‘He's clever,' thought Ivan,' I must admit there are a few bright ones among the intellectuals'
'What is all this? Damn me if I don't have you thrown out of here!' The beast just smiled and said: 'Damn you, I think you said? Very well!'
'What's the use of dying in a ward surrounded by a lot of groaning and croaking incurables? Wouldn't it be much better to throw a party with that twenty-seven thousand and take poison and depart for the other world to the sound of violins, surrounded by lovely drunken girls and happy friends?'
'Is that vodka?' Margarita asked weakly. The cat jumped up from its chair in indignation. 'Excuse me, your majesty,' he squeaked, 'do you think I would give vodka to a lady? That is pure spirit!'
'Unfortunately I cannot show it to you,' replied the master, 'because I burned it in my stove.I'm sorry but I don't believe you,' said Woland. 'You can't have done. Manuscripts don't burn.'
'Don't be afraid, Queen ... don't be afraid, Queen, the blood has long since gone into the earth. And where it was spilled, grapevines are already growing.'
'Never ask for anything! Never for anything, and especially from those who are stronger than you. They'll make the offer themselves, and give everything themselves.' :Woland to Margarita
'I had the pleasure of meeting that young man at the Patriarch's Ponds. He almost drove me mad myself, proving to me that I don't exist. But you do believe that it is really I?' :Woland to Master, about Ivan Homeless
– March 10, 1940, Moscow
) was a Soviet Russian
writer and playwright
active in the first half of the 20th century. He is best known for his novel
The Master and Margarita
, which The Times
of London has called one of the masterpieces of the 20th century.
BiographyMikhail Bulgakov was born on May 15, 1891 in Kiev
, at that time in the Russian Empire
. He was one of seven children (the oldest of three brothers) of Afanasiy Bulgakov, an assistant professor at the Kiev Theological
Academy, and a former teacher Varvara Mikhailovna. Both of his grandfathers were clergymen in the Russian Orthodox Church
. Friendship, respect, and mutual love reigned in Bulgakov's large family and happy home. From childhood Bulgakov was drawn to theater. At home, he wrote comedies, which his brothers and sisters acted out.
In 1901 Bulgakov joined the First Kiev Gymnasium, where he developed an interest in Russian
and European literature
(his favorite authors at the time being Gogol, Pushkin, Dostoyevsky
, Saltykov-Shchedrin, and Dickens
), theatre and opera. The teachers of the Gymnasium exerted a great influence on the formation of his literary taste. After the death of his father in 1907, Mikhail's mother, a well-educated and extraordinary diligent person, assumed responsibility for his education. After graduation from the Gymnasium in 1909, Bulgakov entered the Medical Faculty of St. Vladimir University, which he finished with special commendation to become a physician at the Kiev Military Hospital.
In 1913 Bulgakov married Tatiana Lappa. At the outbreak of the First World War he volunteered with the Red Cross as a medical doctor and was sent directly to the frontline, where he was badly injured at least twice. Bulgakov suffered from his long-acting war wounds, which had a bad effect on his health. To suppress chronic pain, especially in the abdomen, he injected himself with morphine
. Throughout the following year his addiction grew stronger. In one year (in 1918) he finished injecting himself with morphine
and never used it in the future. His book, entitled Morphine and released in 1926, provided an account of the writer's state during these years.
In 1916, Bulgakov graduated from the Medical Department of Kiev University
and, after serving as a surgeon at Chernovtsy hospital, was appointed provincial physician to Smolensk
province. His life in those days were is reflected in his Country Doctor's Notebook. In September 1917 Bulgakov was moved to the hospital in Vyazma
, near Smolensk. In February 1918, Mikhail Bulgakov returned to Kiev where he opened a private practice at his home at Andreyevsky Descent, 13. Here he experienced the Russian Civil War
and witnessed ten coups. Several times successive governments drafted the young doctor into their service while two of his brothers were serving in the White Army. In February 1919 he was mobilised as an army physician by the Ukrainian People's Army
and then transferred to the Northern Caucasus. There he became seriously ill with typhus and barely survived. It was in the Caucasus that he started working as a journalist, but when they were invited to return as doctors by the French
governments, Bulgakov was refused permission to leave Russia because of typhus. That was when he last saw his family; most of his relatives after the Civil War and rise of the Soviets emigrated to Paris
After illness Bulgakov abandoned his career as a doctor for that of a writer. In his autobiography, Bulgakov recalled how he started writing: "Once in 1919 when I was traveling at night by train I wrote a short story. In the town where the train stopped, I took the story to the publisher of the newspaper who published the story". Though his first fiction efforts were made in Kiev, he only decided to leave medicine to pursue his love of literature in 1919. His first book was an almanac
s called Future Perspectives, written and published the same year. In December 1919 Bulgakov moved to Vladikavkas and here he wrote and saw his first two plays, Self Defence and The Turbin Brothers, being produced for the city theater stage with great success.
, close to Mayakovskaya metro station on the Bolshaya Sadovaya street, 10. To make a living, he started working as a correspondent and feuilletons-writer for the newspapers Gudok, Krasnaia Panorama and Nakanune, based in Berlin. For the almanac Nedra, he wrote Diaboliad, The Fatal Eggs
(1924), and Heart of a Dog
(1925), works that combined bitter satire and elements of science fiction and were concerned with the fate of a scientist and the misuse of his discovery. The most significant features of Bulgakov's satire, such as a skillful blending of fantastic and realistic elements, grotesque situations, and a concern with important ethical issues, had already taken shape; these features were developed further in his most famous novel.
In 1922-1926 Bulgakov wrote several plays (including Zoyka's Apartment) none of which were allowed for production at the time. One of them, The Run, treating the horrors of a fratricidal war, has been banned by Stalin personally after the Glavrepertkom (Department of repertoire) decided that it "glorified emigration and White generals". In 1925 Bulgakov divorced his first wife and married Lyubov Belozerskaya.
When one of one of Moscow's theatre directors severely criticised Bulgakov, Joseph Stalin
personally protected him, stating that a writer of Bulgakov's quality was above 'party words' like 'left' and 'right'. It was Stalin who found work for the playwright at a small Moscow theatre, and then the Moscow Art Theatre
. On October 5, 1926, Days of the Turbins, the play which continued the theme of The White Guard (the fate of Russian intellectuals and officers of the Tsarist Army caught up in revolution and Civil war) was premiered at the MAT It impressed Stalin a lot, who reportedly saw it at least fifteen times. Ivan Vasilievich, Last Days (Pushkin), and Don Quixote were also banned. The premier of another, Molier (The Cabal of Hypocrites), which saw Bulgakov plunging "into fairy Paris of the XVII century", received bad review in Pravda
and was withdrawn from the theater repertoire. In 1928, Zoyka's Apartment and The Purple Island were staged in Moscow; both comedies were accepted by public with great enthusiasm, but critics gave them bad reviews. In march 1929 his career was ruined, and government censorship
prevented publication of any of his work and staging of any of his plays.
In despair, Bulgakov wrote first a personal letter to Joseph Stalin (July 1929), then on March 28, 1930, a letter to the Soviet government, requesting permission to emigrate if the Soviet Union could not find use for him as a writer. In autobiography Bulgakov claimed that he wrote to Stalin out of desperation and mental anguish, never intending to post the letter. He received a phone call directly from the Soviet leader who asked the writer whether he really desired to leave the Soviet Union. Bulgakov replied that a Russian writer cannot live outside of his homeland. Stalin gave him permission to continue working at the Art Theater; on May 10, 1930, he re-joined the theater, no as stage director's assistant, and later adapted Gogol's Dead Souls
In 1932, Bulgakov married for the third time, to Yelena Shilovskaya, who would prove to be inspiration for the character Margarita in his most famous novel he started working on in 1928. During the last decade of his life, Bulgakov continued to work on The Master and Margarita, wrote plays, critical works, stories, and made several translations and dramatisations of novels, librettos. Many of them were not published, other ones were "torn to pieces" by critics. Much of his work (ridiculing the Soviet system) stayed in his desk drawer for several decades.
The refusal of the authorities to let him work in the theatre and his desire to see his family living abroad, whom he had not seen for many years, led him to seek drastic measures. Despite his new work, the projects he worked on at the theatre were often prohibited and he was stressed and unhappy.
In the late 1930s he joined Bolshoi Theatre
as a librettist and consultant, but left as he saw none of his works would be produced there. Stalin's favor protected Bulgakov only from arrests and executions, but his writings remained unpublished. His novels and dramas were subsequently banned and, for the second time, Bulgakov's career as playwright was ruined. After his last play Batum (1939), a complimentary look at Stalin's early revolutionary days, was banned even before rehearsals, Bulgakov requested permission to leave the country which again resulted in failure. In poor health, Bulgakov devoted his last years to what he called his "sunset" novel. 1937-1939 for Bulgakov were stressful years as he veered from glimpses of optimism, believing the publication of his masterpiece could still be possible, to bouts of depression, when he felt like there was no hope altogether. On June 15, 1938, when the manuscript was nearly finished, Bulgakov wrote in a letter to his wife: "In front of me 327 pages of the manuscript (about 22 chapters). The most important remains - editing, and it's going to be hard, I will have to pay close attention to details. Maybe even re-write some things... 'What's its future?' you ask? I don't know. Possibly, you will store the manuscript in one of the drawers, next to my 'killed' plays, and occasionally it will be in your thoughts. Then again, you don't know the future. My own judgement of the book is already made and I think it truly deserves being hidden away in the darkness of some chest..."
In 1939 Mikhail Bulgakov organized the private reading of The Master and Margarita to the close circle of friends. "When he finally finished reading that night, he said: 'Well, tomorrow I am taking the novel to the publisher!' and everyone was silent", remembered Yelena Bulgakova thirty years later. "...Everyone sat paralyzed. Everything scared them. P. (P. A. Markov, in charge of the literature division of MAT) later at the door fearfully tried to explain to me that trying to publish the novel would cause terrible things", she wrote on May 14, 1939, in her diary.
Mikhail Bulgakov died from nephrosclerosis (an inherited kidney
disorder) on March 10, 1940. He was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery
in Moscow. His father had died of the same disease, and from his youth Bulgakov guessed his future mortal diagnosis.
Early worksDuring his life, Bulgakov was best known for the plays he contributed to Konstantin Stanislavsky's and Nemirovich-Danchenko
's Moscow Art Theatre. Stalin was known to be fond of the play Days of the Turbins (Дни Турбиных) (1926), which was based on Bulgakov's novel The White Guard
. His dramatization of Molière
's life in The Cabal of Hypocrites (Кабала святош)(1936) is still performed by the Moscow Art Theatre. Even after his plays were banned from the theatres, Bulgakov wrote a comedy about Ivan the Terrible's visit into 1930s Moscow
and the play "Batum" about the early years of Stalin
(1939), which was prohibited by Stalin himself.
Bulgakov began writing prose with The White Guard
(Белая гвардия) (1924, partly published in 1925, first full edition 1927–1929, Paris) – a novel about a life of a White Army officer's family in civil war
. In the mid-1920s, he came to admire the works of H. G. Wells
and wrote several stories with elements of science fiction
, notably The Fatal Eggs
(Роковые яйца) (1924) and Heart of a Dog
(Собачье сердце) (1925). He intended to compile his stories of the mid-twenties (published mostly in medical journals) that were based on his work as a country doctor in 1916–1918 into a collection titled Notes of a Young Doctor (Записки юного врача), but he died before he could publish it.
The Fatal Eggs
tells of the events of a Professor Persikov, who, in experimentation with egg
s, discovers a red ray that accelerates growth in living organisms. At the time, an illness passes through the chicken
s of Moscow, killing most of them and, to remedy the situation, the Soviet government puts the ray into use at a farm. Unfortunately, there is a mix up in egg shipments and the Professor ends up with chicken
eggs, while the government-run farm receives the shipment of ostrich
eggs that were meant to go to the Professor. The mistake is not discovered until the eggs produce giant monstrosities that wreak havoc in the suburbs of Moscow and kill most of the workers on the farm. The propaganda
machine then turns on Persikov, distorting his nature in the same way his "innocent" tampering created the monsters. This tale of a bungling government earned Bulgakov his label of a counter-revolutionary.
Heart of a Dog
features a professor who implants human testicle
s and pituitary gland
into a dog named Sharik (means "Little Balloon" or "Little Ball" - popular Russian nickname for a male dog). The dog then proceeds to become more and more human as time passes, resulting in all manner of chaos. The tale can be read as a critical satire of the Soviet Union
; it contains few bold hints to communist leadership (e.g. the name of the drunkard donor of the human organ implants is Chugunkin ("chugun" is cast iron) which can be seen as parody on the name of Stalin ("stal'" is steel). It was turned into a comic opera
called The Murder of Comrade Sharik by William Bergsma
in 1973. In 1988 an award-winning movie version Sobachye Serdtse
was produced by Lenfilm
, starring Yevgeniy Yevstigneyev
, Roman Kartsev and Vladimir Tolokonnikov.
The Master and MargaritaThe Master and Margarita
(Мастер и Маргарита), which Bulgakov began writing in 1928 and which was finally published by his widow in 1966, twenty-six years after his death, led to an international appreciation of his work. The book contributed a number of sayings to the Russian language, for example, "Manuscripts don't burn" and "second-grade freshness". A destroyed manuscript of the Master is an important element of the plot, and, in fact, Bulgakov had to rewrite the novel from memory after he burned the draft manuscript of this novel.
The novel is a critique of Soviet society and its literary establishment. The work is appreciated for its philosophical undertones and for its high artistic level thanks to its picturesque descriptions (especially of old Jerusalem), lyrical fragments and style. It is a frame narrative involving two characteristically related time periods and/or plot lines: a retelling of the gospels and a description of contemporary Moscow.
The novel begins with Satan
visiting Moscow in the 1930s, joining a conversation between a critic and a poet debating the existence of Jesus Christ and the Devil. It then evolves into an all-embracing indictment of the corruption, greed, narrow-mindedness, and widespread paranoia of Soviet Russia. Published more than 25 years after Bulgakov's death, and more than ten years after Stalin's, the novel firmly secured Bulgakov's place among the pantheon of great Russian writers.
There is a story-within-the-story dealing with the interrogation of Jesus Christ by Pontius Pilate
and the Crucifixion
Bulgakov Museum in MoscowBulgakov's old flat, and the attic of the apartment building, in which parts of The Master and Margarita are set, has since the 1980s become a gathering spot for Bulgakov's fans, as well as Moscow-based Satanist groups, and had various kinds of graffiti
scrawled on the walls. The numerous paintings, quips, and drawings were completely whitewashed in 2003. Previously the best drawings were kept as the walls were repainted, so that several layers of different colored paints could be seen around the best drawings. Although quite old,the building stayed viable for a while.
Since 2007 the flat is the Bulgakov museum in Moscow. It contains personal belongings, photos, and exhibitions related to Bulgakov's life and his different works. Various poetic and literary events are often being held in the flat. The museum's web site is available in Russian and English.
Mikhail Bulgakov MuseumThe Mikhail Bulgakov Museum
(Bulgakov House) in Kiev, (in his family home, which was the model for the house of the Turbin family in The White Guard) has been converted to a literary museum with some rooms devoted to the writer, as well as some to his works
One Street MuseumMikhail Bulgakov is the most outstanding name related to Andrew’s Descent
. Before he was known as a writer he was a doctor specializing in treatment of venereal diseases. He lived in house №13 and practiced here. Among the items presented on the One Street Museum's
display are original photos of Mikhail Bulgakov, books and his personal belongings.
Museum also presents materials, related to the circle of professors of Kiev Theological Academy, who used to live here at the turn of 20th century and were friends and colleagues of Bulgakov's father.
LegacyA minor planet
discovered by Soviet
astronomer Lyudmila Georgievna Karachkina
in 1982 is named after him.
The award-winning British writer Salman Rushdie stated that The Master and Margarita was an inspiration for his own novel The Satanic Verses
On May 15, 2011, A Google Doodle in Russia was dedicated to him to celebrate his 120th birthday.
Famous quotesThe following quotes from The Master and Margarita have become catchphrases in Russia:
- "Manuscripts don't burn" ("Рукописи не горят")
- "There's only one degree of freshness — the first, which makes it also the last" ("Свежесть бывает только одна – первая, она же и последняя")
- "Not causing trouble, not bothering anyone, fixing the primus" ("Не шалю, никого не трогаю, починяю примус") - (a "primusPrimus stoveThe Primus stove, the first pressurized-burner kerosene stove, was developed in 1892 by Frans Wilhelm Lindqvist, a factory mechanic in Stockholm, Sweden. The stove was based on the design of the hand-held blowtorch; Lindqvist’s patent covered the burner, which was turned upward on the stove...
" is a brand, and by extension type, of portable stovePortable stoveA portable stove is a cooking stove specially designed to be portable and lightweight, as for camping or picnicking, or for use in remote locations where an easily transportable means of cooking or heating is needed...
- "No ID, no person" ("Нет документа - нет и человека")
- "Never ask for anything" ("Никогда и ничего не просите")
- "To speak truth is easy and pleasant" ("Правду говорить легко и приятно")
The following quotes from Heart of a Dog have become catchphrases in Russia:
- "Never read Soviet newspapers before dinner" ("Не читайте до обеда советских газет")
- "Take everything and divide it up" ("Взять все, да и поделить")
Novels and short stories
- The White GuardThe White GuardThe White Guard is a novel by 20th century Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, famed for his critically acclaimed later work The Master and Margarita.-History:...
(1926, translation 2008)
- Great Soviet Short Stories (1962)
- The Master and MargaritaThe Master and MargaritaThe Master and Margarita is a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, woven around the premise of a visit by the Devil to the fervently atheistic Soviet Union. Many critics consider the book to be one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, and one of the foremost Soviet satires, directed against a...
- Black Snow: A Theatrical Novel (1967)
- Heart of a DogHeart of a DogHeart of a Dog , a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, is a biting satire of the New Soviet man written in 1925 at the height of the NEP period, when Communism appeared to be weakening in the Soviet Union....
- A Country Doctor's Notebook (1975)
- Diaboliad and Other Stories (1990)
- The Terrible News: Russian Stories from the Years Following the Revolution (1990)
- Notes on the Cuff & Other Stories(1991)
- The Fatal EggsThe Fatal EggsThe Fatal Eggs is a science-fiction novella by Mikhail Bulgakov, a Soviet novelist and playwright whose most famous work is The Master and Margarita. It was written in 1924 and first published in 1925...
and Other Soviet Satire, 1918-1963 (1993)
- A Dead Man's Memoir (A Theatrical Novel) (2007)
- The Early Plays of Mikhail Bulgakov, 1990
- Peace plays: two, 1990
- Zoya's apartment: A tragic farce in three acts, 1991
- Six plays, 1991
External linksFull English text of The Master and Margarita Full English text of The Heart of a Dog Full English text of The Fatal Eggs Full English translation of "Future Prospects" and "In the Café" Bulgakov museum in Moscow Bulgakov's biography at SovLit.com Bulgakov's former residence in Moscow
) Master and Margarita Amateur but very high-quality site, devoted solely to Bulgakov's Master and Margarita (in Dutch, French, English and Russian) Bulgakov's Master and Margarita God, Evil and the Savior A paper on the 'Hermeneutics and the Reconstruction of a Character In Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita'
http://www.marguo.com A French website about The Master and Margarita
Bulgakov museum in Moscow. The Odd Flat Cultural Center,Museum,Theatre "Bulgakov house" in Moscow. Diary of Cultural Center "Bulgakov house" in Moscow. Diary of Bulgakov museum in Moscow Bulgakov museum in Russian Wikipedia Theatre "Bu..." in "Bulgakov House"(Bulgakov Heroes in Moscow). Bulgakov.ru — amateur but very high-quality site, devoted solely to Bulgakov and his works (in Russian)
Mikhail Bulgakov (in German, English and Russian) Bulgakov Project at km.ru Klassika Bulgakov - Russian and English texts online. Mikhail Bulgakov in the Western World: A Bibliography, Library of Congress
, European Reading Room