Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Idiot

SPOILERS--don't read this if you plan on reading The Idiot.

As sad an ending as I could have imagined. Not the murder, which is inevitable and expected (though the presentation is harrowing, haunting). But Prince Myshkin, lost, insane, an "idiot," not recognizing anybody? That's really more than a reader can take. I feel a deep sense of loss at the end of this novel, worse than with any other of Dostoevsky's novels. Notes from the Underground simply ends us where we begin: with the man from the underground, separate from society. Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamozov end with a sense of hope. Demons is dark, and yet reading the novel I was not shocked or deeply disturbed, as the novel itself is dark.

But The Idiot, for me, was different. As I said, the murder was expected: frankly, I'd have been surprised if Rogozhin didn't kill Nastasya Filippovna. Still Dostoevsky haunts, as the presentation of this death is entirely quiet and somber, unexpected. But Prince Myshkin was so noble, humble, beautiful. That the end of the novel leaves him an "idiot," insane and detached from the world (and himself?), is just to awful to imagine. The trauma and sadness of knowing the beautiful Prince Myshkin is lost to insanity is overwhelming.

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