A School for Fools

Book

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, expressive of more than one perspective, wandering at whim through the Russian countryside. 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: as Vladimir Nabokov called it, “an enchanting, tragic, and touching work.”

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