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CENSORSHIP When Maxudov s novel fails, he attempts suicide When that fails, he dramatizes his novel To Maxudov s surprise and the resentment of literary Moscow the play is accepted by the legendary Independent Theater, and Maxudov plunges into a vortex of inflated egos Each rehearsal sees and sparks flying higher and higher and less and less chance of poor Maxudov s play ever being performed Black Snow is the ultimate backstage novel and a brilliant satire on Mikhail Bulgakov s ten year love hate relationship with Stanislavsky, Method acting, and the Moscow Arts Theater.After a lifetime spent struggling against censorship, not least in the theater, Bulgakov died in 1940, not long after completing his masterpiece, The Master and Margarita None of his major fiction was published during his lifetime my coverTranslated by Michael Glenny.Opening On the 29th April Moscow was washed clean by a thunderstorm The air was delightful it mellowed the heart and made one want to start living again.First read twenty odd years ago where does time go Bettie s Books . ChronologyIntroduction SourcesA Note on the TextFurther Reading A Dead Man s Memoir A Theatrical Novel Notes It may be heretical to muse along these lines, but I was heartened to imagine what would ve been the result of a collaboration between Mikhail Bulgakov and Preston Sturges My mind s eye sees something similar to 42d Street but with Joel McCrea in the lead as a struggling playwright, Barbara Stanwyck vamping her way into the production, causing the author to rewrite and ruin his artistic vision The NKVD led by William Demarest will undoubtedly swoop in during the final reel A pipe and mustache have the last laugh.While reading this unfinished farce, I was viewing a few episodes of the 2005 Russian miniseries of The Master and Margarita Even at the gravest of junctures, there is always humor A quip can be made while fearing the late night knock on the door.This is a very incomplete work which festers and taunts There is a vein of promise which alas will never be realized.2.5 5 . A Masterpiece Of Black Comedy By The Author OfThe Master And MargaritaWhen Maxudov S Novel Fails, He Attempts Suicide When That Fails, He Dramatizes His Novel To Maxudov S Surprise And The Resentment Of Literary Moscow The Play Is Accepted By The Legendary Independent Theater, And Maxudov Plunges Into A Vortex Of Inflated Egos Each Rehearsal Sees And Sparks Flying Higher And Higher, And Less And Less Chance Of Poor Maxudov S Play Ever Being PerformedBlack Snow Is The Ultimate Backstage Novel, And A Masterly Satire On Mikhail Bulgakov S Ten Year Love Hate Relationship With Stanislavsky, Method Acting, And The Moscow Arts TheaterThis Title Comes With An Introduction By Terry Gilliam After A Lifetime Spent Struggling Against Censorship, Not Least In The Theater, Bulgakov Died In , Not Long After Completing His Masterpiece, The Master And Margarita None Of His Major Fiction Was Published During His Lifetime There are some oppressive regimes well, most of them where it s not a good idea to be a wit Like Burma, for example, where two comedians were sentenced to twenty years hard labour for, um telling jokes Or, as Bulgakov learned the hard way, when Stalin is King and Russia is tooling up for another war Black Snow is about censorship but mainly about the inner workings of the Moscow Theatre, how Stanislavsky was a fraud, and how being a playwright in Stalinist Russia was harder than swallowing a church.The narrator is a suicidal and callow writer who grumbles his way through the Russian theatrical elite, dodging censorship, criticism and resentment at every turn As a satire on the writing life it s pitch black, as a cock snook at stage pretention it packs a wallop Modern shows such as The Bigger Issues or Annie Griffin s Coming Soon flesh out the ideas explored, showing great comedy does stand the test of time.The novel is unfinished and the ending is tacked on, but be fair, the writer was scheduled to die in a few weeks. Black Snow is a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov This apparent platitude is full of contradiction The book is perhaps better described as an autobiographical episode, with Bulgakov renamed as the book s central character, Maxudov It s also a satire in which the characters are precise, exact and often vicious caricatures of Bulgakov s colleagues and acquaintances in the between the wars Moscow Arts Theatre, including the legendary Stanislawsky In some ways, Black Snow is a history of Bulgakov s greatest success, the novel The White Guard, which the theatre company adapted for the stage under the title The Days of the Turbins The play ran for close to a thousand performances, including one staged for an audience of a single person, one Josef Stalin who, perhaps luckily for Bulgakov, liked it.Black Snow is also a sideways look at the creative process, itself Maxudov is a journalist with The Shipping Times and hates the monotony and predictability of his work Privately he creates a new world by writing a novel in which the author can imagine transcending the mundane But the product of this and all creation is useless unless it is shared Only then can it exist Only then can the author s relief from the self he cannot live with be realised But when no one publishes the novel, when no one shows the slightest interest in it, the author is left only with the isolation that inspired the book, but now this is an amplified isolation and devastating for it So he attempts suicide But he is such an incompetent that he fails It s the same middle class Russian incompetence that Chekhov celebrated in Uncle Vanya where no one seems able to aim a shot.But then this unpublished book is seen by others, for whom it seems to mean something quite different from the author s intention Instead of a novel, they see it as a play They ask for a re write, complete with changes of both plot and setting Effectively, the only way the work can have its own life, its own existence, is for it to become something that denies the author s own intentions and thus nullifies the reason for writing it And so Maxudov goes along with things and thus in effect he is back again doing what he does for The Shipping Times, in that he is writing things that others want.And here is where Black Snow becomes a parody of what was happening later in Bulgakov s own career He wanted to write a play about censorship and control This, obviously, was impossible in Stalin s Soviet Union, so he set the play in France, basing it upon the historical reality of Moliere After four years of tying to prepare the play for performance what finally emerged was a costume drama from which all allusions to censorship had been removed or watered down So Bulgakov s intended comment on Soviet society was lost And the play flopped.So the satirical caricatures are truly vicious We have an impresario who is incapable of remembering the playwright s name We have the opinionated arty intellectual, full of biting criticism and dismissive posturing until he realises he is speaking to the author and then he does an instant, blushing volte face We have a character that is so sure about every detail of organisation and experience that they are almost always wrong.Ultimately, Black Snow is about a creative process where a writer can create whatever is imaginable But then in communicating it, the receivers change it, transform it into what they want it to be The writer makes the snow black, the recipients read it as black but change it to white and then probably argue whether it has already turned to rain Black Snow is an enigmatic, super real and surreal satire. Bulgakov s theatrical novel Black Snow introduces the reader to the unfortunate Maxudov, whose efforts to publish a book, and later to turn that same book based on his own suicide attempt into a play, are met with varying degrees of contempt, incompetence and unhelpful interference from the literary contingent of Moscow It s a typically Russian novel it feels modern than it has any right to, brims with sarcastic wit, and is often morbid It s years since I read The Master and Margarita, and I d forgotten how exuberant and funny Bulgakov was It s amusing in its own right, but also works as a biting satirical take on Soviet censorship Maxudov finds his work altered beyond recognition, then stifled by endless rehearsals which go nowhere, leading, ultimately, to a tragic conclusion But Black Snow was unfinished at the time of the author s death, and feels like it, with an abrupt and unsatisfying ending The book I read felt like the bones of a greater Black Snow that was never written.
Mikhail Bulgakov was born in Kyiv, Russian Empire today Ukraine on May 15 1891 He studied and briefly practised medicine and, after indigent wanderings through revolutionary Russia and the Caucasus, he settled in Moscow in 1921 His sympathetic portrayal of White characters in his stories, in the plays The Days of the Turbins The White Guard , which enjoyed great success at the Moscow Art Thea
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- Mikhail Bulgakov
- 03 April 2017 Mikhail Bulgakov