(read in Russian)

This is the second book by Dostoevsky I read, after "Crime and punishment" which I liked a lot. "Idiot" (this would be probably called "The Idiot" in English, but in Russian "the" doesn't exist) starts very well, telling about prince Myshkin, a good and naive soul - a simpleton, who comes to St. Petersbourg after a long absence abroad, having spent the past few years in Switzerland healing from a mental disease. He runs into the intrigues and cynicism of the high society in Russia, and this contrast makes for a really good read.

So much for the first part of the book. The rest of it is, unfortunately, considerably worse. The plot quickly turns into a soap opera that wouldn't shame the producer of "The bold and the beautiful", with ridiculous twists and turns, and excruciatingly long, boring and pointless transcriptions of discussions and dreams of the various characters. The contrast with the first part of the book is really striking. While at first I found it hard to put the book down, as it progressed it became a chore.

As I was reading reviews later, I found some interesting background information that can explain some things about the book. It turns out that Dostoevsky had epilepsy himself, and was in dire financial and emotional trouble during the writing of the novel. Another interesting background fact is that Dostoevsky was against the Western materialism (that he called nihilism), worrying that it would harm the spiritual and religious setting in Russia.

Even though I disliked the last 2/3 of the book, there are some glimpses of great writing, shining bright between the clouds, though unfortunately at distant intervals. As Electrical Engineers would call it, the SNR (signal to noise ratio) of this book is quite low. I could really feel that this is a great writer, just having a bad day.

Another thing I read in the reviews is that Dostoevsky tried to present a metaphor of Myshkin as Jesus Christ, a good soul in a land of sinners. Rogozhin was supposed to be the embodiment of all evil - the Devil himself. I must say I completely missed this metaphor :-)

So I wouldn't recommend this book. If you're looking for some good literature, read "Crime and Punishment" instead.