard to believe that he wasn't exposed even through literature to some idea of what those were about in his time. It is very unclear what the purpose of developing such a character was. In the first chapter we hear him talk about the evils of capital punishment, a promising point, it is never returned to, and - I won't spoil the end, as something I read did for me - I'll just say that there would have been a point to revisit those thoughts later on but they were not at all revisited. I saw that Dostoevsky himself said that Myshkin is "the positively good and beautiful man". I don't see that. Yes, at times he was very gentle and kind, but much of what he did himself was not really considerate, maybe not intentionally, but ignorance or naïveté should not excuse all behavior. I also don't see how a person can be considered so good if he does nothing of any value with his life. Once he returns to Russia, even with his illness, he could have found something useful to do. He claimed he loved children and got along with them so well. Why didn't he volunteer to work at an orphanage? Being a supposed "prince" should not absolve him of needing to do something useful in the world, certainly not if you want to claim he is the model of goodness. I've seen him referred to as "Christ-like". Nah. I don't see that at all.
I started out hoping to be enthralled once again, but was not.
This was a good story and it moves along at a decent speed which is remarkable in Russian literature. I've read some and listened to some, and I'm finally convinced that it is too dense to enjoy as an audiobook. It just turns you around. And because the patronymics are not clearly laid out, the first half of the audiobook is spent trying to figure out which goes with which character. It is a good story and the characters are good, but I almost feel that it could have been a novella, it is so odd and charming but gets weigh laid with heavier material in the middle.
Really food dialogue throughout touching on those key elements Dostoevsky always includes in his works, primarily morals/ethics, religion. Additionally, memorable characters and rich characterization. At times tough to get through but well worth it.
Report Inappropriate Content