A School for Fools

Sasha Sokolov (Author) Alexander Boguslawski (Translator)
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By turns lyrical and philosophical, witty and baffling, A School for Fools confounds all expectations of the novel. Here we find not one reliable narrator but two "unreliable" narrators: the young man who is a student at the "school for fools" and his double. What begins as a reverie (with frequent interruptions) comes to seem a sort of fairy-tale quest not for gold or marriage but for self-knowledge. The currents of consciousness running through the novel are passionate and profound. Memories of childhood summers at the dacha are contemporaneous with the present, the dead are alive, and the beloved is present in the wind. Here is a tale either of madness or of the life of the imagination in conversation with reason, straining at the limits of language; in the words of Vladimir Nabokov, "an enchanting, tragic, and touching book."

Product Details

New York Review of Books
Publish Date
November 17, 2015
5.0 X 0.5 X 7.9 inches | 0.4 pounds
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About the Author

Sasha Sokolov was born in Canada in 1943. His father, a high-ranking Soviet diplomat, was deported from Canada as a spy in 1946, and Sokolov grew up in the Soviet Union, where he studied journalism at Moscow State University. He made repeated attempts to escape from the USSR, for which he was briefly imprisoned, but after international protests, he was finally permitted to leave the country in 1975. That same year the manuscript of A School for Fools, his first novel, was smuggled out of the Soviet Union and published in the West to great acclaim. The recipient of the prestigious Andrei Bely Prize in 1981 and of the Pushkin Prize for literature in 1996, Sokolov is the author of the novels Astrophobia and Between Dog and Wolf and of a book of essays, In the House of the Hanged.

Alexander Boguslawski is a professor of Russian studies at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida.


"A work of genius voiced by a narrator and his double -- simultaneously. It's a Joycean work that unravels in fits and starts, but always beautifully....[by] one of the great living Russian writers." --Flavorwire

"Sokolov's A School for Fools should be considered one of the finest 20th-century Russian novels." --Harvey Pekar, The Washington Post

"If Joyce had written the last chapter of Ulysses in Russian it would have sounded like this." --Vladimir Markov

"Sokolov is one of those rare novelists whose primary concern is the praise and exploration of a language rather than the development of a position. In this, he is in the line of Gogol, Lermontov, Nabokov. 'For me, the Bible says it: The Word is God, ' Sokolov says, 'and God is more important than life.' " --David Remnick, The Washington Post

"An enchanting, tragic, and touching work." --Vladimir Nabokov

"[A School for Fools] will undoubtedly come to be recognized as one of the great classics of Russian prose." --Newsweek

"The voice is amazingly sensitive and imaginative, gloriously lucid of language and full of broad comedy and whimsical wit. For all its gloominess, this strange novel is a celebration of life." --The Washington Post

"A lyrical vision of extraordinary intensity. Sokolov is an astounding new voice." --Chicago Daily News

"A puzzling and wonderful book. The novel is an anti-authoritarian statement, a compassionate cry for understanding of those who are different, the nonconformists of any society who must find their own way." --The Kansas City Star

"One of the most original and talented works to emerge from the Soviet Union in many years." --The Times Literary Supplement