Schools for Fools? The Cult of Folly in Recent Russian Writing

Why have so many Russian writers of the past fifty years - from samizdat classics Venedikt Erofeev and Sasha Sokolov to a range of post-Soviet authors - so frequently turned to the voice and character of the fool in their fiction? Why does Svetlana Aleksievich begin Second-Hand Time with the figure of Ivan the Fool? What are the dangers of the Russian 'cult of folly'? And what are the connections between the spiritual traditions of the fool in the Russian tradition and what we might now call intellectual disability?

Oliver Ready will discuss these and other questions in the light of his new book, Persisting in Folly: Russian Writers in Search of Wisdom, 1963-2013.

Oliver Ready teaches Russian language and literature at Oxford University and is a Research Fellow at St Antony’s College. His published translations include Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment for Penguin Classics, Before and During by Vladimir Sharov (Read Russia translation prize, 2015), The Zero Train and The Prussian Bride (Rossica Translation Prize, 2005) by Yuri Buida, and (as co-translator) The Maisky Diaries. He is Russia and East-Central Europe Editor at the Times Literary Supplement.