The Last of the Myshkins Read-Along Announcement + Upcoming Plans

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It’s here!! My long-hinted-at Instagram read-along, The Last of the Myshkins, is slated for November of this year, and I’m extremely excited to be hosting it. Although it’s still a while until then, I wanted to give some extra information not found on the infographics, as well as tell you why I chose to create this read-along (and a little update about a change of schedule coming up!).

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What is The Last of the Myshkins?

The Last of the Myshkins (TLotM) is a casual read-along of The Idiot, one of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s four “masterworks.” The schedule gives one week for each of the novel’s four parts, but the format is otherwise up to the participants—although I will be posting throughout the week about characters, themes, and story structure in addition to Sunday wrap-ups.

 

What is The Idiot? Why did you choose it for the read-along?

As mentioned, The Idiot is a novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881), a Russian author from the 19th century and creator of other famous classics such as Crime and Punishment, Demons, and The Brothers Karamazov. These four books together are consider his “masterworks” and are also his most well-read books. However, I don’t believe The Idiot gets as much attention as it should, which is why I chose it for the read-along! I hope that others will join me on my reread and get to experience this wonderful novel as I did several months ago.

 

What is The Idiot about?

The Idiot is the story of Prince Lev Myshkin, who returns to Russian after spending years in Switzerland where he received treatment for his poor health. His unusual arrival and just as unusual influence on those he meets in Russian society sets off a long, dramatic, and ultimately tragic chain of events that cuts to the heart of human nature, religion, and the meaning of life.

 

Why is the novel called The Idiot?

The title Idiot refers to Prince Myshkin, who is taken for being ignorant and foolish by many of the other characters because of his honesty, earnestness, and outright goodness. The term is meant to be viewed ironically, however, as Dostoyevsky presents the prince as the story’s Christ-figure or embodiment of Christian ideals. This central theme is one that I’ll be exploring in my posts during the read-along!

 

Why is this read-along called The Last of the Myshkins?

“The last of the Myshkins” is part of a quote from Part 1 of novel, where a character uses the phrase (or a similarly-worded phrase, depending upon translation) to describe how the Prince is related to another character. The term also symbolizes the Prince’s role in the story—but more on that in November! I shan’t spoil too much yet.

 

How long is The Idiot?

Translations and various introductions/included analyses change the specific word count and page count—here are some of the most common editions:

  • Vintage Classics 2003 (Pevear and Volokhonsky translation): 633 pages
  • Penguin Classics 2004 (McDuff translation): 732 pages
  • Barnes and Noble Classics 2004 (Garnett translation): 578 pages
  • Everyman’s Library 2002 (Pevear and Volokhonsky translation): 633 pages
  • Alma Classics 2014 (Avsey translation): 704 pages
  • Signet Classics 2010 (Carlisle and Carlisle translation): 660 pages

This makes The Idiot slightly longer than Crime and Punishment but shorter than The Brothers Karamazov (to use his other works as measurement).

 

Which translation should I use for the read-along?

The short answer: any one you want!

The longer answer: I own three English translations of The Idiot—Carlisle and Carlisle, Avsey, and Pevear and Volokhonsky. Although I normally try to read the Garnett translation for my first time through Dostoyevsky’s books (as to level the playing field between them), I first read TI with the Carlisle and Carlisle translation. And now, I’ll be using the Avsey translation for my first reread!

However, I’m not being picky when it comes to what other choose to read—what’s more important is to find a copy you can read in the first place! Many cheap paperbacks use Garnett, and while some readers don’t enjoy her translation, I’ve enjoyed it for most Russian classics I’ve read. Her translation is also public domain in the United States and several other countries, which means you can read it online for free if you want.

Bottom line: read whatever translation fits your budget and preferences. We’ll be discussing the same story regardless of which one you choose!

 

What is the schedule for the read-along?

The only “goal” for TLotM is to finish one part for each week of November, so that you’ll finish the book by the end of the month and, hopefully, be discussing the same chapters and events with everyone else who participates. I want this read-along to be flexible and accessible for different schedules and needs. I’m going to be providing my own thoughts and discussion prompts throughout each of those weeks in addition to my Sunday recaps for each section as a whole. I’m very excited to share my thoughts with you about this book, especially it’s themes! So I hope that you’ll also share your thoughts along the way if you’re so inclined. If not, and you just want to ghost and read everyone else’s thoughts as you go, that’s completely fine, too.

 

What else do I need to know about TLotM?

If you participate (please do!), use the hashtag #thelastofthemyshkins so I can find your posts, like them, and maybe even respond to your comments as we read. One of the great joys of read-alongs is to engage with others who are reading the same text!

 

Why should I participate?

If you already love classics, and especially if you already love Russian classics, TLotM is the perfect opportunity for you to read one of the lesser-discussed of Dostoyevsky’s greatest works. The schedule is very low-key and you’ll not only get enrichment from the book but from my posts and the posts of all the other participants! It’s a win-win-win.

But let’s say you aren’t very keen on classics, or are hesitant to pick up large books. Why should you pick up The Idiot? Other than its status as a classic, The Idiot is one of the most brilliant examples I’ve read of themes that embody the story with a tangible and integrated presence. Characterization and plotting become soaked in the layers of meaning, creating a puzzle for readers to solve as we follow along with all the intrigue, but without ever falling into the trap of being an obvious allegory or metaphor. The themes and characters and plot force you to think in order to find their true meaning. On top of that, The Idiot has a distinctly social feeling to it—I once heard someone describe its preoccupation with relationships and marriages and family squabbles to Jane Austen, but with a good dose of social commentary, religious ideas, philosophy, and Russian culture that only Dostoyevsky can mesh together. It’s no light-hearted romance, of course, but fans of drama and Gothic literature will find a lot of love in Prince Myshkin’s story.

If that hasn’t sold you, I don’t know what else will. I hope you give it a chance and join me on this read-along!

 

Now that the preliminary info is out of the way, I have one more little announcement: I’ll be taking a break from my blog and my Instagram account for the month of October. This break is so I can prepare for the read-along and focus on my writing and other projects. My hope is that the little hiatus will prep me to come back ready to dive back into bookstagram and fully share in this read-along with you all. I hope you join me!

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