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A reading at Bulgakov's

Saturday 12/26/20

Tonight I am thinking about Mikhail Bulgakov.

Franz Schubert writes Winterreise. It is the finest piece of music he will ever create. Schubert's friends love him. They are loyal to him. When he writes a new piece of music, or a letter to one of his friends, the friends share the music or the letter with each other. They take turns carrying the actual paper around. They love Schubert, they love his work, they love his mind. He writes Winterreise, and not one of his friends responds with a favorable word. They are confused. They find the piece depressing. It is the one work written by Schubert that they do not tell him they love.

Sam Cooke writes "A Change Is Gonna Come," the most important song of the twentieth century. The song will be buried as a B-Side, because Sam Cooke's record label did not think much of it. Upon writing the song, Cooke plays it for a friend. The friend responds by saying, "That sounds like death."

No one would publish the works of Mikhail Bulgakov. They are too radical, too funny, too laden with ideas. He petitions the Soviet government to let him move to another country where he might have a better chance, but his request is denied. In his heart, Bulgakov has no hope, no matter where he might live. He asks his friends to come to his home for the purpose of hearing him read what he knows is his finest creation, the novel The Master and Margarita, a story of pure love that also involves Jesus, Pontius Pilate, Satan, and a Vodka-drinking cat named Behemoth. Bulgakov reads the novel. Upon his utterance of the final word, there is complete silence. No one knows what to say. People stare at the ground. Bulgakov declares, "Tomorrow I bring this to the publisher," and everyone is scared and scared for Bulgakov, because they do not believe any of this can end well. He dies before the novel is published, which will not happen for almost another thirty years, and only then because of the efforts of his widow.


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