Sasha Sokolov

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Sasha Sokolov (born Александр Всеволодович Соколов/Alexander Vsevolodovitch Sokolov on November 6, 1943, in Ottawa, Canada) is a paradoxical writer of Russian literature.

He became known worldwide in the 1970s after his first novel A School for Fools had been published by Ardis Publishing (Ann Arbor, Michigan) in the US, and later reissued by Four Walls Eight Windows. Sokolov is one of the most important authors of 20th-century Russian literature. He is well acclaimed for his unorthodox use of language, playing with rhythms, sounds and associations. The author himself coined the term "proeziia" for his work—in between prose and poetry.

Sokolov is a Canadian citizen and has lived the larger part of his life so far in the United States. During the Second World War, his father, Major Vsevolod Sokolov, worked as a military attaché at the Soviet embassy in Canada. In 1946 Major Sokolov (agent "Davey") was deported from Canada in relation to spying activity. After returning to the Soviet Union in 1946 and growing up there, Sokolov did not fit into the Soviet system. In 1965 he was discarded from a military university, probably because he had tried to flee the country. After that he studied journalism at Moscow State University from 1966 to 1971. Shortly after his first daughter was born in 1974 his first marriage ended.

Sokolov made several attempts to flee from Soviet Union. He was caught while crossing the Iranian border, and only his father's connections helped him to avoid long imprisonment.[1]

He met his second wife, the Austrian-born Johanna Steindl while she was teaching German at the University in Moscow. She smuggled the text of his first novel into the West. Only after she started a hunger strike in the Stephansdom in Vienna, Austria, in 1975, was Sokolov allowed to leave the Soviet Union. Sokolov left Vienna in late 1976 for the United States after his first novel had been published. In early 1977, Johanna Steindl gave birth to Sokolov's son, who has become a journalist. He also had a second daughter named Maria Goldfarb, born in New York in 1986, who has become an artist. Sasha Sokolov later married again several times and is now married to the US rower Marlene Royle.

His second novel, Between Dog and Wolf, builds even more on the particularities of the Russian language and is deemed untranslatable. Thus, it has become a much lesser success than A School for Fools, which has been translated into many languages. His 1985 novel Palisandriia was translated as Astrophobia and published by Grove Press in the US in 1989. The complete manuscript of his fourth book is said to have been lost when the Greek house it had been written in burnt down. Sokolov, who leads a rather reclusive life, says that he keeps writing, but doesn't want to be published any more.

Major works

  • 1976 Школа для дураков/A School for Fools. Ann Arbor. ("A School for Fools")
  • 1980 Между собакой и волком/Between Dog and Wolf. Ann Arbor.
  • 1985 Палисандрия/Astrophobia/Palisandriia. Ann Arbor, New York.
  • 2012 In the House of the Hanged: Essays and Vers Libres. Trans: Alexander Boguslawski. University of Toronto Press, Toronto.


  • D. Barton Johnson: Sasha Sokolov: A Literary Biography, Canadian-American Slavic Studies, 21, Nos 3-4, 1987: 203-230.
  • Ludmilla L. Litus: Sasha Sokolov's Journey from "Samizdat" to Russia's Favorite Classic: 1976-2006, Canadian-American Slavic Studies, 40, part I, Nos 2-4, 2006: 393-424.
  • _____ with D. Barton Johnson, compilers: Sasha Sokolov: A Selected Annotated Bibliography. 1967-2006, Canadian-American Slavic Studies,40, part I, Nos 2-4, 2006: 425-94.


External links and references