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Publisher's Summary

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 that they entail.

©2017 Elif Batuman (P)2017 Penguin Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.7 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 3.8 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 3.7 out of 5.0
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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Fascinating point of view

The author's voice and experiences are interestingly objective - intelligent, restrained and artifice- free. If you require a plot-driven story, this isn't the one for you. If, though, you'd like to get out of your head and into the author's, then dive on in!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Captures the strangeness of being

This account of a young woman's first year at Harvard and summer trip to Hungary captures the random directionlessness of life and of the mind and also the human foreignness to language. Batuman captures the feeling that words are incapable of describing our experience and that no one even begins to understand this problem. If you're looking for the kind of "twisty plot" that is so common these days, you will be disappointed. But if you are ready for a new dimension of existence to be revealed to you, this is the book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Disappointing narration

What disappointed you about The Idiot?

The narrator is the author and she should stick to writing. Her flat narration ruined the book for me. It was like someone telling jokes who ruins a good punch line every time.

What did you like best about this story?

I think if I read it that it would be funny. Half way through the book I decided to read it instead of listening to the rest.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Elif Batuman?

Anyone with more dramatic flair or sense of humor.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
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  • Story

Flawless

It's been a long time since I've enjoyed a book this much for language, thought and tone alone. Thanks, Elif Batuman.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

BEAUTIFUL

beautiful gentle yearning story. The author's voice is lovely. I felt like I understood the story better hearing her read it. empty yet hopeful. starting her second year at Harvard, she comments she hadn't learned anything in certain classes... wise yet never arrogant. honest!

  • Overall
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  • Story

Tightly woven narrative, story well told

Batuman's writing is like a fine pencil drawing. Her character's evolution is a narrow graphite arc. Her descriptions, in sync with her narrator, are mathematically precise. And yet the sense of longing - for love, for understanding, and for being a person of value - are as clear as can be. But poor Selin, I wanted to shake her! She was so distrustful of happiness, so unwilling to stake a claim. And I so wanted that to change.

  • Overall
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  • Story

Most boring book ever

Elif is a competent and talented writer. Why the hell they published this book without editorial supervision???

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Mind numbingly boring

This book lacked any type of plot line. The book is essentially the diary of a bland loser in her first year at Harvard. In the end, she travels to a foreign county to teach English. Nothing happens. The end. What I wouldn't give to get back the time wasted listening to this book.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • DB
  • 07-22-17

Painful to get through

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Someone with a less flat presentation

What do you think your next listen will be?

The Japanese Lover

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

No redeeming qualities. I read it for a book club but it was painful to get through. Nothing happens, none of the characters are likeable or even interesting. A privileged Harvard freshman's angst about an online romance. It was like a bad romance novel. I guess we were supposed to feel something for her but if this is her tragedy or growth trajectory I certainly am not interested in hearing more.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
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No point: Long, poorly narrated, properly written

Kept waiting for something to happen, it never did. Book about self discovery typically come to some sort of conclusion other than nothing. The author's narration was a poor choice,void of expressing emotion. So bland, I actually rechecked the details to determine if this was a book about an autistic young adult trying to adapt to her world. The only positives: No gratuitous sex, violence, or language, and great to fall asleep to.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful