The Idiot

The Idiot

The way the digital libraries work, I’ll spot an interesting book in the social feeds, look it up in the library, get on a waiting list, then, days, weeks or even months later, the book becomes available.

The Idiot – Elif Batuman

I forgot why I wanted this one, and, no clue what referred it to me.

“I didn’t have a religion, and I didn’t do team sports, and for a long time orchestra had been the only place where I felt like part of something bigger than I was, where I was able to strive and at the same time to forget myself.” Page 15.

First page boring. Second page, no traction for me, stripped prose, lean and muscular. Sexy while being absolutely sexless. But after a few pages, it got sort of interesting.

  • For me, there’s singular event, I’ve referred back to, numerous times, but it was interaction with a (Pac-Rim, obvious Asian heritage) person, and she told me, her parents were first generation immigrants, “I’m Asian, failure is not an option. My family.” In short, that tiny amount of declamatory discourse? The way the previous generation heaps praise, and expectation, on the next part of the familial lineage. Always piqued my interest, and now, a short-listed novel about it. That said more about me, and my white privilege, but it echos my forefathers, the pioneer stock from not much more than a century past.

Maybe because I breezed through the first few pages, it wasn’t until I was partially into the novel that I realized, on some level, this was my family, in a way. No, we’re not first generation American, but from pioneer stock, and my sister, oft-referred to as my sister? She was dumped into a pressure cooker of an academic environment, hard science at that, near the same age.

Gave me pause and stopped to think. Me? I was more circuitous in my educational routing.

Confused, too, as I thought this was about an Asian-American trying to find her way in American higher education, but it’s a Turkish protagonist, whose mother is a medical doctor, and the kid has just arrived, confused, at Harvard.

Turkish parents, born in America. Think I got it.

Ok, I haven’t read Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, but a simple précis made me wonder if this was a retelling, or “made for TV” (novel) version.

“It can be really exasperating to look back at your past. What’s the matter with you? I want to ask her, my younger self, shaking her shoulder. If I did that, she would probably cry. Maybe I would cry, too.” Page 262.

Are we even allowed to ask those questions, in real life, at age 19?

Russian Lit.

That would explain some of it.

Confident voice. In part of an afterword I glanced at, the author claimed the novel was in the works from 2001, but only more recently fleshed out. Sort of an academic dream, with layers and symbols, and sort of weird coming-of-age novel, set around the turn of the current millennia.

Interesting. Not sure what else to call it. Loved the author’s voice. Good? Tastes vary, but it certainly held my weird interest, if just something novel in a novel. I’ll admit, though, I’m weak on Russian Lit., and that might be a missing piece to the puzzle. either way, it was a welcome relief from what I’ve been reading.

The Idiot

The Idiot – Elif Batuman

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