Arkady Trutnev (Аркады Трутнева)(1820-1869) was a Russian writer and radical.

*1 Early and Private Life
*2 Literature
*3 Radicalism
*4 Ivan Rubin
*5 The Key

Early and Private Life

Trutnev was born in Odessa and grew up in the immediate vicinty of that city, save for a brief spell in Grozny where his father worked as a physician. When Trutnev turned 18 he enrolled at Moscow University to study medicine, but changed to philosophy two years into his course. The switch prompted his father to temporarily disown him. While studying in Moscow Trutnev read part of his philosophic thesis aloud at a literary meeting attended to by Herzen, Danilevsky and Belinsky. After he had finished Danilevsky stood up and sarcastically remarked "Now that's finished, let's do some real philosophy!"1

During his time at university Trutnev's class was assigned an inspector to monitor the student's non-academic activities on behalf of the government. Trutnev was dismayed that his fellow students were intimidated by the presence of the inspector to such a degree that they limited their extra-curricular activites accordingly. Trutnev's later story 'The Ghost of the Official' referenced this period in his life. As happened to him, a group of students are monitored by an official who is mysteriously killed one evening. Reacting to the murder, each student self-policies their own behaviour and acts in an explicitly conservative and plain manner so as to not attract any undue attention. As none knows who had killed the inspector, they begin to suspect one another, causing antagonism, mistrust and frosty relations. Each night upon sleeping they hear noises which are interpreted to be the footsteps and actions of the inspector, causing much madness. Trutnev writes "In a totalitarian state there shall be no need for police, only for the hint of them, which shall cause enough anxiety amongst the populace that they police themselves, regulating their own actions, internalising the regime within themselves as if it were a sweetmeat swallowed hole and living in the gut of each and every man."

After graduation Trutnev was sentenced to two years in prison for attending meetings of the Petrashevsky Circle, though he was not known as a full member of the group. He quickly had his punishment commuted and did not serve any of his sentence. After the trial Trutnev returned home and worked as a history teacher at a school in Odessa. He knew little about history and is said to have often made up imaginary historical narratives, though this claim may be apocryphal.2 Trutnev married Maria Goncharova in 1850 and was survived by a son and a daughter


His major novel 'The Duel' proved to be an immediate success, though has fallen out of favour with contemporary critics due to the strong ideological bias of the narrative. The protagonist, Vladimir, is a newly freed serf homeless and starving on the streets of St Petersburg. In order to make a living he deliberately insults the rich citizens of the city, forcing them to respond with the challenge of a duel. Vlad surreptitiously makes bets with other destitute men that he will win, figuring that if he loses he'll probably be dead anyway. Vlad accrues the winnings of his bets until he is killed in competition. Only at the moment of his death does he realise the monster he has turned into, and the damage he has done to others and himself in the pursuit of money. Gorky remarked in 1903 that "If we all wrote with the realism and urgency of Trutnev then the revolution would already be here." Trutnev wrote three collections of short-stories, a play The Nihilist or How They Want You to Think and 4 Novels, including The Duel, The Finnish Prince and The Naked. At the time of writing, none of his works in translation are currently in print.

Trutnev founded the radical journal G.U.N. in 1860. The journal remained free to disseminate revolutionary ideas for a number of years because it purported to be a medical magazine discussing the latest surgical techniques from abroad. Many of the more militant articles were typed in an elaborate code, ostensibly to appear as entries on medicine to the superficial or casual observer. Trutnev was exiled to Siberia in April, 1866 for offering material assistance to terrorist Dmitry Karakozov in the immediate run-up to the attempted assasination of Tsar Alexander II. Trutnev wrote to Dostoevsky in May 1866 that "This kid i had suspected of being an agent provocatuer, but put him up in my house anyway. Our activities were so well dressed in everyday clothes that he would not have suspected anything even if he had seen it with his own eyes, or slept in the soft linen of subterfuge that warms us during these cold nights. So i was more suprised than anyone when i heard the news. He'd been the genuine agent, and not I."

Ivan Rubin
Trutnev, who at the time was suffering from acute tuberculosis, was offered an escape by his younger disciple Ivan Rubin. The two possessed remarkable physical similarity, and were often dubbed the "Trutnev Twins" by friends. Rubin offered to take Trutnev's place in Siberia, arguing that he was more robust and healthy and could survive the labour and inhospitable conditions more easily. "What use are you to us if you cannot write?" Rubin wrote to him. Trutnev reluctantly agreed to the ploy, and, whilst at the quays in Arkhangelsk waiting to board his prisoner ship, switched positions with his younger comrade. Trutnev instead boarded another vessel and ended up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, staying at the Palace of the Revolutionaries Hall in Stella with his good friend and confidant Joseph Cowen. Trutnev wrote of his departure in the story "Running Away" that "Standing on board the ship, loaded only with the most unimportant ballast, I experienced a mix of relief and fear, adventure yet guilt, hypocrisy with frustration, freedom alongside defeat, but not one emotion after the other, nor each feeling competing with the next, but all co-mingled with the other as a kind of bespoke emotion tailored to the exact situation, never to be worn again."3 From Newcastle Trutnev managed to smuggle his writing back into Russia under the pen name Immanuel Goldenstein, and along with Cowen, ship arms to comrades in St Petersburg. Trutnev died in 1869 on board the ship RMS Marionette from complications associated with Tuberculosis, whilst returning to his homeland. The ship carried only 12 passengers, the legal amount of civilians allowed on a ship at that time without a Doctor on board.

The Key

Papers from Trutnev, including this unpublished story, were found hidden behind a skirting board in a house in Lovaine Place, Newcastle in 1967, whilst the property was undergoing demolition. The manuscript had been severly damaged by rainwater and subsequently detoriated further whilst in storage at Newcastle City Archives. In mid-2008 the manuscript was taken to Brigham Young University so that the infra-red spectral imaging team based there could determine if it was possible to decipher the text using similar methods to those employed to examine papyri from Oxyrhhynchus.4 The first translation into English appeared in January, 2009.5 The story can be interpreted as a critique of the pochvennichestvo movement.

2. Tynyanov - Восковая персона, 1930
3. Trutnev - Man with a Glass Eye & other tales pp.43
4. The Guardian - October 1st, 2008
5. Marshall College Press - Journal of Slavic and Eastern European Studies, Volume 71

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