Boris Akunin’s Female Incarnation

Interview with Boris Akunin
April 13, 2012
Boris Akunin, the Russian author of the Erast Fandorin detective series, has revealed he wrote several books under the female pseudonym Anna Borisova.

The Georgian-born writer, whose real name is Grigory Chkhartishvili, is best known internationally as Boris Akunin for his historic detective novels featuring Fandorin, a fictional 19th-Century Russian detective.

In his blog he confirmed rumours long circulating that Anna Borisova and Boris Akunin were one and the same writer, as was "Anatoly Brusnikin". He said he had been using pseudonyms for four and a half years, with the agreement of his publisher.

"Dull the author who's never fancied being an authoress," he wrote. "Therefore... I decided that if I wanted to write something altogether different, I'd give myself another name. Not to disappoint anyone." Explaining why he had chosen to write under both male and female pseudonyms, Akunin said he had wanted to "imagine what it means to be a woman and to look at the world through a woman's eyes".

Three novels There, Kreativshchik, and The Seasons were published under the Borisova name, which Akunin described as light reading. The Seasons is set in a French retirement home for the wealthy and addresses mortality, among other themes.

He had even invented a photograph of Anna Borisova, created by digitally mixing his own image with that of his wife Erika.

While several female authors such as George Eliot have used male pen names for historical reasons, cases of mainstream male novelists posing as women are much rarer.

Akunin's wife Erika
"I imagined an educated lady who has reached the age of freedom when her children are already grown, her mind is mature, her character is formed.

"She has a wealthy husband... [who] writes partly out of boredom... and partly out of wishing to share with the world the thoughts and feelings that have welled up in her over time."

Asked by the BBC News website how she rated the novels as a woman, Akunin's wife said: "I like them, especially [The Seasons]."

Asked if writing under a female pen name had affected Akunin, Erika added: "Well, when he was writing as Anna Borisova, nothing feminine came out in him."

Noting that all of his Borisova novels put together had sold about 200,000 copies - a fraction of what one Fandorin book might sell - Akunin said of his alter ego: "She was a great lady but everything comes to an end and the time has come to part company."

New covers for the three novels have now been designed, incorporating Akunin's own name. (Source: BBC News)