Views & Reviews Medical Classics

The Idiot

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 27 July 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5110
  1. Nick Seddon, deputy director, Reform, London SW1P 3LT, UK
  1. nick.seddon{at}

Many of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s characters are haunted by their own internal pandemonium: the great Russian novelist is probably best known for his murderers, suicides, liars, gamblers, drunks, and other figures of the underworld. But in 1868 he set out “to depict a completely beautiful human being.” Generally in art, the difficulty with good characters is that goodness just isn’t as interesting as wickedness, but this disorderly masterpiece is compelling. What’s more, The Idiot shows how art can contribute to scientific observation, for Prince Myshkin, the idiot of the title, has epilepsy.

At the beginning of novel, …

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