A School for Fools by Sasha Sokolov

A School for Fools

A school for Fools by Sash Sokolov

Russian fiction

Original title – Школа для дураков

Translator – Alexander Boguslawski

Source – personnel copy

I’m a bit late joining in Lizzy Siddals NYRB fortnight. I have a lot of there books on my shelves and haven’t reviewed too many on the blog so I had hope get a few more read but I have managed this so far and part way in two other books. This is what we like about NYRB well I do they seem to republish books that may have not got put out again this came out to a seventies as it had been one of those books that when it came out in Russia was put around underground in Samizdat copies. Sasha Sokolov. Tried many times to escape Soviet Russia once via Iran he was caught and only family connection saved him from a long prison sentence. He then manages in 1975 to escape and eventually became a Canadian citizen. He has published another book that has only just been translated I have that on my tbr pile. This is considered a modernist masterpiece.

This is what the teacher Pavel was saying, standing on the shore of the Lethe. River water dripped from his washed ears, and the river itself flowed slowly past him and past us with all its fishes, flat bottom boats, ancient ssailboats, reflected clouds with those who are invisible and those who will drown, with frogs eggs, algae , relentless water striders, torn piece of net m grains of sand from the beloved seashore and golden braclets lost by someone, with empty cans and heavy hats of Monomakh

Surreal passages like this make me wonder if there was anopther level we miss in english in the original Russian but the richness of his words can be seen like treacle going slowly down your throat.

Now this is one of those books that you get to the end of and really need to start again , but this time around I haven’t time anyway the book starts with one narrator telling of his school the school of fools( a school for those disturbed kids)  of the title and his summers at a dacha cottage that many Russian do during the summer escaping the city. His romance or lack of it (yes it is one of those books that you are never quite sure what is real ) with Veta. Now that sounds enough but then we get a second narrator that seems to be another side of our first narrator telling is a more far-fetched tale. This other voice is almost a monologue at times. The action flips from summer to the school and at times is surreal things like a bizarre dress code from the headmaster of the school. As time and what is life drift and we see the world through our narrators disturbed views of the world a hard world at times and memories of summers and school days all get mixed as well as strange digressions here and there as the book goes on. It is like a memory of a drunken few years glimmers of lives mixed with the dreams of life.

But Veta dosen’t hear. During the night of your arrival in the land of the lonely Goatsucker, the thirty-year-old teacher at our school.Veta Arkadievna, the strict teacher of botany, biology, and anatomy, dances and drinks winer in the best restaurant in the city with soem young, yes, relatively young man – funny, mart, and generpus. Soon the music will end – drunken violinist and drummers, piano players and trumpeters will get off the stage.

Veta is someone he is in love with at times and other not during the book !!!

Now this is one of the oddest books I have read it is hard to get a handle on and is what we well I read translation for Sokolov himself is considered a master of the Russian language on par with the likes Of Joyce with English of Schmidt in German and those two are two I have picked as for me it has nods to the Schmidt novella I read a few years ago with detached and strange Narrators and the stream of consciosness style at times is a nod to Joyces style. It maybe is also a way of capturing the madness of Soviet Russia at times the two extremes of the world the summers at the Dacha and the school reflecting Soviet life at times. Also, the playful nature of the words sometimes reminds me of how Anthony Burgess used language the translator is a lifelong friend of Sokolov so kept some Russian words in the text. He also wrote the intro. A great first choice for my NYRB fortnight.

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that was the month that was Sept 2018

books read –

  1. in every wave by Charles Quimper
  2. Endless blue sky by Lee Hyoseok
  3. Lost Empress by Sergio De La Pava
  4. Drive your Plow over the bones of the dead by Olga Tokarczuk
  5. Explosions by Mathieu Poulin
  6. Eleven Prague Corpses by Krill Kobrin
  7. Everyday life by Lydie Salvayre
  8. The dog by Kerstin Ekman

I managed to review a number of books from seven countries and from all around the world. I traveled from a man struggling with the passing of his daughter then to Korea and  Manchuria in the pre-war years. A dazzling novel of modern America and two people at different ends of modern America. People turn up dead in a valley in a distant area of Poland. Then we imagined that Michael Bay is actually a visionary and challenging filmmaker with themes behind his films. Then an expat Russian in Prague solves a number of deaths in the city. A city he isn’t a fan of either. Then a secretary sees a new arrival as her enemy or is it more than that is she losing her mind !! Then a feral dog grows from a pup to an adult away from man but is slowly drawn back by one man and his old grey dog.No new publishers but a real selection of styles of writing and types of fiction from short Borges stories through Poetic prose of suffering and then the chaos of modern America caught on the page through various forms of writing.

Book of the month- In every wave by Charles Quimper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This short but powerful book has a man trying to capture what happened when his daughter drowned. His marriage then falls apart and he only feels at home and near her on his sailboat as he tries to relive that day to see if it could have ended differently.This is one of the most touching books of recent years.

Discovery of the month-

My non-book discovery is the Sky arts series treasures of the British Library where a number of Stars four so far have visited the library. They get to choose six items that relate or have inspired them from people they admire or events they what to visit and the library have found piece connect to them. Like Nicola Benedetti when she gets to touch Beethovens tuning fork an item that has been touch by many great figures in classical music.A series that show the power of Libraries and preserving the past.

Next month-

I  am struggling with life at the moment so have found reading hard the last week or so but I am planning to read a couple of NYRB books for Lizzy Siddal’s  NYRB book fortnight. Then a couple for German Lit month. I have the Latest Javier Marias on order from the Library and have a few old Dalkey books to read. I just want to get my general Mojo back and my reading back to normal.

 

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