I have just listened to a series of podcasts about “Master and Margarita” on the Russian online resource “Arzamas”. The podcasts are conducted by Marietta Chudakova, Soviet literary critic and historian. I will leave the link to the podcasts below (unfortunately, podcasts are only available in Russian). I have learned so much in these podcasts about the historical context of the novel, publication challenges and Bulgakov’s background.
- The novel was initially published in 1966 and was considered very extravagant for the times
- The novel was motivated by Goethe’s “Faust”
- The author wrote 6 different versions of the novel and the first version’s title was “Consultant’s hoof” (“Копыто консультанта”)
- The first versions of the manuscript didn’t have characters of Master and Margarita
- Bulgakov was one of the few writers (who did not emigrate) not supportive of the Soviet power and the Russian revolution. He wanted to write about the “Big terror” and Stalinism but could not openly criticise Soviet power and Stalin.
- Master is an alter ego of Bulgakov
- Bulgakov burnt one of the versions of the novel
- Woland is an alter ego of Stalin
- Bulgakov was born and raised in a religious family and thus the theme of religion and spirituality are prominent in his novel
- Bulgakov wrote a letter to the Soviet government asking for permission to leave the country
- Margarita’s character was possibly inspired by the wife of Bulgakov, Elena
- Bulgakov didn’t want to have kids because he was sick
- Bulgakov didn’t believe that his novel will ever be published (due to strict Soviet censorship)
Arzamas podcasts: https://arzamas.academy/courses/39/1