Born to Turkish parents, Selin goes to Harvard University and is drawn into the somewhat disconnected-from-the-real-world environment on campus. Education appears to be a cafeteria approach to seemingly pointless but intensely self-absorbed courses in the arts and the sciences, friendships are elusive and enigmatic, and romance is a one-way street.
Unselfconsciously, but entirely under the control of the brilliant Elif Batuman, Selin describes her journey in a series of short vignettes that are frequently funny enough to make us think of her as a young, female Woody Allen. For instance, she refers to a film director who died after falling off a barstool – it was rumoured to be suicide.
The Idiot offers the joy of reading a long, seemingly pointless novel without a sharp storyline, but teeming with people you want to somehow know more about without necessarily wanting to be their friends (or lovers). It is also a playful riff on language and communication which offers an entirely new way of looking at the world through grammar, syntax and vocabulary.
Batuman’s first novel after her debut work of non-fiction, The Possessed, The Idiot (how much Dostoevsky is too much Dostoevsky?) is a book you can’t put down, even though you don’t know just why.
Published in 2017.