A writer whose fiction debut is so accomplished, adroit, and downright brilliant that it is hard to believe Elif Batuman’s The Idiot (Penguin Press) is indeed a first novel. Not that readers haven’t been on to her, from dispatches for The New Yorker (where she’s been a writer since 2010), or her delightful nonfiction book, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them.
“Not since Don Quixote has a quest for love gone so hilariously and poignantly awry. In spare, unforgettable prose, Batuman the traveller (to Harvard, to mysterious Hungary) recreates for the reader the psychic state of being a child entering language. We marvel and tremble with her at the impossibility and mysterious necessity for human connection that both makes life worthwhile and yet so often strands us all in torment. This book is a bold, unforgettable, un-put-downable read by a new master stylist. Best novel I’ve read in years.” —Mary Karr.
“I’m not Turkish, I don’t have a Serbian best friend, I’m not in love with a Hungarian, I don’t go to Harvard. Or do I? For one wonderful week, I got to be this worldly and brilliant, this young and clumsy and in love. The Idiot is a hilariously mundane immersion into a world that has never before received the 19th Century Novel treatment. An addictive, sprawling epic; I wolfed it down.” —Miranda July.