Chapter 9 - Mikhail Bulgakov
One night in the early 1980s, when I was eight or nine years old, my mother made herself comfortable in the kitchen of our flat on the 16th floor of a concrete Soviet block and prepared for a sleepless night alone with a samizdat copy of a mysterious book called The Master and Margarita that somebody had lent her just for that one night. My curiosity aroused, I asked if I could stay up too, and read over her shoulder, but she told me I wouldn’t understand it.
When I read the novel, it had just come out in its first widely- available unabridged official edition in 1989. Mikhail Bulgakov, although almost unpublished during Soviet times, was still a familiar name that aroused great curiosity, and it was with a tremor of anticipation that I first took The Master and Margarita in my hands. And it did not disappoint. The passionate and tragic love story, the introduction to Bulgakov’s view of biblical events, the mysticism, the struggle between the forces of light and darkness… It was not the satirical aspect of the book that caught my attention back then, but its magical and philosophical qualities, and what attracted my teenage self was the eternal lure of freedom from society, of becoming a witch, hopping onto a broom and flying away (from my parents, mostly): “Invisible, and free!”
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"The Master and Margarita"
Click on the image below to read an English translation of the book:
image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bulgak_ov_.jpg
“Рукописи не горят” – “Manuscripts don’t burn” – Woland says, when he uses his magic to present the Master with the manuscript of his novel about Pontius Pilate that the writer had himself burned in the stove. This has been used a lot, when talking about Bulgakov and other writers’ works surviving through Soviet times.
“Не шалю, никого не трогаю, починяю примус…” – “I am not up to anything, I’m not bothering anyone, I’m just repairing the Primus …”– The mischievous cat Begemot is pretending to be ordinary – though the sight of a huge black talking cat repairing a Primus stove is perhaps enough to send anyone into a state of panic.