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The Idiot [Blackstone] | [Fyodor Dostoevsky]

The Idiot [Blackstone]

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."
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Publisher's Summary

Despite the harsh circumstances besetting his own life - abject poverty, incessant gambling, and the death of his firstborn child - Dostoevsky produced a second masterpiece, The Idiot, just two years after completing Crime and Punishment. In it, 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."

©2000 Blackstone Audiobooks. Originally published in 1880 in Russia.

What the Critics Say

"Nothing is outside Dostoevsky's province....Out of Shakespeare there is no more exciting reading." (Virginia Woolf)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (360 )
5 star
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4.2 (160 )
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4.4 (154 )
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3 star
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2 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Tad Philadelphia, PA, United States 04-27-12
    Tad Philadelphia, PA, United States 04-27-12 Member Since 2005

    Shakespeare, Dickens, Homer, Mark Twain, Walt Disney, History.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    96
    ratings
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    Story
    "Intense and painfully sad"

    I avoided this book for a long time: who wants to read a book about a person who's so good everyone around him thinks he's an idiot?

    Boy, was I wrong. This is an intense and brooding novel, filled with Dostoevsky's usual array of deeply conflicted characters and blistering monologues. The idiot himself, Prince Myshkin, is no pushover: maybe he's a bit naive at times, but he insists on treating people as equals and assuming their good intentions until contrary evidence is overwhelming. He suffers from epilepsy, and in the course of the novel has a couple of seizures that dramatically alter the direction of the story.

    Superficially, the novel is about Myshkin's conflicted relationships with two women: Aglaya, the youngest daughter of a distant relative, with whom he is in love; and Anastassya Filippovna, a "fallen woman" who's been fobbed off by her former lover and who seems to be drifting from one self-destructive relationship to another. Myshkin may have loved her once, but now he mainly pities her. Aglaya, who at one point seems willing to marry Myshkin, ultimately breaks off because of his obsession with Anastassya.

    But that's only one small facet of this complex, teeming book. The characters are captivating, the scenes at times almost hypnotic in their intensity. I've only read a few of Dostoevsky's novels, but so far I'm inclined to say this is probably my favorite.

    Robert Whitfield (=Simon Vance) gives a stellar reading. Of particular note is his ability to distinguish the voices of the many women in the book: sometimes the shading is subtle, but I always knew instantly who was talking. Well done, highly recommended.

    33 of 33 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Victoria Chilliwack, BC, Canada 11-12-03
    Victoria Chilliwack, BC, Canada 11-12-03 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Overall
    "good audio"

    While this has not been my favourite Dostoevsky, (brother's karamazov was better), it remains on my 'must-read' list for Russian authors. The characters were very vivid, and the good narration made it easy to distinguish characters. Did I say 'good' narration? Actually, it was marveleous. Some of the voices were quite comical when they suited the characters, and I have to credit this narrator (robert whitfield) with making this book truly enjoyable. I would recommend this book to any Russian literature fan. It's an integral part of the 'Russian Canon'.

    22 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lawrence Brooklyn, NY, United States 12-02-03
    Lawrence Brooklyn, NY, United States 12-02-03 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent, but a bit trying"

    An amazing conglameration of characters interact in wild, passionate and complex arragements and operatic-like scenes that display Dostoyevsky's depth and mad brilliance as psychology, religion, pre-revolutionary society, action and inaction!, suspense, amazing dialogue and the issues of love, death, chance and the meaning (or lack of meaning) of life swirl all around and eventually coalese, perhaps!.

    The translation seems somewhat dated and stilted, and the voices, which really do help differentiate the characters (often an issue when 'listening' to classic Russian novels), sometimes seem inappropriately, annoyingly inflected. Also, drags on in parts. Abridgement tries to get around theses problems, but (this) unabridged rendition is 'the only way to go' to get the real experience.

    Unexpectedly easy to follow, but I still would not recommend this to someone unfamiliar with Russian literature. Certainly, not for all tastes.

    Overall, a great undertaking with fabulous highs and a blessing for non-Russian readers.

    24 of 25 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tad Davis Philadelphia, PA USA 04-27-12
    Tad Davis Philadelphia, PA USA 04-27-12 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3135
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1548
    242
    FOLLOWERS
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    11
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Intense and painfully sad"

    I avoided this book for a long time: who wants to read a book about a person who's so good everyone around him thinks he's an idiot?

    Boy, was I wrong. This is an intense and brooding novel, filled with Dostoevsky's usual array of deeply conflicted characters and blistering monologues. The idiot himself, Prince Myshkin, is no pushover: maybe he's a bit naive at times, but he insists on treating people as equals and assuming their good intentions until contrary evidence is overwhelming. He suffers from epilepsy, and in the course of the novel has a couple of seizures that dramatically alter the direction of the story.

    Superficially, the novel is about Myshkin's conflicted relationships with two women: Aglaya, the youngest daughter of a distant relative, with whom he is in love; and Anastassya Filippovna, a "fallen woman" who's been fobbed off by her former lover and who seems to be drifting from one self-destructive relationship to another. Myshkin may have loved her once, but now he mainly pities her. Aglaya, who at one point seems willing to marry Myshkin, ultimately breaks off because of his obsession with Anastassya.

    But that's only one small facet of this complex, teeming book. The characters are captivating, the scenes at times almost hypnotic in their intensity. I've only read a few of Dostoevsky's novels, but so far I'm inclined to say this is probably my favorite.

    Robert Whitfield (=Simon Vance) gives a stellar reading. Of particular note is his ability to distinguish the voices of the many women in the book: sometimes the shading is subtle, but I always knew instantly who was talking. Well done, highly recommended.

    19 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jacob Cedar Rapids, IA, United States 12-20-12
    Jacob Cedar Rapids, IA, United States 12-20-12 Member Since 2011

    Word loving college student with a 2+ hour daily commute, who sadly had to learn to accept that reading and driving are plainly incompatible

    HELPFUL VOTES
    39
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    Story
    "Salvation under the weight of our own humanity."

    Have you ever wondered what it would be like if a person as selfless and beautiful as the Jesus portrayed in the bible? Someone so in tune with humanity so aware of its horrors and imperfections, yet so wholly consumed by his love of humanity that he would destroy himself just for the chance of allowing you to save yourself?

    That was what Dostoevsky was attempting to do, and by the gods, he did it. The story may not be for everyone, but if you stick with it you will be amazed. This is far and away my favorite Dostoevsky novel, and I have read all of them.

    Considering how difficult it is to find a decent reading of any of Dostoevsky's longer works Robert Whitfield is incredible. Every character has a voice that you can recollect instantly when it hits your ears. He engages the writing and manages to bring life to it even with this dated translation. You will find no better on Audible, and you would do you well to treat your soul to this difficult, but compelling novel.

    The novel itself starts with figures of Christ, the Anti-Christ, and the False Prophet conversing together on a train, and from there things proceed until both Myshkin and Rogozhin stand at opposite ends as Nastassya Filippovna fights between salvation and damnation even as the sins of her humanity where down on her conscience and soul.

    There are of course, more characters, more events. A Dostoevsky novel could never be otherwise, and by the end of the novel you will see yourself in one of the characters. You have to, the whole of humanity is on display here through the interactions his characters. They are all simultaneously real and unreal. Like Shakespeare, Dostoevsky creates characters that turn their humanity to 11 and engage your very soul with their complexity and utter irrationality.

    Dostoevsky is attempting to show us the truth that Christ offered us: no one can save us, nor can He cannot save, He can only open the door. Only we ourselves can choose to enter that door through which salvation is attainable. It is hard, no, impossible, and Dostoevsky, like the his Christ knew this and the book conveys this understanding with an undeniable beauty. We are evil, we are kind, we are a paradox capable of the most horrendous acts of selfishness and kindness, often within quick succession. This is what it is to be human, and Dostoevsky relishes it and rejects any and all ideas that would take away our free will in deciding how to live our lives.

    You will not feel clean after reading this novel, it will sting, it will pull and eat at you for days after the final words has crept through your headphones and left you in silence. But there is beauty in it. A poetic perfection that makes itself more and more manifest with every listen. Though written in the mid-19th century, we are no different than the world Dostoevsky knew and loved. Buy this or don't, it your choice. Just know that as of right now, you are 650 pages away from growing a soul.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jane VictoriaAustralia 07-16-08
    Jane VictoriaAustralia 07-16-08 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    "Well Read"

    The reading of this book made the whole thing easier.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donald Arlington, MA, USA 05-15-05
    Donald Arlington, MA, USA 05-15-05 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
    156
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    "Great book, good narration, poor transcription"

    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.)

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Parkin, AR, USA 08-16-09
    Gary Parkin, AR, USA 08-16-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    23
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    11
    4
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    "Come along then...only you"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Erez Israel 01-27-08
    Erez Israel 01-27-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    412
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    Overall
    "Wonderful"

    To me, The Idiot stands out in Russian literature. I can appreciate other great Russian novels like Anna Karenina for their structure, their symbolism, their genius, but this book has all that and something more, which I would call _life_. I loved everything about the story and the characters, and would highly recommend it to anyone.

    It is almost needless to say that Robert Whitfield delivers yet another impeccable performance in this audiobook.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Louis La Palma, CA, USA 02-21-07
    Louis La Palma, CA, USA 02-21-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    25
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    "Excellent"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 26 results PREVIOUS123NEXT
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  • Steven
    Auckland, New Zealand
    5/21/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Too much of nothing"

    Abandoned about 70% through. It was a promising start - reminiscent of Tolstoy, but it just got deeper and deeper into an endless waffle about vague topics by transient characters, none of which were properly formed. The emotions are incomprehensible and the motives are peculiar. I just cannot recommend this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Ian
    PLYMOUTH, United Kingdom
    12/1/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Hard going for this idiot"

    The idiot of the title is Prince Muishkin, a young man who has just returned to Russia after being treated in Switzerland for epilepsy. The other main characters are Rogojin-another nobleman he meets on the train, Nastasia Philipovna-a woman they both love and who has a questionable reputation and Aglaya Epanchin-a young woman who Muishkin also "loves" and at one point looks like marrying.
    I struggled with this book. I found the characters hard to believe and very shallow-especially some of the supporting ones. I should say this was not helped by the fact I listened to this as an audio book, and the narrator made many of the characters sound like something out of a Monty python sketch. I also found the book incredibly long with many of the passages being an excuse for Dostoevsky to tell a yarn of some sort. Having said that I did enjoy General Ivolgin-retired and unfortunate- and his tall tales of his exploits in the army and his time as a child with Napoleon in Moscow.
    I also thought the explanation at the start of part 4 as to why you cannot write a novel about ordinary people was fantastic. But as a novel I did not like it.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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