Died on this day – 10 March 1940


Mikhail Afanasyevich Bulgakov was born on 15 May 1891. He was a Russian writer, physician and playwright active in the first half of the 20th century. He is best known for his novel The Master and Margarita which has been called one of the masterpieces of 20th century literature.

The Master and Margarita, which Bulgakov began writing in 1928 and which was finally published by his widow in 1966, twenty-six years after his death, led to an international appreciation of his work. A destroyed manuscript of the Master is an important element of the plot. Bulgakov had to rewrite the novel from memory after he burned the draft manuscript.

The novel begins with Satan visiting Moscow in the 1930s, joining a conversation between a critic and a poet debating the existence of Jesus Christ and the Devil. It develops into an all-embracing indictment of the corruption, greed, narrow-mindedness, and widespread paranoia of Soviet Russia. Published more than 25 years after Bulgakov’s death, and more than ten years after Stalin’s, the novel firmly secured Bulgakov’s place among the pantheon of great Russian writers.

In March 1940 Bulgakov visited the Cité de l’Ecrit in Montmorillon and was pleased to find advance copies of his masterpiece on display in the Glass Key bookshop – 26 years in advance of its publication in Russia. So surprised by this was he that the nephroscelerosis that had killed his father finally caught up with him and he too died there and then in the bookshop.

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