March 5, 2021

‘The idiot’: the most disconcerting classic


If the Alba publishing house is characterized by something, it is by the magnificent editions of the Russian classics. Now, in his magna series, ‘Clásica maior’, he presents Dostoevsky’s ‘El idiota’, in a new translation by Fernando Otero.

‘The Idiot’, published in installments between 1868 and 1869, just after ‘Crime and Punishment’, is one of Dostoevsky’s great works but also one of the most puzzling. The bewilderment – the same one that causes in those who treat him – comes from the hand of its main protagonist, Prince Myshkin, recently arrived in his native Russia after spending four years treating his epilepsy in a Swiss sanatorium.

Dostoevsky, epileptic like the young aristocrat, wanted to investigate with this novel what would happen to Jesus Christ in the Russia of his time, and devised a character like the prince, kind to the extreme, treated as an idiot by his environment in the face of sincerity and the love for the neighbor that it shows.

The novel will serve the Russian teacher to explore the consequences of compassion carried to the highest degree, while portraying with ruthless causticity the bourgeoisie of his time and a Russian middle class that goes out of its way to achieve the highest honors and the most bombastic marriages. . In this sense, the Yepanchiná family, made up of a retired general, the general, and three daughters ‘of deserving age’ is the best of the novel.

The prince, with the simplicity and lack of folds of a child, must unfold in a world he does not know and whose traditional seams in turn begin to break, before the arrival of phenomena such as feminism and nihilism.

‘The idiot’ is a novel of multiple interpretations, a masterpiece with an ending as disconcerting as its unforgettable protagonist.

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