Mikhail Bulgakov: I am a satirist

One of Russia’s most mystic writers, Mikhail Bulgakov, was born May 15, 1891. This writer came to the Russian culture in the 20s of the previous century, a very contradictory period. It was a period of a new economic policy, when renovation destroyed the habitual. Literature was experiencing changes as well. Private publishing houses appeared, new books and magazines were issued, cultural societies were revived, and people organized disputes on cultural problems. Great poets such as Alexander Blok, Sergei Yesenin, Nikolay Gumilev, Anna Akhmatova were still published at that time. Publication of pre-revolution magazines was resumed. A new magazine, Novaya Rossia (New Russia) appeared, the first edition without any party afilliation; it proclaimed desire of Russian cultural intellectuals was to cooperate with the Soviet power.

The life of Mikhail Bulgakov began in Kiev among his loving and friendly family and his mother, whom he called “a fair queen." He studied at the medical faculty, then had a medical practice in a small remote village. It was an uneasy and awful period in the life of Russia. Then there was Kiev again. And then was Vladikavkaz, where Bulgakov suffered from typhus and gave up a trip to Constantinople. This was the very place where the career of Mikhail Bulgakov as a doctor finished, and his career as a writer started. Bulgakov wrote many of his most popular plays at beginning of the 20s.

Bulgakov himself wrote about that period: “Remember the autumn of 1919, when at night, being in a rickety train, I wrote my first short story by the light of a candle fixed into a kerosene bottle. When the train took me to a town, I brought the story to the editors of a local newspaper. It was published. Then followed several satirical articles. At beginning of 1920, I gave up my medical practice and started writing. At the end of 1921, I came to Moscow having no money and luggage at all; I came to Moscow to stay there forever. I had a really difficult period in Moscow; I had to work as a reporter and a topical satirist to keep body and soul together. I started hating jobs are devoid of any distinctions. At that very time, my hatred of editors arose; I hate them now and think I will until end of my life.”

Bulgakov’s occupations were really different at that period: office work and work in commercial newspapers. Bilgakov’s works were published in different editions; at the same time he took up commerce and worked at the scientific technical committee and in the private newspaper Commercial industrial bulletin. As he says himself, “he tried fantastic jobs at that time; he even was a compere in a small theatre.”

Mikhail Bulgakov seriously started journalism in 1922–1926, when he co-operated with such Soviet editions as Rupor, Krasnaya gazeta and others. Those editions made for the establishment of Mikhail Bulgakov and other authors as outstanding writers. It is to be mentioned here that Bulgakov did not shrink from any job at that time.

The daily newspaper Rabochy (Worker) of the Communist Party was founded on March 1, 1922. Evidently Bulgakov started working for the newspaper at that very period under an assumed name, Mikhail Bul. Mikhail Bulgakov was practically following the fate of another famous Russian writer, Anton Chekhov, as they were alike in their prolificacy, easy manner of writing, and a of bit delayed confidence in their talent.

Bulgakov worked with newspapers for about seven years altogether. That period made him a professional journalist, as he could write satirical stories very quickly, but journalism was not his calling. It was a source of income for him and was kind of a literary journey-work. Really important work was still ahead. Ideas and plots were forming in his head.

Researchers of Bulgakov’s work say that his works are closely interrelated. The author himself said that manuscripts do not burn and and all of them are important for the author, as they make up his experience and demonstrate the scope of work done.

Bulgakov’s short satirical stories about Moscow life, which was familiar for the writer himself perfectly well, were filled with an astonishing sense of humor, irony turning to sarcasm, and rich imagination. He said, “The turn of my mind is satirical. And I write stories that may be disagreeable for the Communist regime. But I always write just exactly what I see, honestly! The negative in the Soviet country draws my close attention, as it provides good food for my work of a satirist.”

In his letter to Joseph Stalin Bulgakov, wrote: “Black and mystical colors (I say, I am a mystical writer) used for depicting the ugliness of our everyday life, my scepticism toward the revolutionary process, and contrasting it with the evolution is the way I depict awful traits of my people, the traits that had been painful for my teacher Mikhail Saltykov-Schedrin long before the revolution.”

Bulgakov’s satire arose from humorous reconsideration of important events from real life. Bulgakov did not adjust himself to the norms and rules of that time; his attitude to satire and contemporary life could not be changed. His fate was to be really very hard, as he became a satirist “right at the time when no realistic satire could be possible in the Soviet Union.”

A close friend to Mikhail Bulgakov, Yermolinsky, said, “The necessity to ruthlessly and satirically depict life was not only a game of his sarcastic mind but also his civil attitude. He was not a frondeur!”

Mikhail Bulgakov wrote in his diary: “I believe that the voice that troubles me now is prophetic. It is. I do not see any other job for myself; I can be a writer only.”

Olga Pavlova PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/05/15/41147.html

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