The Idiot

Elif Batuman

Selin, a tall, highly strung Turkish-American from New Jersey turns up at Harvard and finds herself dangerously overwhelmed by the challenges and possibilities of adulthood. She studies linguistics and literature, teaches ESL and spends a lot of time thinking about what language – and languages – can do.

Along the way, she befriends Svetlana, a cosmopolitan Serb, and obsesses over Ivan, a mathematician from Hungary. The two conduct a hilarious relationship that culminates with Selin spending the summer teaching English in a Hungarian village and enduring a series of surprising excursions. Throughout her journeys, Selin ponders profound questions about how culture and language shape who we are, how difficult it is to be a writer, and how baffling love is.

Explore the other winners

Shortlist announced - 21 Apr

Stay in the loop

Enter your email to be the first to know the latest news from the Women's Prize For Fiction

VOTE

Vote for your favourite #WomensPrize winner

Cast your vote for your favourite #ReadingWomen book and decide who will be our Winner of Winners in our 25th year.

Favourite book Live

  • A Spell of Winter
    5% 114 / 2.2k
  • Fugitive Pieces
    2% 45 / 2.2k
  • Larry's Party
    1% 32 / 2.2k
  • A Crime in the Neighborhood
    0% 15 / 2.2k
  • When I Lived in Modern Times
    0% 17 / 2.2k
  • The Idea of Perfection
    0% 13 / 2.2k
  • Bel Canto
    4% 90 / 2.2k
  • Property
    0% 10 / 2.2k
  • Small Island
    8% 199 / 2.2k
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin
    8% 182 / 2.2k
  • On Beauty
    3% 71 / 2.2k
  • Half of a Yellow Sun
    19% 445 / 2.2k
  • The Road Home
    2% 55 / 2.2k
  • Home
    2% 51 / 2.2k
  • The Lacuna
    2% 61 / 2.2k
  • The Tiger's Wife
    1% 31 / 2.2k
  • The Song of Achilles
    11% 255 / 2.2k
  • May We Be Forgiven
    1% 29 / 2.2k
  • A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
    2% 59 / 2.2k
  • How to be Both
    4% 99 / 2.2k
  • The Glorious Heresies
    2% 58 / 2.2k
  • The Power
    4% 110 / 2.2k
  • Home Fire
    6% 142 / 2.2k
  • An American Marriage
    4% 103 / 2.2k
Win a set of our 2020 shortlist!

Sign up for the Women's Prize for Fiction newsletter and win a stack of this year's six shortlisted books.

(We will send you occasional emails full of author interviews, extracts and audio, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Please read our privacy policy for more information).