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

Specious one bedroom available

April 18, 2013 § 2 Comments

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‘Oh!’ cried Mrs. Skewton, with a faded little scream of rapture, ‘the Castle is charming!—associations of the Middle Ages—and all that—which is so truly exquisite… Such charming times!… So full of faith! So vigorous and forcible! So picturesque! So perfectly removed from commonplace! Oh dear! If they would only leave us a little more of the poetry of existence in these terrible days!’… ‘Those darling byegone times… with their delicious fortresses, and their dear old dungeons, and their delightful places of torture, and their romantic vengeances, and their picturesque assaults and sieges, and everything that makes life truly charming! How dreadfully we have degenerated!’

While Dicken’s Dombey and Son is not one of the books included in Castles: an Anthology, Mrs’ Skewton’s medievalist rhapsody may well have been the guiding principle behind the selection of the 160 items included in this online collection from the British Library, which includes archaeological treatises, antiquarian histories, images, Gothic romances and pseudo-histories featuring picturesque dungeons, sieges, knights and fair maidens. With three exceptions from the 18th-century and one from the 17th-century (Dryden’s King Arthur, 1691), all of the items in the Castles Anthology are digitized 19th-century primary sources.  The reader is therefore introduced not only to histories, images and fiction associated with medieval castles, but experiences these sources through the lens of Victorian culture and taste.  Hence the result is a fascinating glimpse of Victorian medievalisms, viewed through a 21st century interface.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Angela Strassheim

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