The Idiot by Elif Batuman

The Idiot

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. S...


Details The Idiot

TitleThe Idiot
ISBN9781594205613
Author
Release DateMar 14th, 2017
PublisherPenguin Press
LanguageEnglish
GenreFiction, Literary Fiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Novels, Contemporary, Did Not Finish
Rating

Reviews The Idiot

  • Roxane
    2017-11-18
    This was an interesting novel, dense, unique, written from a very specific point of view. One of those books where I marvel that it was published and am grateful it was published because, I mean, who wants to read the same type of book over and over? As someone who went to college in the 90s, not far from where much of this novel takes place, I felt an unexpected amount of nostalgia for that first year of college where you know nothing but think ...
  • Blair
    2017-02-23
    With the abrupt sadness of The Idiot's final sentence, I felt a near-physical wrench, as if forcibly separated from someone who had swiftly become a good friend. I probably read the second half of the book too quickly – I loved it so much, and wish I'd taken more time to savour it – but once I'd started, I just couldn't stop.The eponymous idiot is 18-year-old Harvard freshman Selin (though with all the Russian influences popping up throughout...
  • Jessica Sullivan
    2017-03-29
    2.5/5 Stars.I had a really complicated relationship with this book. On the surface, it appears to have everything I enjoy in a novel—a quirky protagonist, smart insights, dry humor, a character-driven narrative—but if I'm being honest, it was completely tedious and desperate for some more extensive editing.It's a Bildungsroman story about a Turkish-American girl named Selin who begins her freshman year at Harvard University. Selin is awkward,...
  • Barry Pierce
    2018-03-17
    I was ready to give up on The Idiot at page 100. There was no distinct plot - nothing major seemed to be happening except for a girl describing her classes at university. But I persisted. Thank god for that.The Idiot is the story of Selin, a student at Harvard in the mid-90s. The mid-90s were strange time to be at university. Selin begins her tale with the line, 'I didn’t know what email was until I got to college.' Batuman is obsessed with lim...
  • Rebecca Foster
    2017-02-27
    (3.5) This is such an odd debut novel that, though I ultimately thought it a very funny anti-Bildungsroman, I’d hesitate to recommend it too widely. Nostalgia for pre-technology college days, some familiarity with Eastern European literature (especially the absurdist tradition), and a fascination with linguistic theory and foreign languages would be good prerequisites for enjoying this – but then again, none of those criteria are quite valid ...
  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2017-04-07
    Part of my warm feelings to this book must be because the author is reflecting so much of my own experience, that era (95-96) of life-changing technology and the normalization of the internet right at the gateway to college, with suddenly changing relationships and interactions, especially how email changed flirtations! "I began to feel that I was living two lives - one consisting of emails with Ivan, the other consisting of school."Selin is the ...
  • Bruno
    2017-04-19
    NOTHING REALLY HAPPENS. IT'S LIKE KNAUSGÅRD BUT WITH HUNGARIANS.
  • Dea
    2017-03-07
    I really hate when books with titles like The Idiot make me feel like I’m the person the title is referring to. This book is either really smart or faux smart, and I don’t feel smart enough to figure out which of the two it is (though I’m kind of leaning towards “faux smart” to make myself feel better). Side note: Faux Smart would be an amazing band name. Maybe one word, like Fauxsmart? I expect to be credited in the future debut Fauxsm...
  • Michael Ferro
    2018-02-02
    This novel is a slow burn, but it's a pleasant warmth—not a scorching fire of excitement. But it's not meant to be either. Batuman has delivered a delightful, excruciatingly smart work of literary fiction that so perfectly captures the confusion of young love. For anyone who has ever felt "different," or a bit separated from a common reality, THE IDIOT is in your wheelhouse. Batuman is a writer's writer, giving us what our brain craves and does...
  • Meike
    2018-03-08
    DNF at around 70 % of the audiobook - I rarely DNF books, but I am so bored right now that I am starting to get aggressive, and we don't want that, do we? :-) Let's try to give a fair account of what this book is about: Selin is a freshman at Harvard, she tries to find her own path in life and her search strategy is highly influenced by the things she learns about language at school. Batuman is trying to bring together linguistic/literary theory ...
  • Paul
    2017-07-30
    I suppose it's appropriate that one of the recurring themes in Elif Batuman's The Idiot is the sensation of being trapped – in conversation, in a situation, in a location. Because about two-thirds of the way through this frustrating and tedious novel, I realized I too was trapped – too curious to simply jettison the story, all too aware that the plot was heading into ever more stagnant territory. In the end, I couldn't help but feel that the ...
  • Gumble's Yard
    2018-03-20
    [Svetelena said] I lived by aesthetic principles, whereas she, who had been raised on Western philosophy, was doomed to live boringly be ethical principles. It had never occurred to me to think of aesthetics and ethics as opposites. I thought ethics were aesthetic. “Ethics” meant the golden rule, which was basically an aesthetic rule. That’s why it was called “golden” like the golden ratio. “Isn’t that why you don’t cheat or steal...
  • Alice Lippart
    2018-03-23
    I feel like most of this book just went completely over my head. I don't get it :)
  • Tulay
    2017-08-09
    After listening this book, had to think about it long and hard before writing a review. First of all only reason I wanted to read was author is a daughter of Turkish parents. Places she was visiting was exciting places I would love to visit or lived in. But this book is definitely for twenty something age group, just going to university and discovering what life is about.
  • Hannah Knight
    2017-05-22
    I have a lot of complicated feelings about this book, to the point where I think if someone were to ask me, "but did you like it?" I would only be able to manage a sort of groan/shrug combo. Which might be an alright response if you're Selin. But since I'm not, I'm not super satisfied with that, and I took a lot of notes as I read that I would really hate to go to waste.So let's try to articulate this and see if we can't come up with a better res...
  • Kimberly V
    2017-03-06
    I won a copy of The Idiot by Elif Batuman here on Goodreads and couldn't wait to read it. Unfortunately, I didn't love it. This is a novel in which nothing truly happens: nothing good, nothing bad, and nothing exciting. At over four hundred pages of what read like a rambling stream of consciousness, I never felt invested in the story or connected with any of the characters. Intelligently written with occasional dry humor and several interesting f...
  • Eric Anderson
    2018-03-22
    This novel made me feel nostalgic. Set at Harvard in the mid-to-late 1990s Elif Batuman’s “The Idiot” follows a freshman named Selin as she navigates the uncertain territory of college life, young love and finding a direction in life. I went to college at this exact same time in Boston (at a much smaller, non-ivy league school) and shared many of Selin’s experiences of starting to use email for the first time and riding on the T or the MB...
  • Terri Jacobson
    2017-04-26
    It's 1995 and Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants living in New Jersey, is starting her first year at Harvard University. She has vague plans of wanting to be a writer, so she is studying languages and linguistics. She falls in with a group of friends that include Svetlana, a Serb, and Ivan, a somewhat older Hungarian mathematician. Selin and Ivan develop a relationship that is the core of this novel, first at the university, and then in Hu...
  • Elaine
    2018-02-02
    Just loved this. While reading, I kept feeling like I had read versions of this before -- a rambling story about a cerebral main character who as a young person confronts a bewildering world of eccentric characters and odd situations without ever quite mastering them, instead always (mis)reading the world like a puzzling text - but, typically, such novels have a male protagonist. (I kept thinking of Confederacy of Dunces, actually, while reading ...
  • Steve
    2017-02-12
    I received an ARC from the publisher for a free and honest review. Everyone has their favorite coming-of-age novel. Sadly, there may come a time for some when this sub-genre no longer works. I had high hopes for this novel. However, I just did not care. Lost interest in the characters, found myself rolling my eyes at some of the dialogue. This was not the novel for me. However, I look forward to the author's next novel.
  • Stephen P
    2017-03-29
    Loved her previous book and was real excited about this one appearing in my kindle. But I found it repetitive and sophomoric. Now I feel like the idiot or...was this the intention from the beginning? Hmm.
  • Rachel
    2018-04-23
    The Idiot is a book you either click with or you don't. I absolutely understand why some readers have found it maddening. I can't recall the last book I read where less happened than it did here, which, considering that it's nearly a five-hundred page book, is kind of a triumph in its own right. But I got along with The Idiot splendidly.This is quiet, sparse, cerebral, philosophical, surprisingly humorous account of a Turkish-American girl's firs...
  • Erin Glover
    2017-12-06
    This off-beat novel tackles the meaning of language itself and its ability and failure to convey the speaker or writer’s intentions, especially about love.Selin is a tall, remarkable-looking, 18-year-old freshman in the 1990’s when she enters Harvard. She speaks fluent Turkish. She has never used e-mail. She’s fascinated by language.“I wanted to know what books really meant.”She takes a linguistics class. “The highest law, higher than...
  • Evan Klein
    2016-08-23
    Adored this book! Selin is 19 years old and new to Harvard when she falls for Ivan in their beginners Russian class. They begin corresponding by email, and as they open up to each other, they realize there's an unspoken attraction that neither acts on. When Ivan decides to go home to Hungary that Summer, Selin decides to travel there too, and signs up to be an English teacher in a rural Hungarian village. I won't spoil the rest, but this book is ...
  • Nick Jordan
    2017-03-21
    This reads like the unpublished first novel of someone who went to an Ivy League school and decided to become a writer. And that is apparently very close to what it is. In a Fresh Air interview, Batuman (a staff writer with the New Yorker) says as much, although it's completely rewritten from an old draft of a first novel. The main character, learning the ropes of late adolescence in her first year at Harvard, falls hard for someone who doesn't f...
  • Patrick Brown
    2017-04-17
    Unlike anything else I've read. Very funny, but with a bunch of layers to peel back. Highly recommended, especially if you like campus novels.
  • Katia N
    2018-05-07
    I enjoyed this enormously. The narrator is a Harvard Freshman, very bright and sincere 18 year old. And the novel is basically her take on her first year of life the college, her attempts to establish herself as an independent learner. her first crash. Many people call her naive. But I do not think she is so naive. She is just very sincere and honest with herself. Whether you would like or hate this book comes down to whether you could relate to ...
  • Katerina
    2018-03-16
    “I suppressed a sigh. Hungary felt increasingly like reading War and Peace: new characters came up every five minutes, with their unusual names and distinctive locutions, and you had to pay attention to them for a time, even though you might never see them again for the whole rest of the book. I would rather have talked to Ivan, the love interest, but somehow I didn’t get to decide. At the same time, I also felt that these superabundant perso...
  • Holly
    2017-06-20
    Delightful. Batuman wrote most of this Bildungsroman in the mid-1990s while a student herself, and then rewrote it at age 38 today. I just read that she is working on a sequel to The Idiot - the continuing adventures of Selin - how wonderful! Batuman is famous for calling young American writers to loosen up and write "large, loose, baggy monsters" and that's sort of what she has accomplished here. She's clearly not the only American novelist esch...