The Idiot

Elif Batuman


Jo says: 

Set in the nineties, just at the dawn of email, this is a soulful and funny semi-autobiographical story of Selin, a Turkish American linguistics and literature student in her first year at university, navigating the perplexities of adulthood through language and its pitfalls to connection. As Selin befriends Svetlana, a and obsesses over Ivan, an older Hungarian student in her Russian class, they exchange emails and the gap between an email relationship and a real-life relationship is brilliantly described, as is the baffling gap between reality and expectation as a person forges their selfhood.

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‘A moving, continent-hopping coming-of-age story’ Observer


Selin, a tall, highly strung Turkish-American from New Jersey turns up at Harvard and finds herself dangerously overwhelmed by the challenges and possibilities of adulthood. She studies linguistics and literature, and spends a lot of time thinking about what language – and languages – can and cannot do. Along the way, she befriends Svetlana, a cosmopolitan Serb, and obsesses over Ivan, a mathematician from Hungary.

Selin ponders profound questions about how culture and language shape who we are, how difficult it is to be a failed writer, and how baffling love is. At once clever and clueless, Batuman’s heroine shows us with perfect hilarity and soulful inquisitiveness just how messy it can be to forge a self.

I loved it and could have read a thousand more pages of it’ Emma Cline, author of The Girls

Additional information

Weight0.298 kg
Dimensions19.8 × 12.9 × 2.7 cm