Enter a gentle Astringer

July 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Harvey, who has written most of his books using the initials AD rather than his first name Arnold, which he dislikes, has been exposed in the Times Literary Supplement as the possessor of multiple identities in print, a mischief-maker who among other things had invented a fictitious meeting in 1862 between Dickens and Dostoevsky. This startling encounter was first written up by one Stephanie Harvey in the Dickensian, the magazine of the Dickens Fellowship, in 2002, and quickly hardened into fact, cited in Michael Slater’s biography of Dickens in 2009 and repeated by Claire Tomalin in her biography two years later.

It was only after a New York Times review of Tomalin’s book that American specialists in Russian literature started to wonder about this meeting, Dostoevsky’s account of which, according to Stephanie Harvey, had been documented in the journal Vedomosti Akademii Nauk Kazakskoi (News of the Academy of Sciences of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic). “In what language did Dickens and Dostoevsky converse?” asked Russian scholars. Why had Dostoevsky’s revealing portrait of Dickens – “There were two people in him, he told me: one who feels as he ought to feel and one who feels the opposite” – not been included in his collected works? And why had they never previously come across the distinguished journal Vedomosti Akademii Nauk Kazakskoi?

Doubts about the authenticity of the Dickens-Dostoevsky meeting spread, retractions were made, the Dickensian had egg on its face. But only recently did the full story of the deception emerge when Eric Naiman, a professor in the department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote an immensely detailed six-page article in the TLS (“three days’ work”, says Harvey dismissively when I praise Naiman for his industry) establishing Harvey’s academic avatars – not just Stephanie Harvey, but Graham Headley, Trevor McGovern, John Schellenberger, Leo Bellingham (author of Oxford: The Novel), Michael Lindsay and Ludovico Parra. Naiman traced the way in which, over the past 30 years, this group had been commenting on one another’s work in scholarly journals and little magazines, sometimes praising one ano ther but occasionally finding fault too. “How comforting,” Naiman commented drily, “to construct a community of scholars who can analyse, supplement and occasionally even ruthlessly criticise each other’s work.”

AD Harvey doesn’t deny he is the creator of that community. Indeed, he says there are several identities which even Naiman has failed to unearth: Stephen Harvey, author of an article titled The Italian War Effort and the Strategic Bombing of Italy, published in the journal History in 1985; the Latvian poet Janis Blodnieks (“I search but cannot find the key/ Which will unlock the glowing door/ To the life which runs parallel/ To the world in which I am trapped”); and a variety of internet personalities which he prefers not to disclose as he says they might not reflect well on his output and interests.  read more

ART: Hayv Kahraman

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