Genesis of the novel (continued)

English > The novel > Genesis of the novel (continued)

Second version (1928-1929)

The second version of the novel doesn't show drastic changes compared to the first one. Some fragments were added to the first four chapters and chapter 7 ends with the story of Poroty, who later becomes Bosoi. The buffet manager and the hypnotised choir enter the novel too. The history of Pilate and Jesus is extended with some episodes, among which Yehuda's death, and the musings of Pilate are more explored as well.

In the spring of 1930 Bulgakov destroyed the first two versions of his novel. Itwas the period that his theatre plays were banned completely and that he wrote his letter to the Soviet government . He asked permission to go abroad or at least, as he wrote: «be offered a function in my specialty and be appointed to a theatre in the function of director». On October 17, Stalin called him in person and some weeks later Bulgakov was assistentdirector in the Moscow Art Theatre MKhAT. In his letter Bulgakov alluded to The Engineer's Hoof: «And I have in person, with my own hands, thrown a draft of a novel on the devil in the fire».

The book was at that time still just «a novel on the devil». The master and Margarita didn't exist yet and the main character was Woland.

Third version (1932-1934)

Bulgakov would not take up his novel on the devil again before1931, and when he did, it was without enthusiasm nor perseverance. The work in the Moscow Art Theatre MKhAT wasn't satisfactory and Elena Sergeevna, with whom he had started a relation, had left him at the insistance of her husband. From that time are left two tiny notebooks entitled Drafts of the novel 1929-1931, containing the preliminary notes for the third version. The poet Riukhin enters and there is a draft of one of the last chapters, with the text: «Lord, help me to finish the novel, 1931».

In a fragment called Woland's flight the sentence «You will meet Schubert there and clear mornings» shows implicitly that there is a character present which was not yet named but which would become the master. In 1931 the term master was still attributed to Woland. Only in 1936 it will be given to Margarita's lover when the master becomes the narrator of the last fragments of the Pilate story. The name Margarita appears for the first time too in the sentence «... Margarita said passionately».

This third version is the longest and the most complex one. Bulgakov started working on it again in October 1932 on a trip to Leningrad. He was there with Elena Sergeevna, whom he just had married. He started writing without having his drafts and his notes. «I know it by heart», he told Elena Sergeevna. It would become a sentence which was used by the master as well in the final version.

Bulgakov worked on it, with many interruptions, until the autumn of 1936. New possible titles loomed up like Большой Канцлер or The Great Chancellor, Сатана or Satan, Вот и я or Here I am, Шляпа с пером or The Hat with the feather, Черный богослов or The black theologian, Он появился or He appeared, Подкова иностранца or The foreigner's hoof, Театральный роман or Theatral novel and Консультант в копыте or The Advisor with the hoof.

The nameless lover of Margarita was indicated with Faust or The poet. It was probably Margarita's name which evoked the thought of Faust, and supposingly Faust was just a project name for Bulgakov, since he used it only in his drafts, and not in his manuscripts.

In one of the variants from 1933, Ivanushka asked for a Gospel in the hospital, whereupon Woland came sitting at his bed at night to tell him his Gospel. But eventually the nameless poet became the author of a novel corresponding to the Gospel according to Woland, and the biblical story started to become fragmented. Parts of it were lifted out of the second chapter, and moved to the chapters 11 and 16. And other interventions too started to develop into the direction of the final novel. The love between the master and Margarita, Margarita's departure to the sabbath, and the reappearance of the master.

The manuscripts of that time show how the author hesitated with relation to the sequence of the scenes and how he struggled with the end, especially with respect to the reward the master should receive at the end of the last trip. The outcome was described for the first time in July 1936 in chapter 37 entitled The last flight.

Guilt and cowardice kept occupying Bulgakov seriously. He was convinced that only a devine mercy could make an end on the tortures of those who, by their acts or by the lack of decisiveness, had sinned. In an important chapter from 1934 that was entitled Mercy, Bulgakov made the entire city of Moscow go up in flames. But this variant did not reach the final version, probably because of political considerations. In 1931 a similar scene in the theatre play Adam and Eve, about the total destruction of Leningrad, caused the play being banned.

In October 1934 the draft was finished. The novel had 37 chapters, and an annotation in the margin, written on October 30, mentioned: «To be finished before dying».

Until the summer of 1936 Bulgakov rewrote various parts again, until he decided that the third version was finished. The master became an autobiographical character - Bulgakov wrote a text which would have the same reception as the text written by his hero.

Fourth version (1936-1937)

At the end of 1936 or the beginning of 1937 Bulgakov started the fourth version. It only counted ninety pages and the story of Jesus and Pilate moved completely to the second chapter again and was entitled The golden lance.

Fifth version (1937)

Still in 1937 there's a new version with a new title on the front cover: Принц потемок or The Prince of darkness. There are 299 pages divided in thirteen chapters but interrupted in chapter 11 which is called Appearance at midnight. Later it would become The hero enters. Bulgakov mentions 1928-1937 as the date.

Sixth version (1937-1938)

In the autumn of that same year Bulgakov started a sixth version which was also dated 1928-1937. He would continue to work on it until the spring of the next year.

The book got its final title. The story of the devil would become Мастер и Маргарита or The Master and Margarita. Reality and fiction were interwoven with each other in the structure we know today, and on May 23, 1938 the sixth manuscript version was ready, in six thick notebooks with thirty chapters. The last chapter was entitled Forgiveness, and was changed in a significant way. Woland sent the master to the fifth procurator of Judea to join him and to find peace there.

First typewritten version (1938-1939)

On May 26, 1938 Bulgakov at last started dictating his text to Elena Sergeevna's sister, Olga Sergeevna Boshkanskaya (1891-1948), «with her unique perseverance», but he didn't stop making many changes. It was a huge work under high pressure. In his letters to Elena Sergeevna, who stayed in a dacha in Lebedyan with her son Seryoshka at that time, Bulgakov described in an often very funny way his co-operation with Olga, who was not only Elena's sister, but also the personal assistant to Vladimir Nemirovich-Danshenko (1859–1943), one of the two founders of the Moscow Art Theatre MKhAT. Particularly on June 2, 1938, Bulgakov must have had a difficult time, because he wrote: «I must finish the novel! Now! Now!».

One of the changes is worth to mention. On May 14, 1939, Matthew Levi appeared with the announcement that «the master had not deserved the light, but peace». So he did no longer walk on the path of moonlight with his hero, the fifth procurator of Judea.

In this period Bulgakov, who never saw his novel published, started to distribute long excerpts of it among his friends.

Last changes (1939-1940)

On October 4, 1939, Bulgakov was lethally ill and almost blind, but yet he started dictating the last changes. This work would be interrupted at the beginning of book two, at Berlioz' funeral. In that period he added some details which were clearly related to biographical circumstances. The part about the experiences of doctor Kuzmin is an example. Other examples are the extension of chapter 19, Margarita, and the first sentence of the last chapter: «Gods, my gods! How sad the evening earth».

On February 13, 1940 Bulgakov worked on his novel for the last time, and on March 10 he died, by which the novel got its final form.

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