Аннушка

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Context

«Annushka has already bought the sunflower oil, and has not only bought it, but has already spilled it. So the meeting will not take place...» That's what Woland said to Berlioz in chapter 1 of The Master and Margarita when he announced him his decapitation at the bench of the Patriarch's Ponds.

Right after Berlioz's decapitation, in chapter 4, a sharp-nosed and bare-headed woman shouted the following to another one: «...Annushka, our Annushka! From Sadovaya! It's her work... She bought sunflower oil at the grocery, and went and broke the whole litre-bottle on the turnstile! Messed her skirt all up, and swore and swore! And he, poor man, must have slipped and - right on to the rails...»

The only background informatoin given by Bulgakov on Annushka is that she could be seen every day either with the can, or with bag and can together, in the kerosene shop, or in the market, or under the gateway, or on the stairs, but most often in the kitchen of apartment no. 48, of which this Annushka was one of the tenants. Apartment no. 48? Yes! Annushka lives in the well known block at Bolshaya Sadovaya. And wherever she was or wherever she appeared, a scandal would at once break out. She bore the nickname of «the Plague».

In chapter 24, she had found the little golden horseshoe that Margarita had lost. Azazello offered her two hundred roubles to return it. With this money, Annushka went to a department store on the Arbat. She handed over a tenrouble bill to the cashier, but it appeared to be a ten-dollar bill and she got arrested. At first, the investigator listened attentively to Annushka's story about people flying out the window of the house on Sadovaya and about the little horseshoe which she, in her own words, had picked up «so that no one takes it». But then they got properly sick of her, and wrote a pass for her to get out, after which, to everyone's pleasure, Annushka disappeared from the building of the secret police.


Prototype

Bulgakov has long hesitated on how to name this character. Along with Annushka, he used the name Pelageyushka in his documentation. In the third edition of the novel she was called Annushka Basin, and described as «well-known in the apartment under the name bitch».

Annushka is one of the few characters to keep her real life name in The Master and Margarita. In a long interview from 1981 with the psychologist and journalist Leonid Konstantinovich Parshin (1944-2010), Bulgakov's first wife, Tatyana Nikolaevna Lappa (1892-1982), said that Annushka's real life prototype was Anna Fyodorovna Goryacheva (1871-?).

In The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov situates Annushka in apartment no. 48, but in reality she lived, like Bulgakov and Tatyana Lappa, in apartment no. 50, together with her son Mikhail Nikolaevich Goryachev (1904-?), as can be seen on the residents' list of the flat from 1924. It was a sort of working-class dormitory with 7 rooms off a central corridor. Annushka Goryacheva beat her son often. They used to buy home-brew vodka, get drunk, fight, and make noise.

Bulgakov did not like the real Annouchka Goryacheva, as we can conclude from the fact that he wrote in his diary on October 29, 1923: «The first day of heating was marked by the fact that the famous Annushka left the window of the big kitchen opened during all night. I resolutely do not know what to do with the scoundrel who lives in this flat.»

In 1971, a neighbour of Bulgakov in Bolshaya Sadovaya, the mathematician and children's writer Vladimir Arturovich Lyovshin (1904-1984), published Sadovaya 302-bis, Memories of Mikhail Bulgakov. In this essay, he described Annushka as «a woman who is grumpy, always dropping something and breaking it, most likely because of her crooked eyes (Annuska's left eye is half-closed due to a rifled eyelid)». He qualified Annushka as a домработница [domrabotnitsa] or housekeeper, but it is quite unlikely that Annushka Goryacheva had such function. On the residents' list she's got the status of на иждивении мужа [na izhdiveny muzha] or dependent on husband. Her husband, however, is not listed.

In her interview with Parshin, Tatyana Lappa called Lyovshin a liar. And Lappa could have been right. Because, in his essay, Lyovshin pretended to be a close friend of Mikhail Bulgakov. He wrote: «Sometimes, towards evening, Bulgakov called me to take a walk, most often at the Patriarch's Ponds. Here we were sitting on a bench near the turnstile, watching the sunset shatter in the upper windows of the houses. Behind a low cast-iron fence the trams were nervously rattling around». But Bulgakov never mentioned him in his diaries and letters, and there was no tramway on Patriarch's Ponds.


Annushka in other stories

Annushka Goryacheva must have greatly irritated Bulgakov, since she did not only play a role in The Master and Margarita. She also showed up in three other works, and always as a Plague.

The first time Bulgakov mentioned her was in No. 13 - The House of the Elpit Workers' Commune, a feuilleton published in December 1922, not so long after Bulgakov moved to Bolshaya Sadovaya nr. 10 with Tatyana Lappa. The Elpit House is also inspired by the house at Bolshaya Sadovaya, and one of the tenants is Annushka Pylyayeva, the «scourge of the house». She's not only annoying the other residents by her thriving and swearing, but she also sets the whole building on fire.

A little later, in the feuilleton Moonshine Lake, published in June 1923, Bulgakov mentioned Annushka and her son Misha, living in apartment no. 50 on Bolshaya Sadovaya no. 10. Bulgakov's appreciation for both the building and Annushka is nicely illustrated by this short excerpt: «a man living one-and-a-half years in the corridor of № 50, you will not in any way astonish».

Finally, in Bulgakov's unfinished and often underestimated novel Black Snow - A Theatrical Novel, the main character Sergei Leontievich Maskudov firmly hopes that he will never have visitors in his residence, for they could be deterred because «Annushka's curses are heard from the kitchen.».



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