The Man Who Wasn’t There

Magnus Ljunggren has a lovely little piece about two Russian writers in today’s Svenska Dagbladet.

1. In fiction, a man who doesn’t exist. Yury Nikolaevich Tynyanov (1894-1943), a Latvian Jew, wrote the satirical novella Lieutenant Kijé (1927) about a non-existent military officer who gets entered into the rolls through a misunderstanding and rises through the ranks to general.

2. In reality, a body of fiction ascribed to a man who writes nothing. Anatolii Surov (d. 1987) published several successful plays and received the Stalin award twice, all on the strength of work that he stole from other writers. They were largely Jews who were in no position to complain in Stalinist Russia. The year after Stalin’s death, Surov was unmasked at a literary conference.

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