The Idiot

The Idiot

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.

Title:The Idiot
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9781594205613
Format Type:

About Elif Batuman

Elif Batuman is an American author, academic, and journalist. Born in New York City to Turkish parents, she grew up in New Jersey. She graduated from Harvard College and received her doctorate in comparative literature from Stanford University, where she taught.


    The Idiot Reviews

  • Roxane

    This was an interesting novel, dense, unique, written from a very specific point of view. One of those books where I marvel that it was published and am grateful it was published because, I mean, who ...

  • Blair

    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...

  • Jessica Sullivan

    2.5/5 Stars.I had a really complicated relationship with this book. On the surface, it appears to have everything I enjoy in a novel—a quirky protagonist, smart insights, dry humor, a character-driv...

  • Barry Pierce

    I was ready to give up on The Idiot at page 100. There was no distinct plot - nothing major seemed to be happening except for a girl describing her classes at university. But I persisted. Thank god fo...

  • Bruno

    NOTHING REALLY HAPPENS. IT'S LIKE KNAUSGÅRD BUT WITH HUNGARIANS....

  • Rebecca

    (3.5) This is such an odd debut novel that, though I ultimately thought it a very funny anti-Bildungsroman, I’d hesitate to recommend it too widely. Nostalgia for pre-technology college days, some f...

  • Elyse Walters

    Library Overdrive Audiobook....read by the author Elif BatumanI loved this book. I equally adored Elif Batuman’s seductively-innocent-child-sounding voice. I had no idea what to expect. The first ti...

  • Dea

    I really hate when books with titles like The Idiot make me feel like I’m the person the title is referring to. This book is either really smart or faux smart, and I don’t feel smart enough to fig...

  • Helene Jeppesen

    Wow! I admit I was a bit sceptical going into this book because it’s a novel that seems to split the waters. But I LOVED it! “The Idiot” is a coming-of-age story (a genre that I love) that speak...

  • BlackOxford

    Facebook BoundI knew I should have kept a diary after I left secondary school. Not that I had experienced anything extraordinary in my young adulthood, but it could have proved useful for writerly gap...