Monday, June 02, 2008

I Love Bulgakov

I have loved Russia and its literature ever since my mum gave me a copy of Anna Karenina - I was 12! Samovars, gilded churches, adorable old women, that fabulous Cyrillic alphabet, peasant blouses - everything seems enchanting and enchanted. Years later, my mum also introduced me to Mikhail Bulgakov, the extraordinary heir of Gogol, with his hapless characters, cruel humor and absurdity-packed Soviet universe, underpinned by poignancy. Now I just bought Bulgakov's Black Snow and am eager to read it.
Where to start if you haven't read any Bulgakov: his masterpiece is The Master And Margarita, but you may want to try to novella Heart of a Dog first to discover his uniquely zany universe.

During a trip to Moscow a few years ago, I went to visit Bulgakov's apartment in the city. The experience was straight out of a novel by Bulgakov, with closed doors, stairs leading nowhere and building residents so elusive and puzzled by my search that I began to doubt the great writer had ever existed at all...
Russia remains my dream destination. I long to discover St-Petersburg and to see again the birches and the Baikhal Lake I sped past on the Transsiberian, on my way from Beijing to Paris via Moscow by rail, when I was a child.

21 comments:

marie said...

wow! i would love to visit russia. and the trans siberian rail would be a dream!
another author to discover! (i have a long long list now!)

yasu said...

I would love to visit st petersbourg too. i like the language too. you are always introducing me new arthors! This is going to be the next book to read.

miss cavendish said...

Sounds magical. My grandmother, who taught deaf children, took her students on a cruise to Russia when I was a child. I still have the nesting dolls (she brought me) some 30 years later.

Héloïse J. said...

*shame on me- haven't heard of him before :/ i will search on him tomorrow soon!

karina said...

I don't know him, I want to read the novel.

Ill check the bookstore tomorrow.

chloe van paris said...

The Maître et Marguerite is one of my favorite books.

Kitt said...

I adore Bulgakov and have read all the translations, even the French! I took the Trans-Siberian from Beijing to Moscow in 1991, but it never occurred to me then to look for any signs of Bulgakov there. The place was still Soviet then, and my "minders" cared only about showing me the monuments to revoutionary heroes. *snore*

Mary-Laure said...

MISS CAVENDISH - so your grandma visited Russian in the 1970's? That must have been quite an experience. I hope she told you all about it.
Ah, yes, I love Russian nesting dolls too!

HELOISE - there is NO shame to be had! Literature is fortunately abundant enough that we can spend our lives reading and always discover more amazing writers...

KITT - wow, it's the first time I "meet" someone who also rode the Transsiberian! My trip was in 1987. I only tried to visit Bulgakov's place during my second trip to Moscow, in 2004, though.
Yeah, I know what you mean about those minders... Propaganda, here we come!

bFlat said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog about the butterfly in the lilacs. Your pictures of Amsterdam and London are amazing. I wish I could see more.

Anonymous said...

I love Bulgakov and Russian lit in general. Do you like Russian poets as well? (for example Marina Tsvetaeva and Vladimir Majakovsky...)?? But really how can you go wrong when you write such words as:

"when she forgot
all things in motionless triumph
only to carry you:
she did not hold you closer."
("The Poem of the End--MT).

nancy

Mary-Laure said...

NANCY - Marina Tsvetavea is one of my favorite poets and idol!
I also enjoyed reading her letters to Pasternak and Rilke, who were both friends of hers.
Other Russian poets I worship are Anna Akhmatova and Alexandre Blok...
I only wish I could read them in Russian!
Thanks for the beautiful passage by Tsvetaeva!

Solange said...

what journeys you have been on... so many and so many places.
I started reading A. K. but then I stopped cause I am still reading my G. Duchess of Devonshire.

I wish you a nice week!

Solange

Anonymous said...

wow, you mean yuo rode the transiberian????

jean-louis said...

to anonymous: yes Mary-laure rode the transiberian, I swear because c'est moi qui portait deja ses sacs de livres jusqu'a la gare centrale de Beijing en juillet 1987...connaissant le long trajet a faire jusqu'a Paris.

longcat said...

i think i've only read the master & margarita, possibly something else, but the master & margarita is just heavenly...

the cat that walks on it's hind legs...

x

Paul Pincus said...

beautiful post.

mansuetude said...

a great post.

we had a friend whose grandmother came to Boston from Russia early 80's. She walked into a grocery store and wept. broke down and crumbled at the magnificent lights and all the produce.

Every once in a while, i recall this to myself, when i go into grocery stores and see so much wasted; so much unappreciated here. TO weep at the bounty. TO know we are full, or even gluttonous and still craving.

Thnaks.

A World in a PAN said...

Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita has a special place in my private collection of masterpieces!

A World in a PAN said...

Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita has a special place in my private collection of masterpieces!

enc said...

Now you've got me convinced I need to go! I loved the photography here.

karin said...

Me too I read Anna Karenina when Iwas quite young and so I was when reading The Master and Margarita. That's a wonderful story.