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Commentary 347

cnicial thematic element of his first novel. White Guard. In the sense that The Master and Margarita is operatic in style and structure, Gounod's work is more important for the novel's atmosphere than Goethe's poem.

I am the Master—this phrase can be translated as " I am a master." The sense is both master as opposed to apprentice, and master in the sense of teacher and artist.

a private home builder—a very special class of people. During the New Economic Policy (NEP), instituted in 1921, certain lucky people were allowed to engage in private construction of small buildings and actually to own the building. This situation did not last very long, due to abuses on the part of entrepreneurs and to the Party's need to reassert control. Bulgakov exhibited a cnnsistenü y negative attitude towards the profiteers of NEP, both in his journalism and in his artistic works. Bulgakov himself rented one of his apartments from a private home builder.

a sink...—the Master is said to be proud of this sink " for some reason." The reason is that in communal apartments sinks were normally only in the shared areas of kitchen and bathroom. Unlike many people, the Master could wash in private.

disturbing yellow flowers—mimosa. The symbolic color scheme in this novel is chiefly based on red, black, and while. Margarita's flowers are a symbol of misery— dark yellow being the color of the madhouse, as well as the color of betrayal. The only other important yellow-black combination is that of the yellow M sewed on to the Master's black cap—which he does wear in the madhouse. In Bulgakov's symbolic system, the best flowers are red roses (also important in Faust, and Berlioz's The Damnation of Faust) which stand for immortal beauty. However, Pilate's cape-lining and the pool of wine at his feet are blood-red, of course, and point to an opposite meaning.

Tverskaya—the main street leading down to the Kremlin area, called Gorky Street for much of the Soviet period, and now once again known as Tverskaya. Although many landmarks in this novel are related to realia of Moscow (the restaurant mentioned in this section is the Prague, for example), Bulgakov freely changes geographical reality when he needs to. just as he does in the Pilate sections. The aim is verisimilitude rather than accuracy, a point to keep in mind at alt times.

my secret wife—twentieth< entury Russians refer to any serious partner as a husband or wife, whether or not the marriage has been legalized. The idea is that the serious nature of the relationship is indicated by these words. Margarita is, of course, married to someone else, but she is more than a lover to the Master.

a novel on such a strange subject—there is much that is autobiographical here. Bulgakov's first novel. White Guard, was only partially published in ajournai in 1925, but he read it to various literary groups, whose general reaction was that one could never get a work on such a subject published. The real attacks, however, came in 1926 when Bulgakov turned the novel into a hit play for the Moscow Art Theater, under the name The Days of the Turbins. Indeed, nothing could have been stranger than Bulgakov's subject, namely the fate of a pro-monarchist family in Kiev during the Civil War. The attacks described in this section of The Master and Margarita are clearly distillations of the ones various critics made on Bulgakov's plays, up to and including the play Moliè re, which was banned after a few performances in 1936.

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