An Amazon Best Book of the Month for March 2017
A BookPage Top Pick for March 2017
A portrait of the artist as a young woman. A novel about not just discovering but inventing oneself.
The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings.
At the end of the school year, Ivan goes to Budapest for the summer, and Selin heads to the Hungarian countryside, to teach English in a program run by one of Ivan’s friends. On the way, she spends two weeks visiting Paris with Svetlana. Selin’s summer in Europe does not resonate with anything she has previously heard about the typical experiences of American college students or indeed of any other kinds of people. For Selin, this is a journey further inside herself: a coming to grips with the ineffable and exhilarating confusion of first love and with the growing consciousness that she is doomed to become a writer.
With superlative emotional and intellectual sensitivity, mordant wit, and pitch-perfect style, Batuman dramatizes the uncertainty of life on the cusp of adulthood. Her prose is a rare and inimitable combination of tenderness and wisdom; its logic as natural and inscrutable as that of memory itself. The Idiot is a heroic yet self-effacing reckoning with the terror and joy of becoming a person in a world that is as intoxicating as it is disquieting. Batuman’s fiction is unguarded against both life’s affronts and its beauty—and has at its command the complete range of thinking and feeling which they entail.
“It’s memorable to witness Selin, via Batuman, absorb the world around her. Each paragraph is a small anthology of well-made observations.”
New York Times
“Batuman’s sardonic wit makes for a delectable unfolding of Selin’s experience of love, life and language.”
“Batuman highlights the absurdity of campus life and first love in her semi-autobiographical debut, which follows an endearingly odd eighteen-year-old through her first year at Harvard.”
“Selin is delightful company. She’s smart enough to know the ways in which she is dumb, and her off-kilter relationship to the world around her is revelatory and, often, mordantly hilarious.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Selin is entrancing—so smart, so clueless, so funny—and Batuman’s exceptional discernment, comedic brilliance, and soulful inquisitiveness generate a charmingly incisive and resonant tale of the messy forging of a self.”
Booklist (starred review)
“The Idiot is half The Education of Henry Adams and half Innocents Abroad. Twain would have savored Selin’s first international trip to Paris, Hungary and Turkey…an entertaining, intellectual journey not to be missed.”
- Publisher: Penguin Audio
- Genre: Fiction/Literary
- ISBN-13: 9781524734947