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Mikhail Bulgakov
Михаил Булгаков
The Master and Margarita (Мастер и Маргарита) (1967)
Nothing in the whole of literature compares with The Master and Margarita. One spring afternoon, the Devil, trailing fire and chaos in his wake, weaves himself out of the shadows and into Moscow. Mikhail Bulgakov’s fantastical, funny, and devastating satire of Soviet life combines two distinct yet interwoven parts, one set in contemporary Moscow, the other in ancient Jerusalem, each brimming with historical, imaginary, frightful, and wonderful characters. Written during the darkest days of Stalin’s reign, and finally published in 1966 and 1967, The Master and Margarita became a literary phenomenon, signaling artistic and spiritual freedom for Russians everywhere.
Heart of a Dog (Собачье сердце) (1968)
A rich, successful Moscow professor befriends a stray dog and attempts a scientific first by transplanting into it the testicles and pituitary gland of a recently deceased man. A distinctly worryingly human animal is now on the loose, and the professor's hitherto respectable life becomes a nightmare beyond endurance. An absurd and superbly comic story, this classic novel can also be read as a fierce parable of the Russian Revolution.
A Country Doctor's Notebook (Записки юного врача) (1963)
With the ink still wet on his diploma, the twenty-five-year-old Dr. Mikhail Bulgakov was flung into the depths of rural Russia which, in 1916-17, was still largely unaffected by such novelties as the motor car, the telephone or electric light. How his alter-ego copes (or fails to cope) with the new and often appalling responsibilities of a lone doctor in a vast country practice — on the eve of Revolution — is described in Bulgakov's delightful blend of candid realism and imaginative exuberance.
The Fatal Eggs (Роковые яйца) (1925)
As the turbulent years following the Russian revolution of 1917 settle down into a new Soviet reality, the brilliant and eccentric zoologist Persikov discovers an amazing ray that drastically increases the size and reproductive rate of living organisms. At the same time, a mysterious plague wipes out all the chickens in the Soviet republics. The government expropriates Persikov's untested invention in order to rebuild the poultry industry, but a horrible mix-up quickly leads to a disaster that could threaten the entire world. This H. G. Wells-inspired novel by the legendary Mikhail Bulgakov is the only one of his larger works to have been published in its entirety during the author's lifetime. A poignant work of social science fiction and a brilliant satire on the Soviet revolution, it can now be enjoyed by English-speaking audiences through this accurate new translation. Includes annotations and afterword.
The White Guard (Белая гвардия) (1925)
Reds, Whites, German troops, and Ukrainian nationalists battle for control of the city as the war becomes more tumultuous in Mikhail Bulgakob’s debut novel, The White Guard. The book is heavily autobiographical, drawing from the author’s own experiences in Ukraine during the Russian Civil War—he witnessed ten of these changes of government himself. Told from alternating points of view and taking an unusual angle in the conflict between Russian Whites (with whom the Turbins identify) and Ukrainian nationalists, The White Guard elegantly portrays the chaos of a civil war in which there is no good or evil, only loyalty to one’s friends, family, and one’s convictions. The White Guard first appeared in serial form in 1925 in Rossiya, a Soviet-era literary journal. The journal was closed down before the story was completed, and the story was not reprinted in Russia until 1966. What was published before the shutdown was so popular that Bulgakov was urged to rewrite the story for the stage, which he did in 1926 under the name The Days of the Turbins. The stage version downplayed the original’s anti-Communist sentiments, and was met with widespread acclaim. The production ran from 1926 to 1941, saw nearly a thousand performances, and found an unlikely fan in Soviet dictator Stalin, though Bulgakov continued to be harassed by the press and by Stalin’s authorities for the rest of his career.