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Publisher's Summary

It is September 1995. Selin, a Turkish-American college freshman from New Jersey, is about to embark on her first year at Harvard University, where she is determined to decipher the mysteries of language and to become a writer. In between studying psycho­linguistics and the philosophy of language, teaching ESL to a Costa Rican plumber, and befriending her classmate Svetlana (a Serbian refugee from Connecticut), Selin falls in love with a Hungarian maths student in her Russian class. She spends the summer in the Hungarian countryside teaching English to village children, where sad and comic misunderstandings ensue. Full of the razor-sharp evocations of character and place that have long delighted listeners, The Idiot tackles literary ambition, female friend­ship, the American dream, Chomskian linguistics, the Russian novel and romantic love.

©2017 Elif Batuman (P)2017 Audible, Ltd

What listeners say about The Idiot

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  • Sue
  • 03-01-2018

A rather juvenile romp

As the title suggests, Elif Batuman's novel explores linguistics and Russian literature through the eyes of a young Harvard undergraduate, Selin. The character falls in love with an older, neurotic Hungarian mathematics student, and travels to his country to be near him. It is occasionally humorous, and describes a rite of passage - but no more than that. Unfortunately, at times it is rather banal and tedious.

While Batuman's writing is to be desired, the content fell short as the narrative varies between sharp and rambling. The naivety of Selin also appears slightly unbelievable, and would probably be better geared at a younger audience.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Epikurios
  • 23-03-2022

Moving but painful exploration of alienatiin

There are many interesting aspects to this roman a clef, and long excruciating passages of a young person's experience of being out of place among others and within themselves. The author's sometimes monotone reading voice adds to the overall effect. But the narrative pulls you in and flashes of humour provide moments of contrast. Overall though I cannot escape a feeling of 'stasis', of being trapped on an alien planet with no clear sense of the possibility of escape. But maybe this is 21st century realism?

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  • Patricia White
  • 21-09-2021

“Outstays its welcome” - how true

Having chosen this book after listening to Graham Norton’s book club, I listened again to that episode. The reviewers were spot on, and Graham’s summary that the book “outstays its welcome” perfectly describes my own view.
Despite some lovely writing, and so much insight into the naivety of adolescence that I could really relate to, it just goes on far too long without anything of interest to hear and I was honestly glad when it finished. I wonder too if the writer herself as narrator was a good choice - I found her voice became increasingly irritating. The end was so abrupt I wonder if she’d had enough herself. Or perhaps this book is better read than heard.

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  • Alex
  • 04-04-2021

Relatable

The best book I've read for a while, fantastically narrated and laugh out loud funny. But this is not just a comedy - it's a deep and thought provoking novel about real life.

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  • Maaike
  • 07-07-2017

Falls flat

The narration is a bit dry making it hard to know if things are meant to be funny or not. I downloaded it as it was the "editors pick" and it turned out to be a struggle to finish.

1 person found this helpful

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