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The Idiot

de Elif Batuman

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
9434517,068 (3.61)69
"A portrait of the artist as a young woman. A novel about not just discovering but inventing oneself. The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings. At the end of the school year, Ivan goes to Budapest for the summer, and Selin heads to the Hungarian countryside, to teach English in a program run by one of Ivan's friends. On the way, she spends two weeks visiting Paris with Svetlana. Selin's summer in Europe does not resonate with anything she has previously heard about the typical experiences of American college students, or indeed of any other kinds of people. For Selin, this is a journey further inside herself: a coming to grips with the ineffable and exhilarating confusion of first love, and with the growing consciousness that she is doomed to become a writer. With superlative emotional and intellectual sensitivity, mordant wit, and pitch-perfect style, Batuman dramatizes the uncertainty of life on the cusp of adulthood. Her prose is a rare and inimitable combination of tenderness and wisdom; its logic as natural and inscrutable as that of memory itself.The Idiot is a heroic yet self-effacing reckoning with the terror and joy of becoming a person in a world that is as intoxicating as it is disquieting. Batuman's fiction is unguarded against both life's affronts and its beauty--and has at its command the complete range of thinking and feeling which they entail"--… (més)
Afegit fa poc perbiblioteca privada, Catsunshine36, harlaquin64, slplst, Dreyfusard, bacyc81, lucylove73, anipc
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Es mostren 1-5 de 45 (següent | mostra-les totes)
I also felt that while I enjoyed the author's very fluid and comfortable style of prose and her sometimes wry humor, there were sections where the story took detours (at least it appeared to do so for me), and my mind wandered and my attention strayed.

It did bring back quite a lot of memories of my college days of all those years ago (!), and nostalgia, without fail, brings me a dose of melancholy.

( )
  geoff79 | Jul 11, 2021 |
"The Idiot" traces the narrator's first year at Harvard and the the summer that follows. She's an english major and feels out of place at Harvard -- both conditions seem to be an explanation for the title of the novel. What begins as an interesting story interspersed with smart quotes and references to literature (a la "The Friend") turns into a hard-to-slog-through-to-the-end pity party. The narrator's naïveté, while endearing for the first 100 pages, becomes exhausting by the end.

If this were a work of autofiction about a woman's first year at the University of South Alabama, would anyone care? Probably not. Which is why, in the end, this novel is probably better left on the shelf.

I first encountered Batuman's writing in the form of some essays on her experiences in graduate school, which were published in n+1. I found them insightful and smart. I was a graduate student myself at the time. Having now read "The Idiot," which similarly recounts her undergraduate experiences, I wonder if I would find her essays on graduate school as gripping, now that I'm no longer a graduate student myself. ( )
  Travis_H | Jun 4, 2021 |
The first chapter caught my attention, so I persevered to read it in a span of 2 months.
I was on a reading slump that time, so even if this is one of my favorites in 2020 I couldn't bring myself to finish it in few days.

This book inspired me to join a messaging app called Slowly. It takes few hours or days for you to send and receive messages. I like that feature and I used the concepts used in this story. ( )
  DzejnCrvena | Apr 2, 2021 |
It was good but I couldn’t be arsed finishing it. ( )
  mjhunt | Jan 22, 2021 |
I don't know how I feel about this book. I am thinking that to fully enjoy the book demands a state of emotional availability to full abandon. I was not in that state and therefore at times found it tedious to get through. Why, my dear Selin, are you spending all these pages conversing with a Hungarian boy who is so massively annoying and emotionally unavailable and with whom you have to dig painfully into yourself to muster even a spark of depressing chemistry

What does language mean??? Do words mean things?? Maybe wait till you take a theory class and learn about deconstruction, idk?? Why figure it out with a fellow student (even if he's older)? Is Ivan the idiot? Or is Selin the idiot for liking Ivan?

Anyway I am being purposely obtuse, I know how the book is supposed to be read / enjoyed and I will say that Elif Batuman's sentences are breathtaking. I love Selin's wry, awkward, sharp and dryly hilarious voice. I found myself laughing out loud several times reading the book (very rare for me), especially when Selin read that Hungarian joke about a man walking with his intestines hanging out and it made her wonder if all her difficulty in understanding Ivan was just because him being Hungarian & growing up with jokes like these... and amongst all these jokes and dry humour were moments of such clarity, depth and beauty that I would find myself in love with Batuman's mind..

"I kept thinking about the uneven quality of time – the way it was almost always so empty, and then with no warning came a few days that felt so dense and alive and real that it seemed indisputable that that was what life was, that its real nature had finally been revealed. But then time passed and unthinkably grew dead again, and it turned out that that fullness had been an aberration and might never come back."
  verkur | Jan 8, 2021 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 45 (següent | mostra-les totes)
The sermonic version of The Idiot might conclude with this: if power compromises love, and sex involves power, then sex always compromises love. To be intoxicated by someone’s power is to allow your love for them to be compromised. True love will not save you: the truer the love the deeper the compromise.

I don’t think Selin sees a way out of this predicament.
afegit per elenchus | editaThe Millions, Kris Bartkus (Apr 20, 2017)
 
In one respect, The Idiot, a debut novel by Elif Batuman, staff writer at the New Yorker, is an expansion of the Hungary-based segment of her nonfiction The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them. Ironically, however, it strikes you as throwaway material that didn’t merit inclusion in that well-received work. It’s mostly bland and boring. At over 400 pages, it also feels interminable...Ultimately, you cannot but wonder why Batuman wrote such a meandering and listless novel. Because it reflects her real-life experiences? If so, the author would do well to emulate a minor character in The Idiot, who, unlike Selin and a friend of hers, “doesn’t compulsively rehash everything that happens to her in the form of a story.
 
Elif Batuman’s first novel, “The Idiot,” is in part about the unlikely and consuming crush that Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, develops on an older mathematics student from Hungary during her freshman year at Harvard.

It is unclear, for hundreds of pages, whether this crush is requited. Meanwhile the reader, palm crushed into forehead, thinks, “Poor Selin, what are you doing to yourself?”..Small pleasures will have to sustain you over the long haul of this novel. “The Idiot” builds little narrative or emotional force. It is like a beautiful neon sign made without a plug. No glow is cast... After 100 pages, I was done with Ivan and wanted Selin to be done, too....There are two things I admire about this novel. One is the touching sense, here as in everything Batuman writes, that books are life. Selin is, convincingly and only slightly pretentiously, the sort of person who buys an overcoat because it reminds her of Gogol’s...this wry but distant novel, never becomes an enveloping one. Fiction, like love, is strange.
 
Now she’s continued this project in a long and enjoyably literary novel, The Idiot...A summary of this kind makes the novel sound like a treatise, which is exactly what it is not. The voice throughout is colloquial and humorous. And as a reading experience, it is enjoyable: a generously capacious book that creates an alternative world for the reader to inhabit in a manner comparable to the Russian novels that Batuman loves. Part of the pleasure is that many of the characters are unusually likable. Selin’s friends are consistently warm, curious and interesting, despite waking her up with their snoring or dismissing her love for Ivan. Even her interfering mother is generally sensible in her advice.
Elif Batuman interview: ‘I thought racism and sexism were over. I was in for a rude awakening’
Read more

The likability tends to be confined to the female characters, however...A young woman discovers the difference between life and literature in a warm, funny portrayal of university life in the 90s
 
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But the characteristic feature of the ridiculous age I was going through---awkward indeed but by no means infertile---is that we do not consult our intelligence and that the most trivial attributes of other people seem to us to form an inseparable part of their personality.  In a world thronged with monsters and with gods, we know little peace of mind.  There is hardly a single action we perform in that phase which we would not give anything, in later life, to be able to annul.  Whereas what we ought to regret is that we no longer possess the spontaneity which made us perform them.  In later life we look at things in a more practical way, in full conformity with the rest of society, but adolescence is the only period in which we learn anything.
Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time, Volume II: Within a Budding Grave
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"A portrait of the artist as a young woman. A novel about not just discovering but inventing oneself. The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings. At the end of the school year, Ivan goes to Budapest for the summer, and Selin heads to the Hungarian countryside, to teach English in a program run by one of Ivan's friends. On the way, she spends two weeks visiting Paris with Svetlana. Selin's summer in Europe does not resonate with anything she has previously heard about the typical experiences of American college students, or indeed of any other kinds of people. For Selin, this is a journey further inside herself: a coming to grips with the ineffable and exhilarating confusion of first love, and with the growing consciousness that she is doomed to become a writer. With superlative emotional and intellectual sensitivity, mordant wit, and pitch-perfect style, Batuman dramatizes the uncertainty of life on the cusp of adulthood. Her prose is a rare and inimitable combination of tenderness and wisdom; its logic as natural and inscrutable as that of memory itself.The Idiot is a heroic yet self-effacing reckoning with the terror and joy of becoming a person in a world that is as intoxicating as it is disquieting. Batuman's fiction is unguarded against both life's affronts and its beauty--and has at its command the complete range of thinking and feeling which they entail"--

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813.6 — Literature American and Canadian American fiction 21st Century

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