The Idiot

The Idiot

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:
16
"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"--
Publisher: New York City :, Penguin Press,, [2017]
ISBN: 9781594205613
1594205612
Branch Call Number: FIC BATU
Characteristics: 423 pages ; 24 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

The debut novel of critic and self-proclaimed literary fluff journalist Elif Batuman, a musing on e-mail, books, and love set in college during the mid-1990s.


From the critics


Community Activity

Comment

Add a Comment
p
PoetLariat
Jul 03, 2020

I wanted to like this book, and to finish it (to see if anything like the dimmest effort to find meaning in experience would emerge) .
But I was always tied to the narrator who truly is an idiot, recording sequential isolated perceptions and thoughts (some quite witty and hip, admittedly) one by one by one.
We are supposed to believe she was admitted to Harvard, without the least evidence to prove why that could be. We are supposed to believe she is that disconnected from the national experience but she WAS BORN IN NEW JERSEY! We are supposed to believe she never had a sexual feeling until, at 19, she turned a European shower head on her vagina in Hungary. We are asked to put up with her endless, unfounded obsession with another nerd who is less conscious than her...

It made me sad that the author invoked Dostoevsky’s deeply philosophical and heartfelt novel. I gave up about 2/3 or 3/4 of the way through

j
Ju_pal
Jun 02, 2020

This book was good. Some parts of it were quite interesting and really made you think differently about the world. As a college student who just finished her freshman year I did relate to Selin quite a lot. This book was definitely a slow burn with some parts that were really not quite necessary, but this made it actually more relatable. My own life seems a lot like a slow burn with things happening around me but nothing really changing. Ivan thoroughly pissed me off, and well so did Selin at times. I wished that she would just tell Ivan to piss off, but instead she continued to sulk around him and then wallow in her own self pity. Still though the book was relatable and filled with imperfect moments just like life is.

e
Einer2
Feb 12, 2020

An uncommon coming of age story. I would love to know what a variety of freshmen girls in Ivy League like colleges would think of it.

o
oliviaghersen
Dec 02, 2019

I really tried with this book. I did like the writing, and there were moments that I really enjoyed, namely passages and phrases, but overall I felt it was too slow moving. Selin is definitely an interesting character and I found myself puzzled by her motives and thoughts.

c
cheriemoses
Jun 30, 2019

Have tried twice to read this book. The short sentences fragment the writing to the point I truly can't get past the first chapter. I love reading and do so continuously. It feels like a bad translation.

l
lukasevansherman
Jun 08, 2019

You do have to admire the chutzpah of a writer who borrows a title from Dostoevsky for her debut novel. The great, intense Russian writer is mentioned a few times, but this is hardly a dark exploration of the soul. It's a rather slight, but energetic, story of a woman attending Harvard (You know, the school in Cambridge.) and going through the usual vicissitudes of the undergraduate experience. Later in the book, she travels to Hungary, party because she likes some Hungarian dude named Ivan, although, honestly, he doesn't seem worthy her time. It's a lovely 200 page novel trapped inside a book twice as long. Batuman also wrote a non-fiction book called "The Possessed."

k
krsbozo
Dec 10, 2018

I loved this odd work of fiction. One of the best books I read all year. It was funny, and deep, and rich, crossing cultures and countries.

b
bino911
Jul 12, 2018

I really liked this book. It’s a coming of age story, which is a genre I very much favour. It was amazingly low key, drawn out and a slow burn. That to me cleverly evoked that feeling of when you are drawn to someone and you feel a common burn but it doesn’t necessarily go any further or for whatever reason you are not destined to be together, but the slow burn of unspoken mutual attraction is delightful in itself.

u
uncommonreader
Apr 14, 2018

I could just not become interested in an 18 year old at Harvard in the 1990s.

m
mariahallowell
Sep 27, 2017

In retrospect, i feel that this title is fairly ironic, considering that i was the one who felt like an idiot as i waited, hopeful, that this book would eventually increase in depth, character development, or plot development.... anything.

View All Comments

Age

Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.

Summary

Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.

Notices

Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Quotes

Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Recommendations

Subject Headings

  Loading...

Find it at APL

  Loading...
[]
[]
To Top