Ivan Nikolayevich Ponyrov (Homeless)
Ivan Nikolayevich Ponyryov is a 23 years old poet who uses the pseudonym Bezdomny, which means the Homeless in Russian. The novel starts and ends with him, and he appears frequently between times. At the beginning he meets Mikhaïl Alexandrovitch Berlioz at Patriarch's Ponds. They are discussing the historical truth of Jesus when Woland interrupts their conversation and tells them the story of the crucifixion as if he had been present himself. When Berlioz has his accident exactly as Woland had predicted, Ivan chases the devil and his retinue throughout the city to the Moscow river where he dives into. Sopping wet and in his underwear he runs to Gribodeov, the headquarter of the writers' association. He's arrested and sent to the hospital of doctor Stravinsky.
His neighbour in the hospital appears to be the master, who tells him that he must have met the devil. At the end of the story, Ivan becomes historian - he renounces poetry, but continues having visions each time at full moon.
In the early versons of the novel the young poet was called Bezrodny, which means the Lonely. Many so-called proletarian writers used such pseudonyms. The most famous one is probably Aleksey Maximovich Peshkov (1868-1936) who called himself Maxim Gorky or the Bitter. Other examples are Golodny, the Hungry, Besposhchadny, the Wreckless or Pribludny, the Lost.
The pseudonym Bezdomny, the Homeless, reminds of Demyan Bedny, the Poor, who's real name was Efim Alexandrovich Pridvorov (1883-1945). Pridvorov wrote anti-religious works in the '20's, like, for example The New Testament without Shortcomings of the Evangelist Demyan. In 1925 Bulgakov made an annotation in the diaries that later were found in the KGB-archives: «He presents Jesus Christs as a cheat and a swindler... there are no words for such crime». It's quite possible that Bulgakov got the idea of writing The Master and Margarita after having read Bedny's work.
But the Homeless also reminds of Alexander Ilych Bezymensky (1898-1973). Beziminsky means the Nameless. The name Bezymensky was not a pseudonym, though. But he was such a proletarian poet that he said: «if Bezymensky had not been my birth name, I would have taken it as a pseudonym». In 1929, Bezymensky had written a theatre play Выстрел [Vystrel] or The Shot, which partly was a parody of Bulgakov's The Days of the Turbins. If Bezymensky was the prototype of Bezdomny, it may explain the following excerpt from the novel. Ivan is in room 117. A mysterious visitor steps into the room.
- «Your profession?»
- «Poet,» Ivan confessed, reluctantly for some reason.
The visitor became upset.
- «Ah, just my luck!» he exclaimed, but at once reconsidered, apologized, and asked: "And what is your name?»
- «Oh-oh...» the guest said, wincing.
- «What, you mean you dislike my poetry?» Ivan asked with curiosity.
- «I dislike it terribly.»
- «And what have you read.»
- «I've never read any of your poetry!» the visitor exclaimed nervously.
Another reason why some scholars believe that Bezymensky would be Ivan's prototype is the quarrel between Riukhin and Ivan Bezdomny in the novel. Since Riukhin is the a parody of Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (1893-1930), the quarrel is a parody of the always changing relation and the animosity between Mayakovsky and Bezymensky. At first, Mayakovsky was Bezymensky's idol, but the feeling was not reciprocated. Mayakovsky compared Bezymensky's work to «coffee made of carrots». With «carrots» he meant chicory. Chicory is often used as a substitute for coffee, so Mayakovsky considered Bezymensky as ersatz, not as a real literary man.
The guest visiting Ivan in the hospital appears to be the master, his neighbour from room 118. He had stolen nurse Praskovya Fyodorovna's bunch of keys, and so gained the opportunity of getting out on to the common balcony, which runs around the entire floor. This enables him to «occasionally, call on a neighbour».
Ivan is also a folk Russian character often appearing in jokes: Иванушка Дурачок (Ivanushka Durashok) or Ivan the Fool, who may be dumb, but who's clumsiness makes him very popular in Russia. In chapter 30 Ivan is called Ivanushka.
Characters in Moscow
- Archibald Archibaldovich
- Mikhail Aleksandrovich Berlioz
- Ivan Nikolayevich Ponyrov (Homeless)
- Nikanor Ivanovich Bosoy
- Latunsky, Ariman and Lavrovich
- Stepan Bogdanovich Likhodeev (Styopa)
- Baron Meigel
- Aloisy Mogarych
- Maximilian Andreevich Poplavsky
- Alexander Riukhin
- Arkady Appolonovich Sempleyarov
- Andrey Fokich Sokov
- Doctor Stravinsky
- The writers at Griboedov's
- Other characters in Moscow