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First off I want to say to everyone out there, don't be put off by the length of this book. Once you get stuck into it you hardly notice (on the e-version anyway, you might if you have a hardback) as Dostoyevsky weaves an incredible story led by an unbelievable cast of characters, all as vivid and larger than life as the next. Prince Myshkin is terribly naive and you feel his unnoticed pain every step of the way and often just want to take him to one side and explain what is really going on as, bless him, he doesn't really see it (he is just too nice). The rest of the cast however show a stark contrast to Myshkin's innocence as they use him and each other for their own benefit, greed and general amusements. And all you can do is cringe as Myshkin is drawn further and further in. There is something joyfully depressing about the Russian classics that always places them high on my list, must be something to do with their long cold winters and abundance of vodka that makes them such great storytellers.
Published in 1870 what does Dostoyevsky have relevant to say today in the book? The extremes of class have always existed in Russia even to this day.The ruling class of the Tzar's period were remote with their immense wealth. But his dialogues about good and bad and his tribute to the enlightenment of the Tzar of the period do not last in the way that his analysis of what humiliation in puberty can do to eradicate any self-respect. The most beautiful woman has been in earlier life the subject of grooming since pre-pubescence. Her beauty eventually frees her from her protector in one sense. She carries with her feelings of insecurity and inferiority and suffers such perpetual shame and degradation that henceforth she cannot bring herself to love the suitable men of class and station for her as their wife.She rejects the suitable and constructive. She clings to the destructive. She allows herself only to be loved by the ruffians-the bad boys - and the author explores what it is about the seeds of early life either equipping one or else preventing one from facing the world and all whom we meet by upbringing. On yesterdays radio BBC4 there was a programme about a man whose parents gave him continual approval for his odd ball ideas when a small boy. They came to fruition and he paid tribute to his parents for their giving him confidence.Until I read The Idiot I did not appreciate this phenomena. The Idiot himself is the man who displays what today we should describe as Emotional Intelligence.He would be the man suitable for the "herioine". Instead she is destroyed. I suppose all those connected with the Andrew Norfolk revelations will read it.