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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
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Amazon Customer on 04-21-17

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!

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Ian Jobling on 05-19-17

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.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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