So the first part of this book, the setup, the premise, and some of the early action is basically the same as Elf. Myshkin, a minor and ultimately broke Prince in Russia, is released from a sanitarium (for mental health) and has been isolated from the world to such a degree that when he shows up into the world of the Russian aristocracy he’s either fresh-faced and innocent, or naive to otherwise more cutthroat world of that milieu. In a lot of ways, it’s either an example of a type or the creation of a type wherein an intelligent, but unsuspecting outsider is both victim of and commenter on the degradation and brutality of a specific situation. So also a lot like the movie Twins.
It goes from there, and like I said, it only represents the first quarter of the book. The rest of the book carries him through more plot and situations and asks the question how would this type of figure adapt and change over time, and how also would his specific orientation to the world be challenged and changed by the problems inherent to that world. He’s subject to dishonesty he can’t detect, greed he’d never suspect, and to near-evil he couldn’t predict and certainly can’t protect himself from.
I didn’t know what I was expecting of this book, especially given the title. The title ends up being ironic as Myshkin is clearly not an Idiot, but is seen as one by those willing and able of taking advantage of him. I didn’t like it as much as Crime and Punishment, which I guess might ruin a reader of Dostoyevsky if it turns out to be his best. This probably means I should push Brothers Karamazov to be the final book I ever read by him just in case.