Manuscripts Don't Burn: Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita

The Master and Margarita, written "for the drawer" during the period of high Stalinism (between 1928 and Bulgakov's death in 1940), created a sensation when it was first published over a quarter-century after its completion. The novel has remained a popular favorite and is now considered a masterpiece of Russian 20th century literature. The multi- layered, complex work – an amalgam of a rollicking satire of devil-infested Communist Moscow, the tender love story of a persecuted writer and his beloved, and a decidedly non-canonical retelling of the Gospel story from the point of view of Pontius Pilate – has from the beginning both delighted and bewildered readers. It has also been a source of both religious and ideological controversy, recently revived by the release in January 2024 of a new film version (not yet available in the U.S.), a satire considered all too relevant in the Putin era. The course will consist of a combination of lectures, providing biographical and historical-literary background, and discussions. Participants will have an opportunity to examine the text closely, develop their own interpretations, and study some of Bulgakov’s sources, including the canonical Gospels, devil and witch lore, the Faust legend, and classical mythology.

Group Leader: Edythe Haber
Venue: Beacon Hill Friends House
Meets on: Monday 1 to 3 PM
Starting: 10/21/2024
Sessions: 5
Class Size: 20
Teaching Style: Lecture with questions
Weekly Preparation: 2 - 3 hours
Group Leader Biography:

Edythe Haber is Professor Emerita of Russian, UMass-Boston, and a Center Associate at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard, where she coordinates the Humanities Seminar. She is the author of Mikhail Bulgakov: The Early Years and numerous articles on The Master and Margarita and other works by Bulgakov. She has also published a book on the Russian émigré writer Nadezhda Teffi, which has been translated into Russian and is currently being translated into Chinese.