The Idiot, Paperback
4.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot" is an immaculate portrait of innocence tainted by the brutal reality of human greed.

This "Penguin Classics" edition is translated from the Russian by David McDuff, with an introduction by William Mills Todd III.

Returning to St Petersburg from a Swiss sanatorium, the gentle and naive epileptic Prince Myshkin - the titular 'idiot' - pays a visit to his distant relative General Yepanchin and proceeds to charm the General, his wife, and his three daughters.

But his life is thrown into turmoil when he chances on a photograph of the beautiful Nastasya Filippovna.

Utterly infatuated with her, he soon finds himself caught up in a love triangle and drawn into a web of blackmail, betrayal, and finally, murder.

Inspired by an image of Christ's suffering Dostoyevsky sought to portray in Prince Myshkin the purity of a 'truly beautiful soul' and explore the perils that innocence and goodness face in a corrupt world.

David McDuff's new translation brilliantly captures the novel's idiosyncratic and dream-like language and the nervous, elliptic flow of the narrative. This edition also contains a new introduction by William Mills Todd III, which is a fascinating examination of the pressures on Dostoyevsky as he wrote the story of his Christ-like hero.

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) was born in Moscow.

From 1849-54 he lived in a convict prison, and in later years his passion for gambling led him deeply into debt.

His other works available in "Penguin Classics" include "Crime & Punishment", "The Idiot" and "Demons".

If you enjoyed "The Idiot", you might like Anton Chekhov's "Ward No. 6 and Other Stories", also available in "Penguin Classics". "McDuff's language is rich and alive". ("The New York Times Book Review"). "[The Idiot's] ...narrative is so compelling". (Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury).


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9780140447927



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

In this book Dostoyevsky does what few other novelist have done successfully--he makes a very good man interesting. It is easy to make evil interesting. But to make good interesting--that is an accomplishment. Prince Myshkin arrrives from Switzerland, where he was undergoing "medical" treatment. (We would call it psychiatric treatment today.) On the train his destiny is set when he meets Rogozhin who becomes first his friend, then his rival in love. They both love Nastasya Filippovna, although the Prince wants his love to save her, and Rogozhin wants to possess her. In the end, Rogozhin ends up killing Fillippovna. Dostoyevsky is throwing a "positively good man" (his phrase for Prince Myshkin) into the ebb and flow of St. Petersburg social life, and the result is not pretty. He is not crucified, but he might as well be by the end of the book. The superficial life of the characters is exposed by the Prince, but in a way that drives home their rational for their lives. The hard part about the book is that we can easily recognize ourselves in its pages, and often NOT in the person of Myshkin. This is a MUST READ for any serious reader.

Review by

A really thinking book, and a heart-breaking one at the end. Tremendous plotting makes the book hard to put down. Crime and Punishment is an excellent book and although it deals more blood and guts issues The Idiot is a deeper, subtler probing into the human character.