You probably know Mikhail Bulgakov through one of two works: Heart of a Dog, his short novel about the forced transformation of a dog into a human being (comparisons to the grand Soviet project have, indeed, been suggested), or The Master and Margarita, his longer, later novel about a visit paid to Soviet Russia by the devil himself. Heart of a Dog, written in 1925, didn’t see official Russian publication until 1987; The Master and Margarita, written between 1928 and 1940, didn’t come out until 1967. This suggests that Bulgakov’s literary perspective may have touched a nerve with the authorities, but the artfulness with which he expressed it has since lifted him to the top of the twentieth-century Russian canon.
Other creators have paid to tribute to the enormously influential The Master and Margarita with artfulness of their own. We now have at least five films, two television series, nineteen stage productions, two ballets, four operas (though the complicated material defeated Andrew Lloyd Webber’s attempt at adaptation) and a graphic novel based in whole or in part on Bulgakov’s book. At the top of the post, you can watch Svetlana Petrova and Natalia Berezovaya’s Margarita, an animated short that, ambitious in its own way, attempts to capture The Master and Margarita in two ever-shifting minutes of imagery. (Or, as this Russian animation database puts it, “Impudent young animators dare to touch Bulgakov.” ) Though made in 1997, it comes off today as quite a tantalizing “book trailer,” though I would submit that Bulgakov’s writing needs none of our internet-age marketing innovations.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.