Monday, June 28, 2010

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Post 004)

Two weeks later, I've finally finished the third part of The Idiot. I was delayed a little because of Imperial Bedrooms and another weekend away where I didn't read a whole lot. Also, like the second part of this book, the third wasn't that great -- or that interesting. I'm really disappointed given the strength of the first part of the novel. Part I had a strong focus and worked as a whole, while the second and third parts have been meandering and don't work by themselves. They seem like Dostoevsky hit a certain page/word count and said "Okay, that does it for this part," much like he does with chapters. More than that, it seems like he only really had plans for the first part and just kept on going. There are some really strong moments here and there, but it's so plodding in other places as characters talk and talk and talk and say nothing. Yes, it's meant to be a bit of a satire of this level of society, but, fuck, I get it already.

In this part... nothing really happens. There are some small scandals that go nowhere and Ippolit, an 18-year old dying of consumption, spends three or four chapters reading this long preface to a suicide attempt that is really just a lot of blather. I did like the idea of Dostoevsky having a character say he's going to kill himself rather than die of a terminal illness and have almost everyone scoff and mock him for it, not believing he'll go through with it.

Prince Myshkin continues to be an interesting character, but still quite passive. He is alternatively loved and scorned by characters as some see him for the kind, Christ-like person he is, while others dismiss him as an 'idiot' (most do both at one point or another). There's some dancing around his relationship with Nastasya and also with Aglaia, the youngest daughter of a family he's acquainted with... except she's not quite right, much like Nastasya, changing moods midsentence. She goes from hating to loving to tolerating to liking to praising to scorning Myshkin and he goes along with it all because he's that kind of guy.

I honestly have no idea where this book is going. I don't know what it's about really. This book is definitely bloated and requires some editing down into a manageable form. Then again, maybe the fourth part will bring it all together and cause me to reassess what's come already. Though, god help me if Lebedyev shows up much more, because he is such an annoying character. The manner in which he speaks is so meaningless and filled with empty blather.

Normally, I don't get so caught up in characters, preferring to examine style and structure, but I can't see much of the latter. That's my big problem with what's here. Stylistically, it's typical Dostoevsky and it works better in some parts than others. He introduces some potential plotlines only to discard them -- his characters show little consistency in their actions at times -- Myshkin can barely speak at times...

Despite not loving the past, oh, 300 pages, I am looking forward to the last 150 to see what Dostoevsky does with this cast of characters and how it all comes together.

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