The extraordinary child-adult Prince Myshkin, confined for several years in a Swiss sanatorium suffering from severe epilepsy, returns to Russia to claim his inheritance and to find a place in healthy human society. The teeming St Petersburg community he enters is far from receptive to an innocent like himself, despite some early successes and relentless pursuit by grotesque fortune-hunters. His naive gaucheries give rise to extreme reactions among his new acquaintance, ranging from anguished protectiveness to mockery and contempt. But even before reaching the city, during the memorable train journey that opens the novel, he has encountered the demonic Rogozhin, the son of a wealthy merchant – who is in thrall to the equally doomed Nastasia Filippovna: beautiful, capricious and destructively neurotic, she joins with the two weirdly contrasted men in a spiralling dance of death…
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