I'm struggling to understand the narrator in The Idiot. He seems like an omniscient narrator, talking of characters in third person. But, in Chapter I of Part One, while describing know-it-alls, the narrator says:

I have known scholars, writers, poets, political activists, who sought and found their highest peace and purpose in this science, who positively made their careers by it alone.

Did he mid-narration self-insert into the character of Myshkin? Does this happen throughout the novel? Is it possible that the narrator is someone or am I looking too much into it?

The translation I'm reading is that by Pevear & Volokhonsky.

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    I think that's just the omniscient narrator inserting an aside into the text. This doesn't happen very often in English novels, but Russian novels may have different conventions.
    – Peter Shor
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 14:13
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    Henry Fielding does this kind of thing all the time. "Reader, I think proper, before we proceed any farther together, to acquaint thee that I intend to digress, through this whole history, as often as I see occasion, of which I am myself a better judge than any pitiful critic whatever; and here I must desire all those critics to mind their own business, and not to intermeddle with affairs or works which no ways concern them; for till they produce the authority by which they are constituted judges, I shall not plead to their jurisdiction." Commented Sep 7, 2021 at 20:58
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    In Dostoyevsky’s The Devils (aka Demons and The Possessed), the narrator is ostensibly a friend of of a main character (Stepan Verhovensky), but for all practical purposes he functions as an omniscient narrator. It requires very close reading even to discover the narrator’s name, and Dostoyevsky makes only intermittent efforts to explain how he knows many things he does not witness. Some chapters read exactly as if narrated by the usual omniscient narrator, others use the first person freely and even inject the narrator into the action. Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 15:03
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    I was also put off a bit by this exact same sentence in the exact same translation of the book, thinking "Who is this that is inserting this aside?". But there are entire chapters where it's a 3rd person narrator with no dialogue so that will answer your question within the next 3 chapters or so.
    – David542
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 23:21
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    Does this answer your question? First-person point of view in chapter 61 of Pride and Prejudice Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 14:35

1 Answer 1


Here we have the second narrator. This is Dostoevsky's literary device.

These words do not belong to prince Myshkin.

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