Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Heart of a Poet

Bulgakov and his wife Yelena, 1939

I was beginning to wonder if Volkov would even mention Mikhail Bulgakov, but in his last chapter on the Gorbacev era, he does a little bit of backpedaling in providing some additional history of the Moscow Art Theater (MAT) and Bulgakov's brief reign as stage director, at Stalin's urging. It put him in direct conflict with the great Stanislavsky, who he satirically panned in Black Snow, his unfinished Theatrical Novel.  Stalin had been a big fan of Days of the Turbins, despite the play being sympathetic to White Russians.  Volkov notes that Stalin saw the play 15 times, and felt the ending was just right as it showed that Bolshevism prevailed.

Surprisingly, Volkov pretty much dismisses The Master and Margarita, despite it being a runaway best seller when it was finally published between 1966 and 1967.  It remains one of the favorite books among Russians, and not so long was made into a television mini-series by Vladimir Bortko, who had done such a fine job with Heart of a Dog.  Bulgakov first offered a private reading of his masterwork in 1939, and was determined to have the book published, but like with so many of his more biting works, he was thwarted by the censors.

Young Soso
Volkov does mention Batum, a play specifically commissioned on Stalin's childhood, but apparently the Premier didn't want to see his childhood presented on stage and nixed the play, which Volkov said left Bulgakov heartbroken.  Volkov believes that the relation between Woland and the Master was to a large degree based on that between Stalin and Bulgakov.  The Premier didn't respond to Bulgakov's letters, but would call him out of the blue to comment on one of his plays or theater in general.

No comments:

Post a Comment