Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Bulgakov, Mikhail

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(1891-1940) Soviet dramatist and novelist whose brilliant but risk-taking use of Aesopian language (see Aesopian Fantasy) in his attempts to anatomize the transmogrification of Bolshevism into the Communism of the corporate state has made him a symbol of the freedom of the imagination. As he was only partially published during his lifetime, his fame in the West is mainly posthumous, and has grown as his works have been translated. Some – like Belaya gvardiya (1925; trans Michael Glenny as The White Guard 1971 UK) and Cherny sneg (written late 1930s; trans Michael Glenny as Black Snow 1967 UK) – carry their messages without recourse to Fabulation; but most of the stories assembled in Dyaboliada (coll 1925; trans Carl R Proffer as Diaboliad and Other Stories 1972 US) are either sf or fantasy. They include "The Crimson Island: A Novel by Comrade Jules Verne Translated from the French into the Aesopian" (1924 Germany), a short story which dangerously transgresses true Aesopian tactics by admitting to their use; it was made into a play in 1928. Other plays – all fantastically exaggerating sf material – include Adam and Eve (written 1931; trans Carl R Proffer and Ellendea Proffer in The Early Plays coll 1972 US), in which the capitalist West destroys Russia before her citizens can be made chemically immune to aggression, and Bliss (written 1934; trans in The Early Plays; new trans Mirra Ginsberg in Flight & Bliss: Two Plays coll 1985 US), a Time-Travel tale in which 1930s Soviet apparatchiks effortlessly corrupt the future, a lesson taught in reverse in Ivan Vasilievich (written 1935; trans in The Early Plays; new trans Laurence Senelick in Russian Satiric Comedy anth 1983 US), in which a similar figure trades place with Ivan the Terrible, and becomes him.

The same transfiguring sense of mockery shapes Sobacheye Serdste (written 1925; trans Michael Glenny from the manuscript as Heart of a Dog 1968 UK and by Mirra Ginsburg 1968 US), in which a scientist transforms a dog into a quasi-man incapable of acting like an urban citizen; this also appears as the title story in The Heart of a Dog and Other Stories (coll trans Kathleen Cook-Horujy and Avril Pyman 1990 Russia). Master i Margarita (written 1938; 1966-1967 US; complete text trans Michael Glenny as The Master and Margarita 1967 UK; cut text trans Mirra Ginsburg 1967 US) is MB's only full-scale fantasy: the Devil comes to Moscow, and Christ is recrucified. This astonishing work of the imagination – replete with wit and a certain sly eroticism – was filmed rather pedestrianly as Majstori i Margarita (1972 Yugoslavia/Italy; vt The Master and Margarita) dir Aleksandar Petrovič. [JC]

Mikhail Bulgakov


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.