The Idiot and Either/Or by Elif Batuman

I recently read The Idiot as well as its sequel Either/Or by Elif Batuman, and I found myself relating to those books on another level.

The Idiot follows Selin, a Turkish-American student at Harvard as she tries to figure out life, language and her own interests and ideas. She befriends Svetlana, a Serbian student in her Russian class, and develops an infatuation with Ivan, a Hungarian in the same class. She eventually travels to a remote village in Hungary as part of a teaching programme. This book doesn’t have much of a plot, in fact, it mostly centres around Selin’s meandering thoughts as she tries to figure life out. However, I just found Selin really relatable and her thoughts really interesting. Her infatuation with and her email correspondence with Ivan were also really relatable to me.

I liked the first half of Either/Or even more than I liked The Idiot. We’re once again left with Selin and her thoughts, and there were so many times I wanted to scream ‘THIS’. It dealt with Selin thinking of whether to lead an ethical or aesthetic life, and also about art and approaching art as a woman. However it lost its plot for me when Selin started having sex. Selin’s awkwardness with romance and sex was something I found relatable, but once it happened, it felt like there was too much change too soon. I also felt that the plot-line with Ivan felt incomplete. Overall, I’d rate The Idiot 5/5 and Either/or 4/5


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