Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Idiot


It seems to take about a year to grapple with a Dostoyevsky novel. It took me a year to read 'Crime and Punishment' and today after a year and several gaps, I finished reading 'The Idiot'. It's probably an unavoidable part of destiny that I decide to read Dostoyevsky during the busiest and most unpredictable periods of my life. Therefore,I choose to blame circumstance and Dostoyevsky's over analysis for the long chronological periods I spend in reading his books.

I started reading 'The Idiot' last November. It starts off pensively, engulfing the consciousness of the reader, invoking every bit of guilt laden empathy that is humanly permissable. We are introduced to our protagonist Myshkin (the idiot), an epilleptic prince with a perceptive mind and a heart of gold. The story unfolds gradually and uncomfortably. Myshkin's gengerosity is almost nauseatingly beautiful, as he gives every other person the benefit of the doubt. The book lilts between the dubious schemes and innuendos of Russian society and Myshkin's simplicity. It is said that Dostoyevsky modelled Myshkin on the 'christian ideals' of goodness and 'his own afflictions'. Dostoyevsky , himself an epilleptic and a fugitive of some sorts, writes tenderly of this young prince and his trysts with a world that couldn't provide him enough room to breathe. The plot is deliriously complex. After about a hundred pages, one tends to lose count of the characters; all except Myshkin and a few others. The story twists around the flimsy yet controlled structure of the human condition, sprinkled here and there with Dostoyevsky's wisdom, and culminates in tragedy (much to the horror and discomfort of this particular reader).

On a personal note, I almost started to love Myshkin untill I realized he didn't exist. The dismissal of a simple man as a simpleton is unbearably excruciating, so is Dostoyevsky's evident genius. Dostoyevsky wasn't merely ahead of his time, he was and is timeless.

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