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The Idiot

Written by: Elif Batuman
Narrated by: Elif Batuman
Length: 13 hrs and 40 mins
4 out of 5 stars (13 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

With superlative emotional and intellectual sensitivity, mordant wit, and pitch-perfect style, Batuman dramatizes the uncertainty of life on the cusp of adulthood. Her prose is a rare and inimitable combination of tenderness and wisdom, its logic as natural and inscrutable as that of memory itself. The Idiot is a heroic yet self-effacing reckoning with the terror and joy of becoming a person in a world that is as intoxicating as it is disquieting. Batuman's fiction is unguarded against both life's affronts and its beauty - and has at its command the complete range of thinking and feeling that they entail.

©2017 Elif Batuman (P)2017 Penguin Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Could not get into it

I don’t understand the beginning of the book, I could not get into it. Lost me

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

The book was great - the narration was ok

I really enjoyed this book - it is well written and quite funny. The narration itself wasn't as dynamic as other's I've listened to. Would read more from this author but wouldn't seek out the narrator. #Audible1

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 2017-04-21

Fascinating point of view

The author's voice and experiences are interestingly objective - intelligent, restrained and artifice- free. If you require a plot-driven story, this isn't the one for you. If, though, you'd like to get out of your head and into the author's, then dive on in!

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Lengthy
  • 2017-07-04

Disappointing narration

What disappointed you about The Idiot?

The narrator is the author and she should stick to writing. Her flat narration ruined the book for me. It was like someone telling jokes who ruins a good punch line every time.

What did you like best about this story?

I think if I read it that it would be funny. Half way through the book I decided to read it instead of listening to the rest.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Elif Batuman?

Anyone with more dramatic flair or sense of humor.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ian Jobling
  • Oakton, VA USA
  • 2017-05-19

Captures the strangeness of being

This account of a young woman's first year at Harvard and summer trip to Hungary captures the random directionlessness of life and of the mind and also the human foreignness to language. Batuman captures the feeling that words are incapable of describing our experience and that no one even begins to understand this problem. If you're looking for the kind of "twisty plot" that is so common these days, you will be disappointed. But if you are ready for a new dimension of existence to be revealed to you, this is the book.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • 2017-05-15

Flawless

It's been a long time since I've enjoyed a book this much for language, thought and tone alone. Thanks, Elif Batuman.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2018-05-28

The perfect book

I thought reading “The Idiot” was the best things could get, but then I found “The Possessed”. After reading “The Possessed” I was relatively sure I had found the closest I could get to a soul in novel form. But then I heard Elif read her own words out loud and I knew I was wrong. If you don’t download this book you’re an idiot.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Susan Reiser
  • 2018-02-21

Narration awful. Dull, no emotion!

May be better to read. The narrator ruined it. Also, no plot. Read like a Junior High diary. Sorry to be so harsh but bad listen!!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Pam
  • Atlanta
  • 2019-04-13

Authors aren’t good readers

I have a policy against listening to audible books read by the author. I also always buy both the kindle and the audible book. I made a hurried purchase this time and forgot to check on the reader. It’s a shame. This novel provides a great opportunity for reading an interesting variety of characters regarding age, education, accent. Are they just being greedy when they think we want to hear them reading in their sweet childish voices? It’s well written and worth reading. Maybe on vacation or over a long weekend when you won’t spend much time in the car.

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  • Lyn
  • 2019-02-19

Insipid

The thought that most entered my head while I was reading this was, "Kill me now!" The book was just string after string after string of insipid pseudo-intellectual bullshit that didn't make any sense. There was no plot, two dimensional characters, random wanderings (or ramblings) of events with no point. Really worthless. If Batuman was trying to make some parallel or connection to the masterpiece, "The Idiot" by Dostoyevsky, she failed miserably. Throughout the novel, I kept wondering who did she pay off/sleep with/is related to, to get this published. Also, Ms. Batuman should not read her own novels. Most of the time she sounded like she was going to fall asleep from the boredom of reading her own book. Her affect could not have been flatter. Suffice it to say, not worth the time or money.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Allen
  • Highland Village, TX United States
  • 2018-08-06

Great novel with an interesting point of view

I loved this novel. Not a lot happens, but the character is so engaging that I couldn't wait to keep reading. I am often wary when the author reads their own work, but Elif Batuman did a fantastic job of embodying the character. The style of the novel reminded me of Miranda July, one of my favorite authors.

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  • Sarah
  • 2018-01-27

Truly an original

This story was honest and detailed, both intellectually complex and childishly simple. It perfectly embodies that weird youthful love of two incomplete people, somehow both selfish and infinitely generous.