Mikhail Afansievich Bulgakov (Михаил Афанасьевич Булгаков, May 15 (May 3 Old Style), 1891 - March 10, 1940) was a Ukrainian-born Soviet novelist and playwright of the first half of the 20th century. He is best known for the novel The Master and Margarita.
Mikhail Bulgakov was born in Kiev, Ukraine, the oldest son of a professor at a theological seminary. The Bulgakov sons enlisted in the White Army, and in post-Civil War Russia, ended up in Paris, save for Mikhail. Mikhail Bulgakov, who enlisted as a field doctor, ended up in the Caucasus, where he eventually began working as a journalist. Despite his relatively favored status under the Soviet regime of Joseph Stalin, Bulgakov was prevented from either emigrating or visiting his brothers in the West.
In 1913 Bulgakov married Tatyana Lappa. In 1916, he graduated from the Medical School of Kiev University. In 1921, he moved with Tatyana to Moscow. Three years later, divorced from his first wife, he married Liubov' Belozerskaia. In 1932, Bulgakov married for the third time, to Elena Shilovskaia. During the last decade of his life, Bulgakov continued to work on The Master and Margarita, wrote plays, critical works, stories, and made several translations and dramatisations of novels. However, most of his works were consigned to his desk drawer for several decades. In 1938 he wrote a letter to Stalin requesting permission to emigrate, but he never received a reply.
Bulgakov died from an inherited kidney disorder in 1940 and was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.
Even during his life, Bulgakov was famous for his books Notes of a Country Doctor and The White Guard (Белая гвардия). He was, for a short period, the favorite playwright of Joseph Stalin. Stalin was fond of the play Days of the Turbins (Дни Турбиных), which was based on White Guard. This perhaps saved his life in the year of terror 1937, when nearly all writers who did not support the dictatorship of Stalin were imprisoned and killed, as for example Osip Mandelstam. Bulgakov never supported the regime, and in several of his works mocked it: "Heart of a Dog", "Flight", etc. In 1929 all of his works, including The White Guard, were banned; Bulgakov couldn't publish anything and Stalin refused his request to emigrate. He did work as a literary bureaucrat, which contributed to the satire of The Master and Margarita.
It is the fantasy satiric novel The Master and Margarita (Мастер и Маргарита), published almost thirty years after his death, in 1967, that has granted him critical immortality.
The book was available underground, as samizdat, for many years in the Soviet Union, before the serialization of a censored version in the journal Moskva. In the opinion of many, The Master and Margarita is the best Russian novel of the century and the best of the Soviet novels, although it is difficult to imagine Joseph Stalin approving the novel. The novel spawned several phrases which entered into the daily language of post-Soviet Russia, for example "Manuscripts don't burn". A destroyed manuscript of the Master is an important element of the plot, and in fact Bulgakov had to rewrite the novel from memory after he burned the draft manuscript with his own hands.
Various authors and musicians have credited The Master and Margarita as inspiration for certain works. Salman Rushdie's novel, The Satanic Verses, for example, clearly was influenced by Bulgakov's masterwork. The Rolling Stones have said the novel was key in their song, "Sympathy for the Devil". The grunge band Pearl Jam were influenced by the novel's confrontation between Yeshua Ha-Notsri, that is, Jesus, and Pontius Pilate for their 1998 song, "Pilate".
"Manuscripts do not burn" — The Master and Margarita
Notes on Cuffs
Notes of a Country Doctor (Записки юного врача)
Days of the Turbins (Дни Турбиных) (play)
The Cabal of Hypocrites (play)
Pushkin (The Last Days) (play)
The White Guard (Белая гвардия)
Heart of a Dog (Собачье сердце)
The Master and Margarita (Мастер и Маргарита)