The Essays of Sasha Sokolov

D. Barton Johnson, University of California, Santa Barbara

Sasha Sokolov was a meteor flashing across the sky of avant-garde Russian literature from the mid-seventies through the mid-eighties. His three novels--School for Fools, Between Dog and Wolf, and Palisandria--were remarkable achievements. A collected edition of his works recently appeared in Sankt-Peterburg following his receipt of the Pushkin Prize. While the author himself has receded from public view, the work attracts growing, world-wide critical attention. Much of this work draws upon my own early studies, some of which have now appeared in Russian and other translations.

Sokolov has also written eight essays. Like the novels, they are stylistically ornate and often hermetic in content. They are extremely compact meditations both on the novels themselves and of Sokolov's rich interior worlds. My presentation will subject the essays to the close scrutiny. I had the good fortune to be in close contact with Sokolov during most of his productive years as a writer and have a substantial body of correspondence and taped recordings of our conversations. Much of this material is in the Sokolov Archive that I established at the University of California in Santa Barbara Davidson Library. My paper will explore the essays both as independent works of art and as adjuncts to the author's fiction.