Mikhail Epstein


On November 15, 1996, my way crossed with Andrei Bitov's at a Slavic conference in Boston. I told him very briefly about Yasusada and shared with him my hypothesis about his potential authorship. He thought for a while and then noted: "The more hypothetical is one's approach to an author, the more truthful it may finally prove to be."

"Does this relate to this specific case"? I asked directly. He evaded the direct answer and continued: "The value of hypothesis is to predict a thing which cannot be observed. The value of an authorship is to make possible what is impossible. A critical hypothesis about an author is just a reversed projection of his own creativity and does not need any further justification. As you know, some of my characters are literary scholars, which presumes that some literary scholars..."

At this moment - we were strolling around the book exhibition - an acquaintance of Bitov approached him and distracted us from the conversation. Unfortunately, later on this day we had no opportunity to talk privately, and none of us wanted to bring this topic to public attention. Two details of this short exchange need to be emphasized.

1). Bitov didn't ask me what Yasusada's works were about.

2). Anyone familiar with Yasusada's style cannot but recognize its echoes in Bitov's manner of coining paradoxes.

Essay's beginning

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