The Idiot

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Is a novel that tells story of a prince[?] who has returned from Switzerland where he was being treated for epilepsy[idiocy?] who knows? Dostoevsky doesn’t say. He has been there four years and now returns to mother Russia to follow up on a letter he has received detailing his inheritance from one of his late benefactors.

Dostoevsky tells us the story of the Epanchin’s lovely girls, their relationship with their eccentric mother, their gentleman father and their many suitors.

Nastasia Philipovna is a strange but beautiful girl. It is hard to determine whether she is insane or just difficult, but a great character all the same.

Rogojin who is in love with Nastasia ends up killing her. Well, one can understand why. Twice, she run away from him just when they were about to wed. She decides to wed our idiot prince from whom he flees to the hands of Rogojin who we have said already kills her.

There are minor characters like Lebeddef, Budorsky, Colia, Varavara, Varia, Adelaide, Alexandra, Prince S, Evgenie and others who contribute to the development of the plot.

The prince is in love with two women, Nastasia and Aglaya. He agrees to wed Nastasia just after proposing to Aglaya in their house in the presence of family and a few members of society. The scandal rocks Pavlofs where they have been residing and the family decides to move away.

There is a little talk about religion and atheism. Dostoevsky through the prince argues that Roman Catholicism is unchristian. He writes

[….]‘It is not a Christian religion, in the first place,’ [..] ‘And in the second place, Roman Catholicism is, in my opinion, worse than Atheism itself. Yes— that is my opinion. Atheism only preaches a negation, but Romanism goes further; it preaches a disfigured, distorted Christ—it preaches Anti-Christ—I assure you, I swear it! This is my own personal conviction, and it has long distressed me. The Roman Catholic believes that the Church on earth cannot stand without universal temporal Power. He cries ‘non possumus!’ In my opinion the Roman Catholic religion is not a faith at all, but simply a continuation of the Roman Empire, and everything is subordinated to this idea—beginning with faith. The Pope has seized territories and an earthly throne, and has held them with the sword. And so the thing has gone on, only that to the sword they have added lying, intrigue, deceit, fanaticism, superstition, swindling;—they have played fast and loose with the most  sacred and sincere feelings of men;—they have exchanged everything—everything for money, for base earthly POWER! And is this not the teaching of Anti-Christ? How could the upshot of all this be other than Atheism? Atheism is the child of Roman Catholicism—it proceeded from these Romans themselves, though perhaps they would not believe it. It grew and fattened on hatred of its parents; it is the progeny of their lies and spiritual feebleness.

And says about atheists

Atheism! In our country it is only among the upper classes that you find unbelievers; men who have lost the root or spirit of their faith; but abroad whole masses of the people are beginning to profess unbelief—at first because of the darkness and lies by which they were surrounded; but now out of fanaticism, out of loathing for the Church and Christianity!’

As the curtain closes on this novel, the prince is back in Switzerland for treatment, Adelaide’s wedding has been postponed, Rogojin is in prison for murder, Hippolyte is dead.

Note: There are those who have written elsewhere that the Idiot as compared to The Brothers Karamozov is a better novel. I disagree with them. The Brothers Karamazov covers the themes of morality, religion, love in much more detail as compared to the Idiot. Both novels however are all well written.

Happy New Year friends and followers

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

33 thoughts on “The Idiot

  1. Mordanicus says:

    We wish you a happy new year too!


  2. john zande says:

    Happy New Year, brother.


  3. I read an interview from Dostoevsky and his wife. Dostoevsky said that there were many aspects of himself in the “Idiot.” He, as you may be aware, had temporal lobe epilepsy. TLE has some fascinating after effects, and in Dostoevsky’s case, played a beneficial role in his creative writing. Hypergraphia also happens to be a side-effect of TLE.

    Thanks for sharing an outline of the book. That’s very interesting about what was quoted about the Catholic church, but certainly not uncommon thinking among many protestant churches. As history has shown time and time again—all empires fall. The RCC is no exception.

    Mak., here’s wishing you a very Happy New Year. Hope you’ve enjoyed your time off, too. I owe you an email. 🙂

    *leaves a chilled bottle of sparkling Prosecco*


    • makagutu says:

      It is an interesting book to read. His thoughts about the Catholic church sound quite true. At the end of the book, one is not sure whether the prince really is the idiot or everyone else. He seems to see things others don’t see and in his simplicity he says whatever comes to his head, maybe he is an idiot all the same.

      Happy New Year my good friend. I have had a great time off. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.


  4. ladysighs says:

    I have read both books…………….many many many years ago.
    “The Brothers Karamazov covers the themes of morality, religion, love in much more detail as compared to the Idiot”

    I know I skipped over these parts (morality, religion) as I just wasn’t interested. Perhaps if I reread I would read in a different way. Put them on the list of rereads.
    I always like your reviews. 🙂


    • makagutu says:

      Thanks for your comment and compliment.

      Maybe when you decide to reread the Brothers Karamazov, you could read The Grand Inquisitor and a few of the exchanges between Ivan and Alyosha on belief. I found them quite interesting.


  5. foolsmusings says:

    Boy does he peg the Catholic Church spot on in my opinion. Especially the part about it just being a continuation of the Roman Empire


  6. Had he lived in more modern times, he would have rephrased that sentence: “they have played fast and loose with the most sacred and sincere feelings of men and small boys.”

    Happy Earth’s Birthday, everyone!


  7. Eric Alagan says:

    Interesting choice of title that – Idiot!

    All the very best for 2014, Mak 🙂


  8. Happy New Year, Mak!


  9. Jackie says:

    Happy New Year to you and yours! 😀


  10. Real real me says:

    I love your review Mak… You’ve kept the most important storylines, plus you’ve given a personal opinion of the book. I agree with his view about Catholicism, as he writes “Atheism only preaches a negation”…


  11. Lux Ferous says:

    Say, Mak, what would you recommend from Dostoevsky, if anything?

    I’ve been recommended The Idiot before but have only read Crime and Punishment.




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