Flight

The Chapter's title

Margarita's flight over Moscow inspired the Scottish rock band Franz Ferdinand to the song Love and Destroy in 2004. It's the b-side of their single Michael.

The lane with the kerosene shop

Older residents recall that there was indeed an oil store at number 20 of Sivtsev Vrazhek pereulok in Moscow, a street parallel to the Arbat.

The dazzlingly bright tubes on the theatre building

The theatre building is the Vakhtangov Theatre on number 26 of the Arbat. It is named after Yevgeny Bagrationovich Vakhtangov (1883-1922), a pupil of Konstantin Sergeevich Stanislavsky (1863-1938). The original 19th century building was destroyed by a bomb in the 40's. It was rebuilt at the same place.

The Vakhtangov Theatre
The Vakhtangov Theatre

Two primuses

Again Bulgakov mentions the primus stoves. He did it already in Chapter 4, and they will play an important role later in the novel, when Koroviev and Behemoth raise hell in Moscow in chapter 28. The shortage of living space after the revolution led to the typical Soviet phenomenon of the communal apartments, in which several families would have one or two private rooms and share the kitchen and toilet facilities. The primus stove, a portable one-burner stove fuelled with pressurized benzene, made its appearance at the same time and became a symbol of communal-apartment life. Each family would have its own primus.

A primus stove at the Bulgakov House
A primus stove at the Bulgakov House

An eight-storeyed, obviously just-constructed building

Dramlit, the House for Dramaturgists and Literators is, according to Bulgakov’s flight description, situated in Bolshoi Nikolopeskovskii pereulok near Arbat.

But there was no such building in Nikolopeskovsky pereulok. Bulgakov had simply projected another building, finished in 1935, to this spot. This other building was on the other side of the Moscow River in Lavrushinsky pereulok 17, close to the Tretyakov Gallery. The apartment 84 of that building was indeed on the seventh floor and is similar to the description in the novel, and the other appartements as well.

Furthermore, in apartment 84 lived, in reality, Osaf Semeznovich Litovsky (1892-1971), head of the Главный репертуарный комитет (Главрепертком) [Glavny repertuarny komitet] (Glavrepertkom) or the Central Committee for Repertoires from 1930 to 1937. Litovsky introduced the term Bulgakovism after the first performances of Bulgakov's play Days of the Turbins. A description which very closely matches the personality of the critic Latunsky.

Seven storeys? Or eight? Bulgakov's text mentions: восьмиэтажного [vosmietazhnovo] or with eight storeys. The English translators translated this as an «eight-storeyed, obviously just-constructed building» (Pevear en Volokhonsky) or «an obviously newly-built eight-storey block of flats» (Glenny). In the Dutch translation however we read «seven storeys». This confusion is due to the fact that in Russia the ground floor is considered as the «first floor». The building has thus eight floors: seven storeys and the ground floor.

The Dramlit House
The Dramlit House

Becker's drawing-room instrument, not guilty of anything

Jacob Davidovich Becker (1811-1879), a craftsman born in Germany, created his piano building workshop in Saint-Petersburg in 1841. His piano’s enjoyed great fame, and he was the first to apply American and European technologies in the building of piano’s in Russia. In 1903 the company merged with the piano building factory of Ivan Karlovich Schröder (?-1889), and in 1917 it was nationalized and renamed the Red October Factory.

In 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the company was renamed the Saint Petersburg Piano Factory, but it went bankrupt with a total debt of 13 billion roubles. Lee Alexander Magness, the Texan grandson of Ivan Karlovich Schreder, uses all possible means since 1997 to lay hands on the factory, which he estimates at a value of 650 million dollar.

A Becker's drawing-room instrument
A Becker's drawing-room instrument

I'm your dream

The way in which Bulgakov plays with the Russian grammar here is untranslatable. «To dream of someone» in Russian is expressed with the verb сниться [snitsya] but in a particular construction, with the person dreamed of as the subject, and the person dreaming in the dative. Simply said: «I dreamed of her» in Russian sounds as: «She was dreamed of by me».

That is why the verb almost always appears in the third person singular, since one rarely talks about oneself being seen in someone else's dream. But that's what Margarita does: «Я тебе снюсь», «I was dreamed by you», she says.

After that she says: «Lie down now (…) I'll go on being your dream». And the boy answers: «Ну, снись, снись», which is the imperative form: «Well, be my dream, be my dream».

My French queen!

With this exclamation, Natasha already indicates what will be confirmed by Koroviev in the next chapter - the fact that Margarita is «a great-great-great-granddaughter» of «one of the French queens who lived in the sixteenth century».

Some naked fat man with a black silk top hat pushed back on his head

I don’t know (yet) who this man could be. But he used to know Claudine, «the ungrieving widow» (see below), as well as the «bright Queen Margot» - the popular name given to Marguerite de Valois (1553-1615) (see below). And apparently he used to be a friend of the publisher François Guessard (1814-1882) in Paris, who lived three centuries after the two abovementioned ladies.

Claudine

Claudine de La Tour-Turenne (1520-1591) was lady-in-waiting of Marguerite de Valois (1553-1615), the spouse of the French king Henri IV (1553-1610). On October 31; 1535, Claudine married, at the age of 15, to Justus II (1510-1557), Seigneur of Tournon and Count of Rousillon. At the age of 37 she became a widow.

Bright queen Margot

Queen Margot is Marguerite de Valois (1553-1615), queen of France and Navarra, She was the daughter of Henri II (1519-1559) and Catherina de Medici (1519-1589). Three of her brothers have been kings of France: François II (1544-1560), Charles IX (1550-1574) and Henri III (1551-1589).

Her mother first tried to pair her off to various other men, but eventually arrived at her cousin, Henri of Navarra (1553-1610), the later king Henri IV. The marriage took place on August 18, 1572. Henri was a protestant, and according to various sources Catherina de Medici would have tried to take advantage of the gathering of the Huguenots in Paris to organize the bloodbath of the St. Bartholomew's Day in the night between August 24 and 25, 1572.

The marriage of Marguerite and Henri knew much reciprocal cheating, and long periods of separation. In 1599 it was annulled. Marguerite kept her title of queen.

Her memoirs, published more than one hundred years after her death, described innumerable anecdotes about the kings Charles IX, Henri III and Henri IV. Meanwhile she caused many scandals herself. She died on May 27, 1615.

Marguerite de Valois
Marguerite de Valois

The bloody wedding of his friend Guessard

The drunken man is indeed quite confused: His feeling for time fails. François Guessard (1814-1882) was a writer and publisher from Paris, who published the correspondence of Marguerite de Valois (1553-1615), but he lived in the 19th century - he published Les Mémoires et lettres de Marguerite de Valois in 1842. The «bloody wedding» was the notorious St. Bartholomew's Day in 1572.

The readers of the Michael Glenny translation may wonder why Guessard is mentioned here, because Glenny wrote that the fat man sad that he had just come «from a wedding in Paris», without mentioning which wedding.

The Yenisey River

The Yenisey is a 4,129 km long river which is often considered as the separation between eastern and western Siberia.

Transparent naiads

The English translators Pevear and Volokhonski call the water nymphs naiads, and Michael Glenny calls them water-sprites. But naiads are water nymphs of the Greek mythology, while Bulgakov described Russian русалки [rusalki], singular: rusalka. Rusalki were connected to the world of death. They were young women who died before they could get married. In the middle of the night they went to the river bank to dance in the meadows. If they saw handsome men, they would fascinate them with songs and dancing, and then lead the person away to the river floor, to live with them.

A rusalka
A rusalka

Someone goat-legged

Wood ghosts and devils were often portrayed with the lower part of the body of an animal. The Russian writer Boris Nikolaevich Bugaev (1880-1934), who wrote under the pseudonym Andrei Bely (see annotations to chapter 18) described a goat-legged man at a sabbath in his Северная симфония [Severnaya simphoniya] or Northern Symphony from 1902.

A black, long-beaked rook

A rook is a big black bird, the trypanocorax frugilegus, resembling a crow. The Russian sculptor Aleksandr Rukavishnikov (°1950) made a huge statue of Margarita's driver. Originally, it was part of a large monument which would be erected on the Patriarch's Ponds in honour of Bulgakov, with a huge primus stove and Yeshua walking on the water. But in February 2003, the project was withdrawn after much protest. The rook statue is now placed in the garden of the sculptor in Bolshaya Molchanovka ulitsa in Moscow, next to a beautiful image of a sleeping Aleksandr Pushkin. Rukavishnikov also made the statue of Koroviev and Behemoth which now adorns the courtyard of the Bulgakov House in Moscow.

Margarita's driver by Aleksandr Rukavishnikov
Margarita's driver by Aleksandr Rukavishnikov

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