Posted on January 23 2019
Russia's literary world is shaken to its foundations when a mysterious gentleman - a professor of black magic - arrives in Moscow, accompanied by a bizarre retinue of servants. It soon becomes clear that he is the Devil himself, come to wreak havoc among the cultural elite of a disbelieving capital. But the Devil's mission quickly becomes entangled with the fate of the Master - a man who has turned his back on his former life and taken refuge in a lunatic asylum - and his past lover, Margarita.
Begun in 1920 while Bulgakov was employed in a hospital in the remote Caucasian outpost of Vladikavkaz, and continued when he started working for a government literary department in Moscow, Notes on a Cuff is a series of journalistic sketches which show the young doctor trying to embark on a literary career among the chaos of war, disease, politics and bureaucracy.
Stylistically brilliant and brimming with humour and literary allusion, Notes on a Cuff is presented here in a new translation, along with a collection of other short pieces by Bulgakov, many of them – such as ‘The Cockroach’ and ‘A Dissolute Man’ – published for the first time in the English language.
Set in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev during the chaotic winter of 1918–19, The White Guard, Bulgakov’s first full-length novel, tells the story of a Russian-speaking family trapped in circumstances that threaten to destroy them. As in Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the narrative centres on the stark contrast between the cosy domesticity of family life on the one hand, and wide-ranging and destructive historical events on the other.
The result is a disturbing, often shocking story – illuminated, however, by shafts of light that testify to people’s resilience, humanity and ability to love in even the most adverse circumstances.