The Idiot: On Looking Simple

See how long this book is? I’m working on my fourth post about it! Let’s see… where was I… oh, yes! The prince deciding on deliberately looking simple.

On his return to Russia from his respite in Switzerland,

“Perhaps the course of my life will be completely changed, but that’s not what really matters. What matters is that my life is already changed. I left a great deal behind there – too much. It’s all gone. I sat in the train and thought, now I am going among people: I know nothing, perhaps, but a new life has begun for me, I have decided to do what is to be done honestly and resolutely. It may be that I’ll be bored and uncomfortable with people. But as a first step I’ve resolved to be polite and open with everyone: no one will expect more than that from me. It may be that I’ll be taken for a child here, it can’t be helped! For some reason everyone considers me an idiot, too, and it’s true there was a time I was so sick that I could be taken for an idiot. But what kind of an idiot am I now that I understand people take me for an idiot? When I enter a room I think, here they are, taking me for an idiot, yet l am intelligent and they don’t realize it.”

This kind of rambling is what makes Dostoyevsky hard for me to read. I’m wondering if the Pevear & Volokhonsky translation would be better, but I’m not willing to buy another copy and compare. I’ll just unpack this one page by page. Honestly, I enjoy it.

Prince Myshkin was coming back to Russia and was worried about how to act in society, so he decided to upfront and honest, quiet and reserved, even when he felt the need to interject or give his opinion about things. People might think he was a child, simple-minded, but he knew he was not so who cares. He may even learn a thing or two more because the people around him might open up more and speak things they might not have otherwise.

Wise. Like I’ve said before, I’m a chatterbox. I tend to fear any lull in conversation and avoid it like the plague, so I fill it up with anything that comes to mind. That’s not always a good idea. I’m also afraid that if I don’t say something, people will think I’m not listening or don’t understand. Something comes to mind, and in fear of losing the idea, I speak it out loud. A lot of times it seems like a non-sequitur. I’ve heard the words, “Where’d that come from?” quite a bit in my life. It made sense to me!

But the prince, he has a brilliant plan for re-entering Russian society. He’ll stay silent. “Mouth closed: ears open.” That’s what they used to tell me in school… made me so mad… I had so much to talk about. Still do. I digress, yet again. Prince Myshkin is a smart guy, and he knows he’s smart right down to his bones.

And there’s the lesson in this paragraph, something I’m taking with me from the story. I know myself better than others do, so what they think shouldn’t bother me, especially people I barely know. And the best way to learn is to listen and you can’t listen if you’re filling every moment with your own words.

Sidenote: As much as I love seeing that “You’re on (insert number) day streak!” message on WordPress, I’ll be taking the weekend off from posting. I have a busy weekend ahead, so I’ll catch you all on the flip side. Have a great weekend out there!

Want to read more? Start from my first post New CLASSIC Read: The Idiot.

looking simple
desert sunrise
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