Just two weeks after completing Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky produced a second novel with a very different man at its centre. In The Idiot, the saintly Prince Myshkin returns to Russia from a Swiss sanitorium and finds himself a stranger in a society obsessed with wealth, power and sexual conquest. He soon becomes entangled in a love triangle with a notorious kept woman, Nastasya, and a beautiful young girl, Aglaya. Extortion and scandal escalate to murder, as Dostoevsky’s ‘positively beautiful man’ clashes with the emptiness of a society that cannot accommodate his innocence and moral idealism.
The Idiot is both a powerful indictment of that society and a rich and gripping masterpiece. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s new translation – fresh, crisp and faithful to the original (bumps and blemishes included) – brings the story of Prince Myshkin to new life. As is true of their previous translations of the works Dostoevsky and Gogol, this will be the definitive edition of The Idiot for years to come.