It is September 1995. Selin, a Turkish-American college freshman from New Jersey, is about to embark on her first year at Harvard University, where she is determined to decipher the mysteries of language and to become a writer. In between studying psycholinguistics and the philosophy of language, teaching ESL to a Costa Rican plumber, and befriending her classmate Svetlana (a Serbian refugee from Connecticut), Selin falls in love with a Hungarian maths student in her Russian class. She spends the summer in the Hungarian countryside teaching English to village children, where sad and comic misunderstandings ensue. Full of the razor-sharp evocations of character and place that have long delighted listeners, The Idiot tackles literary ambition, female friendship, the American dream, Chomskian linguistics, the Russian novel and romantic love.
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