DICKENS, DOSTOEVSKY, AND DUPERY.

I don’t think I’ve ever had so many people send me a single story before, and I can understand why: it’s an astonishing piece of journalism and right up my alley. Go read Eric Naiman’s “When Dickens met Dostoevsky” (TLS); it’s long, but trust me, it just keeps getting better. And it starts off pretty darn good, with Michiko Kakutani getting duped in the very first sentence. Ah, Stephanie Harvey! Ah, humanity!
Update (July 2013). See now Stephen Moss’s fascinating and sad Guardian interview with Harvey (thanks, David!).

Comments

  1. One wonders how many more scholarly articles have cited A D Harvey’s alter egos.

  2. J.W. Brewer says:

    I think someone should compile a list of everyone else who got a Ph.D. at Cambridge in some field of the humanities the same year as Harvey but who ended up with a tenured academic position. Have any of them made an equivalent contribution to human happiness and/or knowledge?

  3. > One wonders how many more scholarly articles have cited A D Harvey’s alter egos.
    More pertinently, one wonders how many scholarly articles *not by A. D. Harvey* have cited his alter egos. Someone should draw up a citation index.

  4. Responding to charges of unbecoming gullibility levelled at her by Deborah Friedell in the London Review of Books (“She might have been less susceptible had she not so badly wanted it to be true”), Tomalin defended herself by saying that she had found the account “irresistible” and had relied on the scholarship of others.
    That is not so much a defense as an admission of guilt. (“They do not so much fly as plummet.”) Perhaps she should have the gullibility center of her brain removed.
    nearly ten monographs
    This sounds like another hit for the hitherto unnatural use of ten rather than a dozen for a small approximate count.
    a mode of interaction that could be called symbiotic if there prove to be more than one real person at the bottom of it
    Mere typo, or archaic present subjunctive in a conditional clause?
    the author’s name is given as A. D. Harvey. Leo Bellingham is nowhere mentioned.
    This seems to be the curious fate of the even more curious fantasy novel Celestial Chess, now everywhere attributed to the late Thomas Bontly, though the copy I own is said on its cover to be by a far better-known author.

  5. “nearly ten monographs”
    Yes, this struck me as odd too. Also:
    “This is odd, backwards logic. The hoax wasn’t clever because it convinced so many Dickens scholars; rather, it was clever for the same reason it convinced them: because it was modest.”
    Surely, “it convinced so many scholars because it was clever”!

  6. Dupéry is one of my favorite nineteenth-century novelists.

  7. @Conrad: The problem with the sentence is that “reason” in “reason it was clever” and “reason” in “reason it fooled the critics” have two different meanings. The first implies logical entailment, the second causal entailment.

  8. That reminds me of another “too good to be true” hoax, Lanyon-Orgill’s collection of Captain Cook’s Pacific language vocabularies. As with the Dickens-Dotoyevsky story, the debunking (here, about halfway down) made for a better read than the original publication.

  9. That is not so much a defense as an admission of guilt.
    To be fair, it is surely impossible to personally fact-check all one’s sources if one is writing anything longer than an article. If I saw a statement in a prestigious bio of a writer, I’d assume it was true.

  10. John Emerson says:

    When Dickens met Hans Christian Anderson
    True as far as I know. HCA seems to have established some kind of record for social ineptitude.

  11. Trond Engen says:

    I’ve been waiting for hours for someone to step up and ask the obvious “So, who is Eric Naiman?” so I wouldn’t have to.

  12. Trond Engen says:
  13. Are we not all, in the last analysis, Eric Naiman?

  14. Or, in the immortal words of Heinlein: but where did all you zombies come from?

  15. @John Cowan:
    “a mode of interaction that could be called symbiotic if there prove to be more than one real person at the bottom of it
    Mere typo, or archaic present subjunctive in a conditional clause?”
    Unexceptional in my neck of the woods (Melbourne, Australia). Present subjunctive (or irrealis or whatever it’s called) is alive and well here, far from being archaic. “Proves” instead of “prove” is possible but doesn’t sound quite right. When I read it I hear the ghost of a “should” just before the “prove”.

  16. The letter was written in a shaky hand, reminding Andrews of a child’s scrawl or the penmanship one might expect from a correspondent who was mentally ill.
    Tendentiousness is typical of the author’s campaign to vilify Dr Harvey, his third wife and their putative enormous pet rabbit. What kind of penmanship do we to expect from the mentally ill? Hitler’s weirdly inclined script is well-known, which reminds me that handwriting is nowhere alluded to in a History Today article on Englelbert Dollfuss and his so-called “breast” pocket. I haven’t read it myself, but I hear very good things about it.

  17. marie-lucie says:

    AJP: The article on Dollfuss (about whom I knew nothing) is indeed very interesting, but History Today is not an academic journal, it is a popular magazine. There is nothing at all wrong in writing for the general reader, in fact I think it should be encouraged, but such an article is not scholarly in the sense of quoting and discussing sources or presenting independent research, so even if A.D. Harvey writes interesting articles relying on gathering and summarizing information from publications by academic historians, he will not be considered a historian in the academic sense.
    But even though he is obviously very disappointed at not being recognized by academia, history is not where he aims to shine: his various hoaxes perpetrated under a number of different names are not in the historical field (where he always uses the same name, presumably his own) but in the literary field, where his ambitions apparently lie but his talents are not quite up to par.

  18. marie-lucie says:

    his so-called “breast” pocket
    “Breast pocket” is the technical term for this pocket built into classical men’s jackets (of suits, or “sports” jackets), roughly over the heart area or a little higher. “Breast” originally referred to the front of the chest, as in “breastplate”, a piece of armour covering the chest.

  19. I wonder if I’m the only one who found this article terribly depressing.

  20. Depressing? The antics of men are endlessly entertaining to the outside observer. What could be more hilarious than this expanding circle of petty hoaxes?

  21. marie-lucie says:

    Bathrobe, perhaps Anatoly is talking about the Dollfuss article?

  22. Anatoly, yes, I also found the amount of effort and ingenuity which went into the research on Harvey depressing. It’s like Harvey had the last laugh, after leaving not-so subtle clues all along his path, then watching Naimann tangled up in the true and false leads and spending so much time for such a trifling effect. Did Harvey emerge, in the end, as an invincible puzzle-master and exactly the kind of a nemesis of the stuffed-up academia he always aspired to be?
    Good read all things weighed, but I wish the author would relegate much of the minutiae to a Supplemental section.

  23. “such a trifling effect”
    Not at all trifling.
    “Did Harvey emerge, in the end, as an invincible puzzle-master and exactly the kind of a nemesis of the stuffed-up academia he always aspired to be?”
    No.

  24. J.W. Brewer says:

    How can Harvey write an article about Dollfuss asking “what would have happened” had Dollfuss not been assassinated without ever even mentioning the name of Dollfuss’ successor (Schuschnigg – wikipedia says this was a Teutonicized respelling of an originally Slovene family name), who had been a member of Dollfuss’ cabinet and who broadly speaking seems to have done his best to maintain the same general policies both domestic and foreign until overwhelmed by the Nazis in 1938. The case to be made is that somehow Dollfuss by virtue of some special gifts of personality or what have you would have somehow gotten better results than Schuschnigg was able to while playing the same rather unpromising hand with the same goals in mind, but Harvey doesn’t try to make that case.

  25. I’m guessing Anatoly meant the article about the hoax. On some level I found it depressing, too.

  26. I meant the article about the hoax. The lengthy quote from Harvey’s own survey of his career, around the middle of the article, provides the crucial context in which to view his escapades. Having spent a lifetime as an independent scholar trying, and failing, to get an academic job, he looks back at his not inconsiderate number of scholarly books and articles and soberly judges them unread and not likely to ever be read. An “invincible puzzle-muster”, pace Dmitry, he is not; rather the lack of critical attention to his literary attempts leads him to invent a small community of fake critics discussing his own work and judging it both positively and negatively. To me, all this is sad and depressing rather than amusing.
    All the hoaxes, including the Dickens & Dostoyevsky meeting which was probably the most masterful of them, amount to very little both objectively (a few retracted sentences in a handful of biographies, a thread on a mailing list) and, I would guess, in his own eyes. He’d much rather people discussed _Sex in Georgian England_ or read _Oxford: The Novel_, but that’s not happening. And the thing is, I don’t know that they’re not very good. They probably aren’t (Sturgeon’s Law and all that), but I’ve only Eric Naiman’s word on the novel being plodding and stilted, and he lost his credibility with me with the stuffy moralizing near the end about “the violation of the trust” and all that. He doesn’t say much about Harvey’s scholarly monographs, and I absolutely can believe that they received no attention because the author wasn’t an academic. It’s possible that Harvey, as his own alter ago Schellenberger believed, was a first-rate historian who was shunned by an academic community hungry for trendy theoretical constructs. Probably not, but could be.

  27. the lack of critical attention to his literary attempts leads him to invent a small community of fake critics discussing his own work
    The netizen-speak for this phenopmenon is a sockpuppet, an assumed identity whose raison d’etre is to review or promote its owner. I remember being compelled myself to launch a sockpuppet in an online community which moderated out its unpopular pages by a popular vote weighed by influence factor of the voters. In this carricature representation of the real academic world, it quickly turned out that “mutual admiration pacts” boost their members’ weight factors, and keep their contributions from downvoting. Alas, my little clique couldn’t reach critical mass – not, that is, until a sockpuppet joined in :)

  28. PS: the wikipedia article on sockpuppetry I just cited mentions i.a. that “Walt Whitman and Anthony Burgess were both famous for having reviewed their books under pseudonyms. Another famous example was Benjamin Franklin.”

  29. it quickly turned out that “mutual admiration pacts” boost their members’ weight factors, and keep their contributions from downvoting.
    Forming a consensus is how democracy works. Not everyone has a strong opinion, not all issues are strongly supported, so rather than let votes go to waste they are utilised: you vote for my bill about imported widgets and I’ll vote for your bill to ban wooden spanners.
    m-l, there are plenty of top academics writing for History Today. It’s not the Radio Times. Harvey will have felt pretty good about being published there despite its lack of footnotes (assuming there is one, I haven’t read it enough since I was at school to remember).
    To me, all this is sad and depressing rather than amusing.
    Yes, obviously one part of Harvey’s life is sad & depressing. Other sides of the story are amusing; it also makes you wonder why nobody is taking the trouble to read citations; it may make you wonder about Naiman’s tendentious style of writing. It’s important not to draw too few conclusions.

  30. “a first-rate historian who was shunned by an academic community hungry for trendy theoretical constructs”
    This is a cartoon of what academia is (or has been) like. Some academics are after trendy constructs, but many others are not; there are all manner of reasons why books (even good books) get neglected, but this is not one of them.

  31. David Marjanović says:

    Dollfuss (about whom I knew nothing)

    Heh. No wonder. Austrofascism is very little talked about. Austria’s conservative party really doesn’t want to be reminded of it in public…

    wikipedia says this was a Teutonicized respelling of an originally Slovene family name

    Of course. -nig/-nigg is good old Slavic -nik, adapted to look a bit like a German adjective in -ig, and the whole thing doesn’t mean anything in German.

    The netizen-speak for this phenopmenon is a sockpuppet, an assumed identity whose raison d’etre is to review or promote its owner.

    The lazy version of that is “the lurkers support me in e-mail”.

  32. marie-lucie says:

    AJP: there are plenty of top academics writing for History Today. It’s not the Radio Times. Harvey will have felt pretty good about being published there despite its lack of footnotes
    I didn’t mean to insult History Today any more than I would insult Scientific American, whose aim is to inform the public about what scientists are discovering, not to make its own independent contribution to scientific knowledge. Harvey has apparently published a number of articles in HT. By ‘not scholarly’ (= not in a scholarly format, not intended to be read by academic historians) I did not mean ‘absence of footnotes’ (you are right there), but absence of any reference to the work of other historians. Most scholarly articles include phrases such as “According to X”, which show that the author is familiar with others’ work on the topic (and then give reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with them).
    Anatoly: a first-rate historian who was shunned by an academic community hungry for trendy theoretical constructs
    I am not a historian (except for language) but I don’t remember hearing about “trendy theoretical constructs” in history on the same level as, for instance, deconstructionism in literary studies, or Chomskyan theory in linguistics. Also, even if there is a general push toward “trendy theoretical constructs”, not every department, let alone individual scholar, agrees with the current trend: some might feel that they have to pay lip service to it at least until their career is established, for instance.
    In any case, a first-rate historian shunned by academia would not be barred from publishing outside academic journals and scholarly presses (as ADH is doing with articles in History Today). Books on history written for a general audience can attract a very wide readership, much wider than books directed only to academics in one’s field.
    What is strange here is that ADH’s hoaxes are not in the historical field (in which he regularly writes under his own name) but in the literary field, where he produces both creative works (sonnets, novels) and literary criticism (complete with quotations and abundant references!). Is this the type of revenge on academia a “first-rate historian” is likely to think of? Could it be that ADH intended to be an English writer/scholar, did not succeed in that notoriously competitive field and fell back on history as a more accessible discipline, only to find that his heart was not in it? So he might do a competent job of it, but not a first-rate one.

  33. Martin Gardner reviewed one of his own books under a pseudonym for the New York Review of Books. As I recall it, the ruse was designed to be semi-transparent, and the review was somewhat mixed. I miss Martin Gardner.

  34. The meeting was a hoax, but Dickens was a major influence on Dostoevsky.

  35. Narmitaj says:

    William Atheling Jr was a trenchant critic of science fiction in the 1950s and 1960s, and the name was a pseudonym of James Blish, a well-known sf writer. He did review his own work on at least one occasion, A Case of Conscience.
    But it was not a one-to-one and one-off thing, as “Schellenberger’s” review/essay about “Lindsay’s” Mind-Sprung in Foundation was (as mentioned in the Naiman article). Atheling’s reviews were generally essays* that covered several novels and short stories at a time, he didn’t set up the Atheling name in the first place simply to puff his work, and his review of his own work was not 100% laudatory: “several direct failures of technique in the Blish story”. And late in Atheling’s career it was well-known it was Blish.
    *Collected in The Issue at Hand (1964) and More Issues at Hand (1970) by William Atheling Jr, edited and with an introduction by James Blish.

  36. SFReader says:

    I think we should first have a definite proof that this Eric Naiman character actually exists and is not just yet another reincarnation of A.D.Harvey…

  37. It’s hard not to suspect that academia hasn’t changed much since Lucky Jim. It’s a world that does invite trolling.
    On Austrofascism, reading Bernhard or Jelinek gives one the impression it’s alive and well; it’s just a way of life for many.

  38. Anatoly — I rather agree with you. In fact, I found the article distasteful, as if some college students had invited me to look through the bedroom window at a pathetic old man scribbling a letter to the Times while watching Debbie Does Dallas. Did all his textual analysis have to involve nipples and condoms? Did the tone have to be quite so exhuberant? I remember the original queries on SEELANGS, I was happy that someone got to the bottom of the purported Dickens-Dostoevsky meeting, and I get that the multiple pseudynoms and cross-reviewing was rich material. But. But. The enjoyment of the unmasking is unkind.

  39. Thanks mab, I think you captured the sentiment better than anybody in this thread.
    It is relatively uncommon to use weak or controversial fiction written by someone to strengthen the opinion that one’s scholarly record is garbage too? Presumably one can reach the same conclusion without gleefully quoting lines about nipples, right?
    As to the reviews which weren’t written by who is on the byline … don’t we all know about these stories in the real academia? Not the rare sockpuppet variety, but the ones where the purported authors are for real, but the pieces are actually written by someone else? Like when one is compelled to refute the mistaken work of the others, and plants a manuscript to an outsider in order to avoid the outright hostilities. The opposite is true too, when one wants the hostilities to erupt, but couldn’t be concerned with doing all the gumshoe work, and contracts the review to a ghostwriter. Funny things happen. Like once, on a remote mountain peak climb, I got acquainted with a nice gal who insisted that she’s heard my name before, but just couldn’t remember the context. Hours later, we solved the puzzle, and gasped in surprise. She use to be a postdoc in a lab of an archenemy of my postdoc adviser, before we both switched the fields. Her hot-spirited Professor had her ghostwrite the most vicious review I ever had of my work LOL.

  40. J.W. Brewer says:

    Dmitry P.: I’m not sure about in academia proper, but I can think of multiple U.S. examples where politicians/pundits/”public intellectuals” decided to try their hand at publishing a novel and their ideological/personal adversaries were happy to publicize e.g. quoted bits of purple prose from sex scenes with the implicit notion that writing that sort of thing ought to entitle their day-job opinions to less weight.

  41. Yes. Thanks, mab.

  42. marie-lucie says:

    mab, I am not sure if this is the same phenomenon. Those politicians, etc were presumably writing under their own names (even if they used ghostwriters) and were content with one or two titles. ADH used a variety of pseudonyms: not always a bad idea in itself (some famous authors have done the same), but he then had those aliases practically fighting among themselves to mostly sing the praises of the literary works produced, which were in many cases thinly veiled copies of each other. As for the titillating descriptions, it seems from the article that those were often bandied about in the aliases’ “quotations” in their reviews, not just selected by the author of the article from the novels themselves.

  43. i had the same feeling as mab reading nabokov’s ada or lolita, it’s curious whether their personalities were always that outgoing and uninhibited, or could it be they suffered some sort of stroke to their amygdala, for example, or frontal lobe, to start writing those such sexually concerned texts, in russian nabokov always sounds so pure and high-minded, though high arts should be uninhibited maybe, sure
    what i’ve found even more curious is that everywhere online i visit lurking mostly, the article was linked, LH, met/filter, crooked timber, 3 quarksd etcetc. all the facebook feeds nakonets, thought, such a small world, one sensation for all the similarly minded people must be, to find the article so significant to link as if like obligatory to it for a few days

  44. marie-lucie, it was Eric Naiman (a literature professor at Berkeley) who said my fiction was plodding and unreadable: Time Out, the weekly review of what’s on in London, said it was “a shining example of how the English language should be used”. And even Naiman did not accuse me of writing pseudonymous reviews quoting sexy bits from other pseudonymous publications: the only sexy excerpts were from a text that did not exist EXCEPT as the sexy excerpts.
    By the way, your name suggests that you are French, or bilingual.If so, I need someone to translate some of my work: pay available and no nipples involved.

  45. A. Holden says:

    Two thoughts…
    First, Dmitry and Mab are right. There is something off-putting about the exhaustiveness with which Prof. Naiman has sought to expose Mr. Harvey’s deceptions. But then, if I had devoted a large part of my career to teaching Dostoevsky and heard about a meeting between that novelist and Charles Dickens – a meeting I had never known took place, a meeting subsequently revealed to be fictitious – I might well feel a sense of affront. I’d want to know who was responsible for this fiction, and why. And I’d feel justified in sharing my discoveries, however prurient they might seem, with the world.
    Which leads to my second thought. Prof. Naiman found the who. As for the why, he did all he could do: he speculated.
    Mr. Harvey, if you’re still reading these comments, you have seen that there is considerable sympathy for you among the commentators. Tell us. Why?

  46. JWB,
    I’m not sure about in academia proper, but I can think of multiple U.S. examples where politicians/pundits/”public intellectuals” decided to try their hand at publishing a novel and their ideological/personal adversaries were happy to publicize e.g. quoted bits of purple prose from sex scenes
    That’s most definitely the case, and yet at the same it’s generally assumed / hoped / taken great pride of that the academic work is judged strictly on its merit.
    @ A.Holden, Eric Naiman doesn’t come across as a Dostoevskologist, but he authored a great deal of scholarship on private body parts in the literature. So I assume that the affinity between Eric Naiman and his Harvey et al. subject had little to do with Dickens, and probably a lot more to do with their interest in tits, anuses, filth, pathology, and like literary themes. Here’s Naiman’s publication list from UCB’s Slavistics Dept.:
    “A Filthy Look at Shakespeare’s Lolita,” Comparative Literature, Winter 2006, vol. 58, no. 1, 1-23.
    “Perversion in Pnin (Reading Nabokov Preposterously),” Nabokov Studies, 7 (2002/2003).
    “‘Introduction’ to Andrey Platonov, Happy Moscow, trans. by Robert Chandler. (London: Harvill Press, 2001).
    “V zhopu prorubit’ okno: seksual’naia patologiia kak ideologicheskii kalambur u Andreia Platonova,” Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie, 32, 1998. (this title, literally about anal mutilation and sexual pathology, is actually a [lame] kind of Russian pun, and the subject is puns)
    “Shklovsky’s Dog and Mulvey’s Pleasure: The Secret Life of Defamiliarization,” Comparative Literature, vol.50, no.4 (1998).
    “When a Communist Writes Gothic: Aleksandra Kollontai and the Politics of Disgust,” Signs, vol. 22, no. 1, 1996.
    “Historectomies: The Metaphysics of Reproduction in a Utopian Age,” in Sexuality and the Body in Russian Culture, ed. J. Costlow, S. Sandler and J. Vowles (Stanford Univeristy Press, 1993).
    “Of Crime, Utopia and Repressive Complements: The Further Adventures of the Ridiculous Man.” Slavic Review, 50 (1991).

  47. marie-lucie says:

    A.D.Harvey (assuming you are *you*), thank you for your offer of a translating job, but I must decline.

  48. Spam that’s on topic!
    Isn’t Mr. Crown AD Harvey?

  49. Naiman’s funniest title is in Russian unfortunately. You can find his meditation on Platonov’s Епифанские шлюзы here. It’s a worthwhile read, but it also has this lovely sentence:
    Давайте проследим судьбу понятий “разум”, “зад” и “окно” в тексте Платонова, обращая при этом особое внимание на лексическое воплощение или инкорпорирование абстрактных идей.

  50. On Austrofascism, reading Bernhard or Jelinek gives one the impression it’s alive and well; it’s just a way of life for many.
    True, but hardly surprising. Fascism is just as strong, if not stronger, in Northern Italy, Slovakia, Croatia and Hungary. Maybe it’s a Hapsburg thing…

  51. Rodger C says:

    Austrofascism sounds to me like the correlative of Boreofascism.

  52. Naiman’s funniest title is in Russian unfortunately
    Oh man, that’s hilarious! One of the many famous bits from Pushkin’s “The Bronze Horseman” is the phrase “В Европу прорубить окно” [V Evropu prorubit' okno] ‘to cut open a window into Europe’; Naiman’s title has В жопу прорубить окно [V zhopu prorubit' okno] ‘to cut open a window into the ass.’

  53. marie-lucie says:

    mab: Isn’t Mr. Crown AD Harvey?
    Very probably, at least here.

  54. You can find his meditation on Platonov’s Епифанские шлюзы here. It’s a worthwhile read…
    Thanks. Alexei! Platonov’s novel is a great read on Russia fatalistic, spiraling down, dark immutability. What’s interesting in the linked Naiman’s “lexical incorporation analysis” is that the text, cited as Russian at the UCB dSlavistics page, is actually … a translation into Russian of an English paper, to be precise not a translation but a re-narration, and not even by Naiman himself but by Evgenii Bershtein of Reed College, also an author of numerous scholarly papers on homosexuality, bisexuality, and pathological sexuality in the literature. Some “lexical discoveries” are even left untranslated from English, like Епифанские is explained as English “epiphany” … right, Platonov must have been well-versed in English, pardon my sarcasm. In any case, the question begs to be asked – where is the English original, and why someone else retelling in another language appears on the professor’s list of publications?
    I couldn’t help thinking that there are layers upon layers of puns and faux identities there … even the formula of “incorporation analysis” deconvolutes, by its own rules, to corporal and anal. Could *all* these authors re-narrating, reviewing, emulating, and citing each other – not just the Harvey continuum but Naiman and Bershtein too – turn out to be one and the same person? I know, I know … but it’s hard to shake off this suspicion :)

  55. I have loaded your blog in 4 different web browsers and I must say your blog loads a lot quicker then most.
    Indeed, and why? Because it’s plain HTML with no webjunk. All praise to our host, who keeps a clean house!

  56. And another spammer who expresses the sentiments of a true Hattic: Write more, that’s all I have to say. It looks like you relied on some reputable sources to make your point. You clearly know what you’re talking about.

  57. “Епифанские is explained as English “epiphany” … right, Platonov must have been well-versed in English, pardon my sarcasm.”
    Dmitry, I have to disagree with this bit. “Epiphany” is a word of Greek origin and it’s quite plausible that Platonov reflected on епифания/эпифания in this context.

  58. A.Holden asks WHY?
    My pseudonymous non-fiction represents about 2% of the 1.2 million words of non-fiction that I have published. If you read the other 98% you should be able to figure out WHY.
    As it’s clear from your discussion that you are all going to do precisely what Naiman wants you to do, which is NOT read anything I’ve published, I’ll give you a clue.Most of my non-fiction writing relates to English poetry circa 1900, early nineteenth century politics , and military history, but about 10% relates to terrorism, the media, aspects of Higher Education, and the way professional bodies organize themselves.

  59. It looks like Marie-Lucie’s comment got nixed along with piles of spam? In response I wanted to compare lexical incorporation analysis to a half-hearted kabbalah, seeking meanings in ever-reduced patterns of strings of symbols, and then to Fomenko’s “historiography” seeking to equate similar patterns: in the end everything and everyone is collated into one entity :)
    “Epiphany” is a word of Greek origin
    it’s not like we disagree about etymology :)
    My point is that Bershtein himself uses the English word in the Russian translation, probably because there is no Russian word of a similarly wide conceptual meaning; the closest Russian meaning is, very narrowly, the obsolete name of an Orthodox holiday of Bogoyavlenie. And it goes without saying that the town of Epifan’ is a real place, rather than Platonov’s invention; that it is named after a male personal name Epifan, rather than after a literary concept; and especially, that to a modern Russian, the sound of the word “Epifan’” is primarily associated with the f-word (perhaps meaning something like “f*ing hard work with little to show for it”), and only the analysts narrowly focused on lexical patterns might have missed it IMVHO.

  60. Epiphany usually refers to the mostly Western feast of the Kings/Magi/Wise Men and Theophany (Богоявление) to Jesus’ baptism by John. Both fall on the twelfth day of Christmas.
    I must admit I didn’t feel anything obscene about the word – Епифанов is a common last name, for example, but sounds just right to me. But Naiman should have brought up king cakes!

  61. marie-lucie says:

    In France, l’Epiphanie is the official name of the feast in the Catholic Church, but in everyday speech people use le Jour des Rois ‘the Day of the Kings’, referring to les Rois Mages, the three priest-kings who came to see the baby Jesus and bring him costly gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense. After the evening meal, most people eat a special kind of cake called la galette des Rois, in which a tiny, hard object (formerly a bean) is hidden. The person who finds it is the King and chooses a Queen (or vice-versa nowadays), and they put on crowns of gold-coloured paper, usually given by the bakery where the cake was bought.

  62. Alexei, I think it is the “нь” suffix which makes it Епифань sound like a euphemism for an obscenity. Like фиготень etc. (The soft sign there actually comes from an obsolete possessive form no longer understood as such by today’s Russians). But my survey wasn’t scientific by any means :)
    Of course “epiphany” in Naiman / Bershtein’s essay on Platonov doesn’t mean anything religious or holy, it is just a word for a “eureka moment”. This (more recently acquired) meaning is absolutely typical in English but unknown in Russian, even though the etymology is the same of course.
    But the authors (unlike Platonov himself) might not have even realized that Epifan’ is a real small town? Because the essay, quite nonsensically, places it at a divide of Volga and Oka river basins, while it is actually (of course) on the Don River. BTW LH, have you read this novel? The language of Platonov is very peculiar!

  63. I haven’t read that one, but I’ve read a fair amount of Platonov; see here, here, and here.

  64. David Marjanović says:

    On Austrofascism, reading Bernhard or Jelinek gives one the impression it’s alive and well; it’s just a way of life for many.

    Ah, that’s not Austrofascism for the most part, it’s National Socialism… The one Handke book I had to read describes attitudes more like Austrofascism.
    Austrofascism was much closer to Mussolini’s original than National Socialism; in particular, it was overbearingly Catholic.

    Austrofascism sounds to me like the correlative of Boreofascism.

    Heh. Indeed, Austrofascism was to a large part a reaction to National Socialism. It even appears that the phrase “Austria is the better Germany” was used in earnest in those times.

  65. So many things were said in earnest in those times!

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