The idiot by Elif Batuman

Much hyped this one. Having read Batuman’s previous book, The possessed, I wanted to believe this was a good, and I think it is for the most part.


In The idiot we follow Seline, born in America by Turkish parents, as she make the first tentative steps into adulthood. She enters Harvard with all that entails for a young woman. The confusion of new surroundings, making choices and threading that fine line between fitting in and being unique. And Seline overthinks everything, as one is wont to do at that age. Her friendships, the budding romance with Ivan and where she fits in to all of it. She is exposed to a world she wasn’t aware of, new kinds of relations and to her everything seems significant(again; at that age it does,doesn’t it?).

I think the story is well-written, and even though Seline is not the most easy-going of literary characters, I feel for her. Not that I necessarily need that to enjoy a novel but whatever. The classic coming-of age narrative, which this is in many ways, has a strong place in literature for a reason; it’s imminently relatable. This also told with a lot of humor; if  you overthink everything it does become absurd. Also; such is life.

What this is also is a book thats imbued with the love of literature and the references to books and authors are many. I nod my head, a bit smugly, as I have read most of the works mentioned. But how would I feel if I hadn’t? That’s what I wonder. It is quite possibly one of those books that’s written about young people, but best read by those that have left all of that behind. It’s both nostalgic and honest if that makes any sense.

I very much enjoyed it; both the parts on campus and when she goes of to the Hungarian countryside to teach english; a colorful gallery of characters is provided in part two to say the least. A good novel, very entertaining and with some very relevant observations about human behavior.



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