The true love story in Elif Batuman’s The Idiot is a love affair with language

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Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, the Vox Book Club’s September pick, is a story about first love and first disillusionment with love. But the love affair that the book is most deeply concerned with isn’t our protagonist Selin’s flirtation with Ivan, a withholding fellow college student who already has a girlfriend. It’s her relationship with language.

Selin is an 18-year-old Harvard freshman in 1996,…

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