Saša Sokolov’s School for Fools and Dante’s Vita Nuova

Ludmilla Litus, Michigan State University

In one of his lengthy reference lists, Saša Sokolov invokes the name of Dante. Although Dante’s Divine Comedy is considered his most important work, in terms of School for Fools, however, his 1292 novel Vita Nuova (New Life) is more significant. In this paper, I examine parallels between Vita Nuova and School for Fools and briefly outline the relevant aspects of Dante’s biography that provide a context for several of Sokolov’s themes. Thematically both works deal with questions of artistic freedom, the fate of the creative individual and the creative process itself. Dante’s text may be counted among the first works of “metafiction,” a tradition that Sokolov turns to as well.

Susan Strehle’s theories developed in Fiction in the Quantum Universe serve, in part, as theoretical framework for this paper, as do the theories of intertextuality popularized by Julia Kristeva and others. In my analysis, I also take into account the long-standing tradition in Russian literature in which political reality and art appear inseparably intertwined.