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....
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The Idiot Reviews
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 the story, the title is clearly intended to evoke Dos ...more
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 and its application in everyday life when she desc ...more
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 Hungary, where Selin goes during summer break to tea ...more
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 facts, it wasn't an unpleasant read; however, it is ...more
“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 personages weren’t irrelevant at all, but somehow the oppos ...more
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 liminality, or the state of being in between. Selin's w ...more
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 first year at Harvard. In one of her Russian classes s ...more