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
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
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 main character, a Turkish American studying lingui ...more
[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 – because it’s ugly” I said
I read this novel due to its longlis ...more
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.
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 fall so hard for her. There is little emotional dep ...more
NOTHING REALLY HAPPENS. IT'S LIKE KNAUSGÅRD BUT WITH HUNGARIANS.
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