The Idiot

The Idiot

eBook - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"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"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York City : Penguin Press, 2017
ISBN: 9781101622513
Characteristics: 1 online resource


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jun 08, 2019

You do have to admire the chutzpah of a writer who borrows a title from Dostoevsky for her debut novel. The great, intense Russian writer is mentioned a few times, but this is hardly a dark exploration of the soul. It's a rather slight, but energetic, story of a woman attending Harvard (You know, the school in Cambridge.) and going through the usual vicissitudes of the undergraduate experience. Later in the book, she travels to Hungary, party because she likes some Hungarian dude named Ivan, although, honestly, he doesn't seem worthy her time. It's a lovely 200 page novel trapped inside a book twice as long. Batuman also wrote a non-fiction book called "The Possessed."

Dec 10, 2018

I loved this odd work of fiction. One of the best books I read all year. It was funny, and deep, and rich, crossing cultures and countries.

Jul 12, 2018

I really liked this book. It’s a coming of age story, which is a genre I very much favour. It was amazingly low key, drawn out and a slow burn. That to me cleverly evoked that feeling of when you are drawn to someone and you feel a common burn but it doesn’t necessarily go any further or for whatever reason you are not destined to be together, but the slow burn of unspoken mutual attraction is delightful in itself.

Apr 14, 2018

I could just not become interested in an 18 year old at Harvard in the 1990s.

Aug 24, 2017

Hilarious moments throughout novel. It reminded me of my adolescence and captures how ridiculous that age is.

athompson10 Aug 15, 2017

Lots and lots of wandering and indecision in the minute detailing of a young American of Turkish descent's freshman year at Harvard. Here and there bits were laugh-out-loud funny, but overall I just couldn't muster much sympathy for the narrator. [Editing to add:] Imagine spending a year with an 18-year-old who's both self-absorbed and not at all self-aware. She obsesses about language, math and philosophy (thank you, freshman core corriculum) while making stupid decisions about a guy. I ran out of patience with her and the story long before I finished it.

ArapahoeAlison Jun 12, 2017

This book is brilliant and hilarious. I loved the deadpan voice of the main character Selin and her absurdist observations. She struggles with coming of age and her first major crush in her first year at Harvard College.

Mar 23, 2017

I had read that this book was semi-autobiographical, so I was gobsmacked that in the late 90's a young woman of 18 who had been accepted at Harvard could be so incredibly unworldly and socially inept where members of the opposite sex were concerned. I was also amazed at how disorganized she was toward her academic plan. I know I am forgetting a bit of my own youth, but this girl was really out of touch with her won time.

At first the book was just annoying and hard to believe, but in Part 2 it got deeper and more interesting. What would have been more interesting was the background that caused her to view life as she did, and view relationships and men as she did. I think at that at we all play at what we think we should/want to be, but this was playing and ungroundedness in the extreme.

cals_joe Mar 16, 2017


Add a Quote
Nov 03, 2018

“The most important thing was to be relaxed, patient, and playful.”

Nov 03, 2018

“What I want to help you to understand in the next few weeks is that real intimacy is a place where there are no mistakes, at least not in the sense you feel. You don’t just blow everything with one wrong move. A friendship is a space where you’re supported and free to make mistakes. I think when you reach this understanding a lot of things are going to feel better for you.”


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at TPL

To Top