“Don’t be afraid, o Queen”: The long Civil War of Mikhail Bulgakov
University of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia)
Keywords: The Master and Margarita, Heart of a Dog, The Fatal Eggs, avant-text, Mikhail Bulgakov
Abstract: The attempts to “re-fight” or “re-play” the Russian Civil War were frequently undertaken in both Soviet and ?migr? Russian literature by authors of practically all artistic and political persuasions.
Mikhail Bulgakov did not only clearly proclaim his political stance, but was also exceptionally tenacious and consistent in this regard. In his Fatal Eggs, an unsuccessful attempt to revolutionise animal husbandry brings down hordes of counter-revolutionary reptiles on Red Moscow. In Heart of a Dog, a successful attempt to remake a dog in the image of man caused a local apocalypse within one particular house. In the play Adam and Eve, most of the inhabitants of Soviet Russia die from “solar gas”. The early versions of The Master and Margarita remained within that trend — the Devil who visited Moscow struck it with fire and fought Red Army units in this newly formed hell. However, even in the early fantastical narratives the end of the world somehow remained inconclusive. Some of the changes might be attributed to the direct or indirect influence of censorship — however, it seems to us that in this case an interaction with external constraints served as a catalyst for some internal attempts to achieve understanding of what was occurring. In our opinion, the latter especially manifested themselves during Bulgakov’s work on The Master and Margarita, where an initially purely satirical, linear plot gradually acquired new dimensions — until it became a fundamentally ambivalent “musical” system of meanings (as B. M. Gasparov has defined it). The events that the author had previously taken for the end of the world turn into a “local engagement” in The Master and Margarita — and this change produces a chain reaction, creating a set of extremely interesting artistic and philosophical implications. In the article, we investigate these mechanisms and these consequences.
To cite this article: Mikhailik, E. (2019). “Don’t be afraid, o Queen”: The long Civil War of Mikhail Bulgakov. Shagi / Steps, 5(2), 110–135. DOI: 10.22394/2412-9410-2019-5-2-110-135.