There are not enough external signs of Mark Shatunovsky's existence for it to be considered a given.

          He was born on March 6, 1954, but this event impressed itself weakly on his memory.

          He studied at grammar school and then in the philological department of Moscow State University, but this had no particular affect on him.

          Only his stint in the army temporarily concretized him in the form of a reserve lance-corporal.

          It was said that at some later date he recited poetry somewhere with the poets of the "new wave", with Zhdanov, Eremenko, and Parshchikov  or with Bunimovich, Arabov and Iskrenko, but no one recalls exactly with whom or when, since this is nearly a legend by now.

          It seems he has a wife and daughter. But when his daughter fills in questionnaires at school she never knows how to how to answer the question about her father's profession. And his wife, seeking any sort of evidence of her husband's literary success, finds mention of him in rare reviews under the heading "and others".

          He even became a member of the Writers' Union, a feat achieved with the considerable efforts of Kirill Vladimirovich Kovaldzhi, whose once famous poetry seminar in Moscow it seems he attended quite regularly. But since this seminar has receded into the realm of legend and tradition, and only one restaurant remains of the Writers' Union, frequented by characters little resembling writers, even this fact does not permit us to accept the existence of Mark Alekseevich Shatunovsky as proven.

          His play "The Trajectory of a Snail, or An Anecdote About Stalin's Death" apparently played an entire season at the Moscow University Theater, but subsequent stormy nationwide events dispelled the authenticity of this rather minor incident.

          There is one further piece of material evidence: a book of poetry called Oshchushchenie Zhizni (The Sensation of Life). But the very fact of its release from the AMGA publishing house in Paris arouses doubt. Tell me, what was the point of publishing it in Russian in Paris? And then, can poetry really constitute even slightly serious proof? This is why two further books of poetry, Mysli travy (Thoughts of Grass, 1992), and Iz zhizni rastenii (From the Life of Plants, 1999), published in Moscow this time, can also not be considered as proof.

          It's true that his poetry and prose have been translated into English and French and published in American and French journals, leading to a belief in his existence in the United States and an official invitation from the United States Information Agency to take part in the prestigious International Writers' Program at the University of Iowa.

          But then the very last fact, the (neo-)novel Diskretnaya Nepreryvnost' Lyubvi (The Discrete Continuity of Love), written over the course of six years and published in the second issue of a  literary journal based in St. Petersburg, Postscriptum, betrays the fictitious nature of Mark Alekseevich Shatunovsky's existence. Think about it — could any real, living person write a novel for six whole years in our current conditions, so unfavorable for literary endeavors?


Translated by Patrick Henry

Copyright © by Mark Shatunovsky, 1996. All rights reserved.