Who is “T”?: Toward a Composite Portrait of a Multiple Author

Christopher J. Gilman, University of Southern California

The theoretical issue of authorship in the context of early Soviet Russia is compounded by specific social aspects of identity: orphanhood, transience, a fractured economy, social instability, class stigma, and a fashion for pseudonyms. In this paper I will discuss the short novel M-B-10-22: Siluèty grjaduščego (Leningrad, 1924) by “Dmitrij T” against this socio-historical background. “Dmitrij T” is not an identified pseudonym, and M-B-10-22 is the only work published under that name. The novel itself represents an awkward but fascinating hodgepodge of utopian science fiction, industrial espionage thriller, and jazz-age melodrama. The prose is, characteristically of the time, fractured, elliptical and “telegraphic.”

In the paper I will examine the novel’s preoccupation with lost identity in relation to the author’s own cloaked and perhaps divided biography. The main character does not know his original name, and as the narrative skips backward and forward through his life he accumulates a portfolio of names and identities: an unmentionable nickname as street-urchin, “Vanja” as stowaway, “Maj Lentr” (after an open calendar and portraits of Lenin and Trotskij) as successful student, the coordinates “M-B-10-22” as brilliant metal-pourer. This preoccupation resonates in one possible reading of “T’s” own biography. I will make the case that Dmitrij T was Timofej Dmitriev (1893–1953), a minor writer of the 1920s and member of the literary group Kuznica, and will further suggest that, under different names, he pursued separate careers as a graphic artist and poster designer, as well as a rural agit-playwright. I support my hypotheses with Russian/Soviet archival and reference material, contemporary reviews and newspaper accounts as well as a cross-reading of the various fictional works for typological consistencies and autobiographical allusions.