On 24 August 1929, Soviet playwright and author Mikhail Afansievich Bulgakov (1891-1940), who wanted nothing more than success as an artist, wrote his brother that his “destruction as a writer had been accomplished [moe pisatel’skoe unichtozhenie]” . Only three years before, after initial Soviet censorship clamped down on his work, Bulgakov began researching Christianity and investigating the academic world of his late-father, a theologian at Kiev University. The reason: he wanted to write a novel about Christ and the devil. While Bulgakov declared his professional destruction complete, the novel on which he labored over twelve years, from 1927 until his death in 1940, suggests otherwise. On the ashes of professional ruin, Bulgakov built his literary legacy: a symbolic and archetypal novel about Christ and the devil called The Master and Margarita.
Other scholars examined The Master and Margarita as an external response to Soviet censorship and persecution. My blog, Chasing Woland: The Devastation of Mikhail Bulgakov and the Birth of The Master and Margarita, investigates the narrative as an internal response to artistic oppression driven by a psychological and spiritual need to adapt to and overcome the circumstances that led Bulgakov to claim his annihilation as a writer.
Chasing Woland will:
- Provide an alternate perspective on Bulgakov’s motivation for composing The Master and Margarita and on the narrative’s meaning itself.
- Offer a method for examining novels composed while an author aims to survive intense personal and/or professional crisis.
- Present a detailed reading of The Master and Margarita that interprets the complex narrative along psychological and spiritual themes and affords readers the chance to follow the narrative’s symbolic and archetypal development from beginning to end.
- Suggest that readers of The Master and Margarita may be attracted to the novel because of the narrative’s power to help them overcome their own struggles, thus providing a form of literary therapy that helps explain the book’s popularity since 1966/67 publication.
 Letter from Bulgakov to N. A. Bulgakov, 24 August 1929 (Mikhail i Elena Bulgakova, Dnevnik Mastera i Margarity, ed.s I. V. Andon’eva and V. P. Kochetov [Moscow: Vagrius, 1998], 79-80). Unless otherwise noted, all translations from Russian to English are my own. For English, see J. A. E. Curtis, Manuscripts Don’t Burn: Mikhail Bulgakov, a Life in Letters and Diaries. (Woodstock: The Overlook Press, 1992), 95.