Andrei Fokich Sokov

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Context

Andrei Fokich Sokov is the manager of the buffet of the Variety Theatre. After the chaotic performance he wants to complain at the theatre's director, Styopa Likhodeev, because the money he had received the day before for the consumptions at the theatre's bar had changed into cut-up paper. But, of course, he didn't meet Likhodeev in apartment 50, but Woland and his retinue. In a tormenting dialogue they complain about the feta cheese, the tea and the sturgeon, and they announce to Andrei Fokich en passant that nine months later, in February of the next year, he will die of liver cancer in room four of the First Moscow State University. He visits a doctor, profesor Kuzmin, who will find out that the money Sokov used to pay him, changed into labels from bottles of Abrau-Durso wine.

And yes, nine months later Andrei Fokich Sokov died of liver cancer in room four of the clinic of the First Moscow State University.


Prototype

Andrei Fokich Sokov plays a supporting role in the novel. But is that not essential for barmen? His name «Sokov» is no coincidence. The Russian word сок [sok] means juice. Соков [Sokov] could be translated as Juicy.

Sokov as such has got no real prototype. The announcement of his death, and his visit to Professor Kuzmin, was dictated by Mikhail Bulgakov to his wife Elena Sergeevna only on January 15, 1940. This is directly related with events that had occurred just before in Bulgakov's own life.

In September 1939, during a trip to Leningrad, Mikhail Bulgakov had lost his sight, and as a doctor, he immediately realized that this could be a symptom of nephrosclerosis, the illness from which his father had died before. On September 15, 1939, he called his friend and doctor Andrey Andreevich Arendt (1890-1965), the founder of neurosurgery for children in the Soviet Union. Arendt introduced him to neuropathologist Mikhail Yulevich Rapoport (1891-1967) who, in his turn, referred Bulgakov to Miron Semyonovich Vovsi (1897-1960), a specialist in kidney and liver diseases, who examined Bulgakov on September 17, 1939.

Vovsi was known for not always paying much attention to medical ethics, especially when it came to expressing his diagnosis. He immediately told Elena Sergeevna that Bulgakov would die within three days. Bulgakov would not die until seven months later, but the meeting with Vovsi continued to play in his mind, and on January 15, 1940, he dictated the scene about the buffet master Sokov and his meeting with professor Kuzmin to his wife Elena Sergeevna.


Noteworthy quotes

Some of the quotes of the tantalizing dialogue between Sokov and the demonic characters became popular expressions in the daily life in the Soviet Union immediately after the first publication of The Master and Margarita. One of these is Осетрину прислали второй свежести [Osetrinu prislali vtoroy svezhesti] or sturgeon of the second freshness. It was common in the Soviet Union to classify things into grades, by which the lesser categories get have a positively named category anyway.

In the 19th century there existed already expressions like «partially fresh eggs». In 1895, George du Maurier (1834-1896) had published a cartoon in the British humorous magazine Punch with the title True Humility. A timid-looking curate is taking breakfast in his bishop's house, but the egg he got isn’t really fresh. The Bishop says: «I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mister Jones». Apparently trying to avoid offence the curate replies: «Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!»

Another expression of this dialogue which became very popular was бином Ньютона [binom Nyutona] or Newton’s binomial theorem. This theorem is a rather complex mathematical formula developed by Isaac Newton (1643-1727) giving the expansion of powers of sums. According to Woland's retinue anything is easier than Newton’s binomial theorem, even the prediction of someone’s death.



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