Dostoevsky's The Idiot Last book you read: Dostoevsky's The Idiot

By SPIDER on Friday, May 29, 2009 - 11:22 am:


By platypus on Friday, May 29, 2009 - 12:50 pm:

    Sweet Lord! The Earth is tilting off its axis!

By droopy on Friday, May 29, 2009 - 01:04 pm:

    a big day!

    was it worth the effort?

By Spider on Friday, May 29, 2009 - 01:21 pm:


    My feelings are mixed. I'm at work or I'd elaborate further.

    It was like war: long stretches of boredom punctuated by moments of brilliance.

By Spider on Friday, May 29, 2009 - 05:44 pm:

    Not that war is brilliant.

    These were the good parts:

    *the prince's description of his life in Switzerland

    *the first time the prince sees the Hans Holbein painting at Rogozhin's house

    *Nastasya Fillipovna's party and her throwing of the money into the fire

    *the description of what it was like right before the prince has an epileptic fit (this was the best passage in the whole book)

    *Ippolit's "Necessary Explanation" and his own description of the Hans Holbein painting (this was the second-best passage in the whole book)

    *Nastasya Fillipovna's letters to Aglaya (which contain what may be my favorite sentence Dostoevsky ever wrote: "I almost do not exist anymore; God knows what lives in me in place of me.")

    *the end sequence with the prince, Rogozhin, and Nastasya Fillipovna.

    That's maybe 50 pages right there. (Maybe. I'm still at work so I can't actually count.) The entire book was 615 pages.

    The rest of the book was spent on worthless people doing worthless things. Maybe that was the point; I have no perspective right now. Maybe that heinous bitch Aglaya was supposed to be a symbol for something (maybe the ficklness of mankind in reference to God?), and maybe all those lying, fawning generals had some sort of purpose in the parable of the Prince's life. I don't know. All I know was that the Epanchins should have all died in a fire. Maybe they lived until the siege of Leningrad, at which point they all died of starvation, hooray. I hated those idiots.

    You've read it, haven't you, Platy? What did you think of it?

By platypus on Friday, May 29, 2009 - 06:00 pm:

    I must confess that I actually haven't. If I claimed I did somewhere on the original thread, I was clearly lying my pants off. I picked it up and kind of stared at the cover thoughtfully around seven years ago, so I could potentially beat your record.

By droopy on Friday, May 29, 2009 - 06:11 pm:

    nabokov hated dostoevsky, ya know. my favorite parts of crime and punishment were the descriptions of extreme emotional states. he did that well. i think he was an epileptic.

By Spider on Friday, May 29, 2009 - 06:59 pm:

    Oh ho, Platy! Well, it's not without merit, so if you have any long plane rides ahead of you, you could consider bringing it.

    He was indeed an epileptic. He also had his own profound experience with the Hans Holbein painting.

    Copy and paste this link to see it, if you please:

    I prefer his writing to Nabokov's (although they seem to be operating on different planes of existence, don't they? You can't really compare them.) This experience with "the Idiot" has not put me off Dostoevsky by any means -- I think I'll read "The Brothers Karamazov" next.

    The way he understands people, the way he sees Creation and God and goodness.....dude. I think I'm kind of in love with him a little. Even if he is responsible for nine years of sporadic torture.

By Spider on Friday, May 29, 2009 - 07:08 pm:

By droopy on Friday, May 29, 2009 - 07:19 pm:

    vladimir nabokov is one of the few writers in this world for whom i have a personal dislike. meaning i don't like the man himself; i think that at heart he's a snob. i'd rather read dostoevsky or somebody like that where you can really feel the moral and emotional struggle going on. i'll check out the holbein link.

By Spider on Friday, May 29, 2009 - 10:37 pm:

    I can see that, for sure. I started to read "Ada, or Ardor" and then had to get a companion guide to understand what was going on. It may be the most intellectually elaborate thing I've ever encountered, and Nabokov was clearly a visionary genius, but my heart and soul are not engaged by it at all.

    Dostoevsky, on the other hand...

    This is what Ippolit says about the Hans Holbein painting (it's long but *~*I think it has merit*~* and I think you'll like it, so here's the whole thing):


    This picture portrays Christ just taken down from the cross. It seems to me that painters are usually in the habit of portraying Christ, both on the cross and taken down from the cross, as still having a shade of extraordinary beauty in his face; they seek to preserve this beauty for him even in his most horrible suffering. But in Rogozhin's picture [the Hans Holbein painting] there is not a word about beauty; this is in the fullest sense the corpse of a man who had endured infinite suffering before the cross, wounds, torture, beating by the guards, beating by the people as he carried the cross and fell down under it, and had finally suffered on the cross for six hours (at least according to my calculation).

    True, it is the face of a man who has only just been taken down from the cross, that is, retaining in itself a great deal of life, of warmth; nothing has had time to become rigid yet, so that the dead man's face even shows suffering as if he were feeling it now (the artist has caught that very well); but the face has not been spared in the least; it is nature alone, and truly as the dead body of any man must be after such torments.

    I know that in the first centuries the Christian Church already established that Christ suffered not in appearance but in reality, and that on the cross his body, therefore, was fully and completely subject to the laws of nature. In the picture this face is horribly hurt by blows, swollen, with horrible, swollen, and bloody bruises, the eyelids are open, the eyes crossed; the large open whites have a sort of deathly, glassy shine.

    But, strangely, when you look at the corpse of this tortured man, a particular and curious question arises; if all his disciples, his chief future apostles, if the women who followed him and stood by the cross, if all those who believed in him and worshipped him had seen a corpse like that (and it was bound to be exactly that), how could they believe, looking at such a corpse, that this sufferer would resurrect?

    Here the notion involuntarily occurs to you that if death is so terrible and the laws of nature are so powerful, how can they be overcome? How overcome them, if they were not even defeated now, but the one who defeated nature while he lived, whom nature obeyed, who exclaimed: "Talitha cumi" and the girl arose, "Lazarus come forth" and the dead man came out? Nature appears to the viewer of this painting that in the shape of some enormous, implacable, and dumb beast, or to put it more correctly, much more correctly, strange though it is -- in the shape of some huge machine of the most modern construction, which has senselessly seized, crushed, and swallowed up, blankly and unfeelingly, a great and priceless being -- such a being as by himself was worth the whole of nature and all its laws, the whole earth, which was perhaps created solely for the appearance of this being alone!

    The painting seems precisely to express this notion of a dark, insolent, and senselessly eternal power, to which everything is subjected, and it is conveyed to you involuntarily. The people who surrounded the dead man, none of whom is in the painting, must have felt horrible anguish and confusion on that evening, which at once smashed all their hopes and almost their beliefs. They must have gone off in terrible fear, though each carried within himself a tremendous thought that could never be torn out of him. And if this same teacher could have seen his own image on the eve of the execution, would he have gone to the cross and died as he did? That question also come to you involuntarily as you look at the painting.

    All this came to me in fragments, perhaps indeed through delirium ... Can something that has no image come as an image? But it was as if it seemed to me at moments that I could see that infinite power, that blank, dark, and dumb being, in some strange and impossible form. I remember it seemed as if someone holding a candle led me by the hand and showed me some huge and repulsive tarantula and started assuring me that this was that dark, blank, and all-powerful being, and laughed at my indignation.


By Spider on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 05:48 pm:

    Goddamn, I love this book. I love that passage above.

    Some works require years to digest them before you can appreciate them.

By droopy on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 11:54 pm:

    i've been reading the complete works of p.g. wodehouse on
    project guttenburg. it digests like celery.

By drippy on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 11:56 pm:

    i think there's only one "t" in gutenberg.

By Spider on Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 10:52 am:

    Wodehouse's one unforgivable sin is his re-use of the same metaphors in different stories.

By droopy on Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 05:50 pm:

    there are others. for example, using the same plot
    devices. quite honestly, he recycled. i like his
    little metaphors, if we're talking about the same
    thing. stuff like: smoked a pensive cigarette;
    dropped a startled spoon. frank o'connor called
    him "the performing flea of english literature".
    stephen fry calls him a genius. i just need
    something to while away the hours. (never thought
    about this: is it "while"?)

    been reading lots of different online stuff.
    mysteries (a.c. doyle, christie). weird/fantasy
    (blackwood, dunsany). read dracula on a stormy
    night, in the dark with only the light of the ipad
    to see by. read treasure island. i identify with
    ben gunn.

    hope things are going well.

By Zooter on Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - 03:21 am:

    <title> Hello!</title>
    <body bgcolor="black" text="blue">

By Danielssss on Saturday, April 7, 2012 - 10:30 pm:

    that you
    the idiot.

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