By Dennis Abrams
Over at Project D, Publishing Perspectives’ ongoing study of the four major novels of Russian master Fyodor Dostoevsky, we’re just wrapping up Crime and Punishment, and laying the groundwork for the next novel in our series: The Idiot.
A complete turnaround from the dark, poverty-filled world of Raskolnikov’s St. Petersburg, The Idiot tells the story of Prince Myshkin, a near saint (Dostoevsky described him as a “positively beautiful man,” who upon his return from a Swiss sanitarium finds himself a stranger trying to make his way in a society obsessed with wealth, power, and sexual conquest.
As A.S. Byatt wrote about the work, “I think The Idiot to be a masterpiece — flawed, occasionally tedious or overwrought, like many masterpieces — but a fact of world literature just as important as the densely dramatic Brothers Karamazov or the brilliantly subtle and terrifying Devil . . . [Myshkin] does resemble his comic models, Don Quixote and Mr Pickwick, in that his innocence causes damage. Quixote inhabits the first real novel, in which the old forms of romance and religion become phantasms in his head and on our page, present but shadowy. Myshkin is a later, more riddling and more tragic figure of lost absolutes. In a world where God is simply dead flesh, a good man becomes simply an idiot.”
We will begin reading Dostoevsky’s masterpiece The Idiot on Monday, February 21st. I hope you’ll join us.