Fyodor Dostoevsky’s – The Idiot

by Mikael

The Idiot is a novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky written in the 1860s. According to the translator’s introduction in my Penguin Classics copy, the author wanted to create a completely “pure” character. This became “Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin”, who is better known by the pejorative epithet of the book’s title.

Myshkin’s adventures in upper middle class 19th century Russia is a whirlwind of social intrigue. He falls in love (but innocently so) with two different women, one of which has at least two other suitors simultaneously. On top of all this, there is a throng of family members and miscellaneous characters. To confuse matters, many of them tend to be referred to interchangeably by different Russian names, titles and nicknames that are probably unfamiliar to the non-Russian reader. The Uncyclopedia article describes this sarcastically.

Grabbing the text from Project Gutenberg, I’ve made two different graph representations. The left is a simple co-appearance graph that highlights a cluster of important and heavily interacting characters in the center: the closer they are and the thicker/darker the edge, the more they interact. The right is a simple schematic of family ties, romantic innuendo and some other relationships of importance.

[Visualization as PDF]

At the center of the plot is Nastasya whose three suitors are Rogojin, Ganya and the Prince. The latter is also in love with Aglaya. Several family members of Aglaya and Ganya get involved for various reasons and one of Rogojin’s compatriots, Lebdev, plays a role. The characters involved in the romantic double-triangles (or whatever it is) are all borderline mad. I’ll refrain from exposing the ending here.

The English spelling of the Russian names is taken from the translation by McDuff.


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