So far, we have confined our attention to one-sided intertextuality, where later texts reread earlier ones and often enriched them in the process — without, however, giving them a chance to respond. In the two chapters that follow, we turn to dialogue proper, in the full sense of literary exchange. This calls for looking at contemporaries and would profit from bringing together the analytic concepts tested separately in preceding chapters: the interaction of entire oeuvres, conversion of subtexts, and variations on common structures and motifs.

Dialogism owes its current popularity to the work of Mikhail Bakhtin, which originated in the same period as the major part of the triptych we will be examining in this chapter. It has been suggested (Jensen 1979: 313) that Bakhtin’s polyphonic reading of Dostoevsky (1984 [1929]) was influenced by the cultural heteroglossia that nurtured Pilnyak’s collage-like prose and Mandelstam’s intertextual poetics (“composing others’ songs again/anew [snova]”1and quite possibly was directly inspired by their texts. Jensen also mentions Tynianov’s contribution to the polylogical concept of literature, and it is from what can be described as a joint Bakhtinian-Tynianovian perspective 2 that we will try to trace one of the threads in the multicolored tapestry of the epoch: an exchange between Mikhail Bulgakov and Iurii Olesha, the authors of Heart of a Dog (1925), Envy (1927), and The Master and Margarita (1928-40).

This dialogue has been obscured by the fact that owing to political censorship, neither of Bulgakov’s two contributions appeared in print until decades after the time of writing.

The manuscript of Heart of a Dog, prevented from publication and even temporarily confiscated by the secret police, was widely read in Moscow literary circles and could hardly have remained unknown to Olesha (it was first published in the West in 1968, and in the Soviet Union in 1987). Envy was a major sensation in the late 1920s, and Bulgakov must have been familiar with it. Olesha died (1960) before the publication of The Master and Margarita (censored 1967; complete 1973); whether he knew about it and what his reaction would have been remains an open question. 3/p>

That the dialogue might have gone on unwittingly is a theoretical possibility, but a rather unlikely one given the interlocutors’ common fellow-traveler orientation and personal friendship. Yet even if the dialogue was recuperable only in hindsight and as a purely paradigmatic intertext or a ‘quasi-dialogue’ (Smirnov 1985, Zholkovsky 1988), it would deserve no less — perhaps more — attention: the three texts seem to be filling out a common questionnaire, giving different answers to the same questions, and thus to each other, in an almost perfect dialectical triad. In following its course, we will concentrate on the invariance of the thematic framework, on its modifications and conversions, and on the degree and direction of the discourse’s carnivalization.

Heart of a Dog


Bulgakov’s fantastic tale was a fitting invitation to a dialogue, combining as it did political topicality with consummate literariness and manipulation of intra- and intertextual voices. In his case history of a transplant (heart of a dog plus brain of a drunkard) that goes awry, producing an ordinary Soviet monster, and has to be remedied at the last moment by a reverse surgery, Bulgakov successfully crossbred several literary genres. A ‘canine story’ (about wise dogs mixing with/behaving like people)4finds itself superimposed on the genre of Christmas tale and the Christian legend in general (involving transfiguration, death, resurrection, divine father), or rather, on its Faustian-Frankensteinian perversion (laboratory creation of artificial homunculi, operating on corpses, the creature attacking the scientist).

The action takes place on the Chaste Virgin street (Prechistenka) at Christmastime; Sharikov calls the Professor “daddy” (papasha); the names of Professor Preobrazhensky and of the street where Chugunkin’s body is found, the Preobrazhenskaia Gate, as well as Sharikov’s appearance in new, all-leather clothes (chap. 9) conspicuously refer to “Transfiguration” and, in the Soviet-Faustian context, to ‘transformation’ (preobrazovanie [mira]) (Fusso 1989).

Through the intermediary of a cognate modern genre — the science-fiction utopia/dystopia (in the manner of H. G. Wells and A. A. Bogdanov), already tried out by Bulgakov in Fatal Eggs (1924) — this literary hybrid was placed in the service of the topical ‘new man’ theme. For naturalization, it relied on satiric play with Soviet realia (the pandemic denunciations, “general rack and ruin” [razrukha], self-consolidation of tenants [samo-uplotnenie), etc.) but above all with Bulgakov’s principal target — the Soviet cultural scene, whose main, albeit camouflaged, spokesman in the tale is Mayakovsky.

Mayakovsky’s poetic and personal identification with the ‘dog’ is well known, including the metamorphosis ‘man-dog’ (Smirnov 1978), and its subtextual relevance to Bulgakov’s tale has also been discussed (Zholkovsky 1986cChudakova 1987Fusso 1989). Like Mayakovsky’s lyrical persona, Bulgakov’s Sharik/Sharikov is full of angry desire to attack and bite, and he learns his alphabet from street signs (compare his Glavryba = Abyrvalg [“Fish Trust=Tsurt-hsif”] experience with Mayakovsky’s “Na cheshue ogromnoi ryby/Prochel is … ,” in his early futurist manifesto, the poem “A vymogli by?” [1913“Could You?”, and a later retrospective summation: obuchalsia azbuke s vyvesok). The similarities are so many (including Mayakovsky’s famous rhymed ad for the Soviet firm Mosselprom, ironized by the dog Sharik) that one is tempted to read, anachronistically, the flood perpetrated by Sharikov in the bathroom (chap. 6) as an echo of Mayakovsky’s “Rasskaz Iiteishchika Ivana Kozyreva o vselenii novuiu kvartiru” (1928). In fact, according to Chudakova (1987), a polemic with Heart of a Dog is implicit in The Bedbug (1928-29).

Such a focus accounts for the predominantly textual orientation of the tale. Mayakovsky’s — and agitprop’s in general — campaign for the remolding of old human material provides a constant alien-voice counterpoint to Professor Preobrazhensky’s own verbal themes, as the (re)education of Sharikov triggers an all-encompassing play with culture and foregrounds the Word.

The Professor corrects the linguistic and social manners of the Bolshevik house committee (domkom), covers the walls with Soviet-style cultural commandments (“No playing on musical instruments”), pronounces the reading of Soviet newspapers bad for digestion, defends professionalism in singing, and so on. Incorporated or reported in the text are the discussion of Shiroki’s first reading matter (unexpectedly for Preobrazhensky, it is the Engels-Kautsky correspondence rather than Robinson Crusoe) and aesthetic preferences (balalaika and circus rather than opera or drama); fragments from Aida and from newspapers that print rumors and innuendoes about the goings-on in the apartment; Sharikov’s denunciation (donos) of the Professor; the “safe conduct” obtained by Preobrazhensky from his commissar patient; the identification papers issued to Sharikov, accompanied in the narrative by the motifs of name-giving and book-burning; medical terminology; quotations and subtexts from literature; and other textual objects.

The storytelling deploys several perspectives. It shifts from the dog’s internal monologue (chap. 1) to third-person narration from the dog’s point of view (chaps. 1-4), to medical case history, recorded diary style by Dr. Bormenthal (chap. 5), to an ironic third-person omniscient perspective (chaps. 4 and 6 through the end). Defamiliarization of the human world through animal eyes has a venerable tradition, running from Apuleius’s The Golden Ass through Swift’s Houyhnhnms and the various canine stories to Tolstoy’s “The Strider.” Bulgakov’s startling innovation was to have the dog’s sensitive and intelligent internal speech make room, as the dog turns human, for a vulgar, cliche-ridden, demagogic political jargon.

This plethora of voices orchestrates the scandalous show taking place in the “obscene flat” (pokhabnaia kvartirka). The central dog-man metamorphosis, which is at the core of the general reversal of the ‘normal order’ of things, is supported by a cluster of carnivalesque motifs:

— the apocalyptic snowstorm in the spirit of Blok’s “The Twelve” (1918) and Pilnyak’s The Naked Year (1921);5/p>

— the dog’s point of view ‘from below’;

— the orgy of rejuvenations, which parades human follies, highlighting the Bakhtinian grotesque ‘lower bodily stratum’ (“I will give you a monkey’s ovaries, madam!”);

— the mysterious zero-sum relationship between the ‘doubles,’ the Professor and his creature: the stronger the one, the weaker the other;

— the invasion of the cozy apartment by the postrevolutionary “rack and ruin” in the person of Sharikov, as a perversely carnivalesque consequence of the Professor’s scientific success;

— the ambiguity of the Preobrazhensky character itself; and

— the open-endedness of the narrative (the epilogue features the Professor continuing his dangerous experiments).

On balance, no voice, not even the Professor’s authoritative basso, has the final word, which sounds an overture rather than closure to a dialogue. What, then, are the principal lines of debate introduced by Heart of a Dog?


The plot is set in motion by the motif of ‘adoption.’

Dr. Preobrazhensky, a medical luminary of first magnitude, offers refuge and a new lease on life to a hungry and wounded stray dog (Sharik) and to a drunkard stabbed to death in a saloon brawl (Chugunkin). He needs them as raw material for his daring experiment in transplantation, which, however, opens his ancien-regime, typically Bulgakovian home (complete with lampshades, pretty maids, table talk and rituals, etc.) to Soviet-style communal squabbling.

The Professor is an imposing father figure. He is referred to as “benefactor” and “daddy” (by Sharik/Sharikov), “ancient prophet,” “pagan priest,” “magus,” “deity.” His ‘parenthood’ also encompasses his assistant, Dr. Bormenthal (to whom, then “a half-starved student,” the Professor once “gave a place [priiutil] in the department”), in a symmetrical pattern that sets up a conflict between the two “sons.”

Already, as a foundling dog, Sharik experiences the enviable sense of ‘belonging.’ He can now pass the doorman. He wears a collar (which “is just like a briefcase”: it lights up “fierce envy in the eyes of all the dogs he met”) and can even enter “the chief department of paradise, . . . the realm of the cook, Dar’ia Petrovna.” As a ‘new man,’ however, his loyalties will soon be shifting.


The political equation is symmetrical. The Professor and his assistant treasure private property, privacy, law and order, culture, civility, science, and Westernism. Preobrazhensky has a scholarly reputation in Europe, looks like a “French knight” and an “ancient king,” emphasizes Russia’s lagging behind Europe by two hundred years, contemplates emigration. The two intellectuals are pitted against a ‘proletarian underdog,’ indeed a proletarian artist (Chugunkin, the donor of the hybrid’s brain, had been “a balalaika player in bars”) and his Communist mentor, Shvonder. The “remnants of a dog’s nature” are not as dangerous (“the cats are the least of his sins”) as his class instincts; in a prophetic anticipation of the great purges, the Professor sees that “Shvonder … does not understand that Sharikov is a far greater menace to him . . ; if anyone should . . . sic him against Shvonder himself, nothing will be left of him.”

The struggle assumes acute forms.

The conservatives dream of shooting or hanging their opponents and subdue Sharikov with ether and at gunpoint. There are several fights between Sharikov and Bormenthal, the younger and more militant of the two intellectuals; indeed, he is the first to suggest the counteroperation. The Professor is quite aggressive too; according to Sharik (as yet the dog), “He is just like me …. he’ll nip them in a second.” Shvonder and Co., in turn, would like to arrest Preobrazhensky; they lodge a denunciation against him, and Sharikov arms himself with a revolver.

The outcome invented by Bulgakov is bold, both as a narrative tour de force and in its political symbolism. Sharikov’s victory is thwarted only at the last moment by the nearly supernatural reverse surgery. The operation returns the rebel-turned-ruler to the state of the “delightful dog” he used to be, whose appropriate place is at his master’s feet. In literary terms, this constitutes a unique case of antitotalitarian lobotomy, for usually such operations are performed on doubting intellectuals and individualists.

Thus: the “extirpation of fantasy” in Zamiatin’s We (and subsequent dystopias; see Chapter 9); the surgery-assassination of the Komandarm in Pilnyak’s The Tale of the Unextinguished Moon (1926); and the caging of Prisypkin, for scientific purposes, in The Bedbug. The latter, in turn, echoes Pilnyak’s Machines and Wolves (1924-25), where the wolf, an embodiment of the Scythian principle, is put in a cage and becomes “like a machine” (Jensen 1979: 252-53).


The problem of violence is at the core of the tale. On the level of values, Preobrazhensky is against violence: he professes kindness and education to be the proper tools of progress, and while in control, he adheres to these principles. “By kindness [laskoi ]. The only method possible in dealing with living creatures. By terror you cannot get anywhere with an animal, no matter what its stage of development.” “Nobody should be whipped…. Neither man, nor animal can be influenced by anything but suggestion.” “Never attempt a crime… . You must reach old age with clean hands.”6/p>

Indeed, thanks to his professional stature and highly placed patients,7Preobrazhensky can afford a measure of independence and even some ‘gratuitous gestures’ (such as his defiant refusal to accede to Shvonder’s demagogic demand to help German children). One of his peaceful levers of influence is ‘food,’ with which he attracts the dog in the first place and later keeps Sharikov in check, threatening an embargo.

Having exhausted all peaceful means, however, the two doctors resort to “crime” after all. To be sure, they justify it by Sharikov’s aggressiveness, the impossibility “to wait until we succeed in turning this hoodlum into a man,” and by his being the Professor’s “own creature, the product of [his] experiment.” But although violence is contrary to the Professor’s beliefs, a hubristic flaw is already inherent in the surgical — Frankensteinian — feat he has performed, i. e., the original transplantation: “Instead of feeling [his] way and moving parallel to nature, [he] force[d] the question” and thus created, in Sharikov, his own nemesis.

Indeed, already the first operation is seen (and foreseen, by the dog) as “something nasty, evil, if not a real crime.”

It is performed by a “[pagan] priest,” who is clad in strange—ritual — garments (even the maid, Zina, is “suddenly wearing a smock that looks like a shroud”) and hums the aria of Aida’s Radames getting ready for human sacrifice. The two doctors are described as “hurrying murderers,” the Professor as “an inspired cutthroat” and “satiated vampire”; he shouts, “Knife!” and “becomes positively terrifying.” The chapter abounds in phrases like “the knife leapt into his hands,” “he slashed,” “plunged the knife,” “rushed in like a predator,” “treacherously stuck the needle,” “tore out,” and in gory details of manipulation with the skull, brains, heart, and seminal glands.

This carnal-criminal mix has counterparts in other chapters.

The dog is from the start injured — burned by a cruel cook. When subjected to healing procedures, he bites, and he wreaks havoc in the apartment. Chugunkin is also a victim of violence (“Cause of death: struck with a knife in the heart”). In keeping with his murderous (especially anti-feline) instincts, Sharikov is appointed exterminator of cats and other stray animals; his commissar-style leather jacket stinks accordingly (“we choked them and choked them cats yesterday”); the cats “will be used for coats [na pol’ty poidutl.”


In a variation on the Ivan Karamazov-Smerdyakov pair, influential in Russian intellectual history, Sharikov’s bloodthirsty zeal makes him a parodic version of the Professor’s pagan ways and involvement in the surgical transformation of the world. An important structural link between the two is forged by the carnivalesque motif of ‘food’ and another of Preobrazhensky’s doubles, his cook.

The Professor is a carnivorous gourmet and likes to launch into scholarly disquisitions about nutrition and the suspect quality of Soviet foodstuffs, in particular the Mosselprom sausage, which is fit only for dog food. In this he is echoed by the dog, who disdains “the Normal Diet Cafeteria for the employees of the People’s Central Economic Soviet” and Soviet cooks in general, who are thieving and cruel, unlike “the late Vlas …. the gentry’s cook for the Counts Tolstoy.”

In the Professor’s apartment, food is symbolically illuminated by the infernal flames coming from the kitchen “realm of the cook Dar’ia Petrovna,” the fleshy priestess of sexual and culinary orgies (“Dar’ia Petrovna’s face burned with eternal fiery torment and unquenched passion. Her glossy face dripped fat”). She too acts “like a furious executioner,” wielding a “sharp, narrow knife” with which she “chopped off the heads and claws of helpless grouse … tore the entrails out of chickens,” and so on and so forth, while “Sharik was torturing a grouse head.”

The animal/surgical connotations of Dar’ia’s cooking are prominent in the orchestration of the dinner motif in chapter 4. The dinner (“turkey for the second course”) is of keen interest to both Professor and dog, follows the Professor’s fumbling in the convolutions of human brains, and is hastily served just before the arrival of the “evil smelling suitcase” with Chugunkin’s corpse, leading to the operation. All this echoes the sausage from chapter 1, mentally referred to by the dog, Sharik, as “chopped mare” and “rotten horse” in a vintage Tolstoy defamiliarization.

The Tolstoyan overtones, uniting the ‘food’ and ‘gore’ motifs into a strong and subversive cluster, also include Sharik’s sweet memories of the cook Vlas and the subtextual presence of Tolstoy’s “Strider,” mentioned above as an instance of ‘animal narrative’ and additionally relevant in the ‘slaughterhouse’ context.

After Strides s death, “his skin, . . . flesh…. [and] bones were … of use” (unlike his former master’s) to wolves and people (Tolstoy 1964: 417-18).

This defiantly positive, ‘pro-nature’ view of animal death had been recycled in a provocative way in Pilnyak’s “Mother Earth” (1968 [1924-1925]), where the two urban intellectual protagonists are shown to be out of touch with nature.

The idealistic Commissar Nekul’ev falls out of love with Irina once he discovers that her characteristic smell comes from processing horse carcasses (cf. Sharikov’s stench). After she leaves, her pet “wolf-pup” is picked up by the peasant Kuzia, who realizes it is a fox and skins it for a fur hat. Of particular interest is the very technical report on the “methods of utilizing” horse remnants (cf. Sharikov’s pol’ta to be made of strangled cats), delivered by Irina to a stunned Nekul’ev (see below, “Envy”).

To sum up Bulgakov’s treatment of the ‘doubles’ motif, he gives it an original twist. On the one hand, the Professor, an attractive and eventually triumphant figure, is cast as a demonic Provocateur, an ironic philosopher interrogating the reigning order;8yet he is also a conservative, defender of the status quo. On the other hand, Sharikov, a clearly negative character, gets the star role of carnival clown, disrupter of order, civility, and culture. This paradoxical pairing reflects the peculiar historical moment when, right after the revolution, both the old regime and the new could be equally perceived as ‘the order,’ that perennial target of carnivalesque subversion. It also reflects Bulgakov’s preference for the former, ‘eternal’ order of things and his mistrust of Chaos brought on by Carnival’s elemental forces.



Olesha’s short novel boasts no less impressive an array of intertexts tapped as underpinnings for a new-Soviet-theme.9As in Bulgakov’s fantastic tale, polyphony is built into the system of narrative voices.

In part 1, the first-person narrator coincides with the foundling, only this time around he is an intellectual, who sees his benefactor both ‘from below’ and ‘from above.’ The second part is narrated by an “objective” third person, whose style, however, is close to Kavalerov’s, so that the latter’s fabulaic defeats continue being compensated by his discursive superiority.

Incorporated in the text are also fantasy stories (told by the Provocateur Ivan Babichev), two letters (Makarov’s and Kavalerov’s), a dream (Kavalerov’s nightmare), a fragment from a technical manual (proofread by Kavalerov), “Lenin-style” notes and resolutions (Andrei’s), and verse couplets (Kavalerov’s and Ivan’s).

But the tenor is different from that of Heart of a Dog; it is virtually opposite. Envy already contains many seeds of its author’s subsequent “surrender and demise” (Belinkov 1974). Olesha was one of the first to treat the officially commanded theme of industrialization and create the figure of a well-educated Soviet specialist (Andrei Babichev), superseding the 1925 models (Pilnyak’s Machines and Wolves and Gladkov’s Cement), where the Communist ideologues still have to fight for the souls of foreign specialists (Forst and Kleist, respectively).

In indicting his dissident (Kavalerov), Olesha followed the Soviet rhetoric of blaming the recalcitrant opponent for the problems he has with the human condition as such. The manipulative trick was to appropriate the full power of the attendant existential and social critique while dismissing the complexity of the problems, allegedly irrelevant to the New Man and Society.

To recall the “trials of classical literary characters” popular in the 1920s 10 Kavalerov is simultaneously tried for several mutually incompatible “crimes”: as a superfluous (Oblomov-like) little (Akaky-like) underground man, a Rastignacian individualist, a failed superman (a la Raskolnikov), and a would-be Romantic artist. Furthermore, the discussion does not take place in a rarefied as we will see, the author stacks the deck, making Kavalerov weaker and in general worse than his average real-life prototype was.

Despite such “defeatist” bias, Envy is known for its relatively evenhanded treatment of the opposite voices — a profound ambiguity that earned it attacks from both the Right and Left and a lasting place in literary history.

What, then, are Envy’s “replies” to Heart of a Dog and “leading questions” to The Master and Margarita?


Here again:

An important paternal figure picks up his ideological opponent in the gutter: a younger and weaker character, a drunkard thrown out of a pub after a fight. He puts him up in his cozy flat (with lampshades and all) and provides him with food and work.

The foundling brings in disorder, dirt,11 and squabbling over housing space and the “little sofa” he sleeps on. His love-hate of his patron ends in rebellion, and his scandalous defeat is triggered by the interception of his false denunciation.

The father figure is impressive, solid to the point of fatness. He is the master, teacher, savior, and protector of his two ‘adoptive sons,’ an elegant dresser, a “lord” (barin), and at the same time a prodigious worker. And he, like Bulgakov’s Professor, tries to reform the foundling.

He also plays father to his niece Valia, protecting her from the pernicious influence of her real father, Ivan, and Kavalerov (not unlike Preobrazhensky rescuing the poor typist from the amorous/matrimonial clutches of Sharikov).

The similarities with Heart of a Dog only set in greater relief the conversion undergone by the common plot.

Now it is a Communist boss adopting a declasse old-time intellectual and artist (Kavalerov’s profession is almost the same as Chugunkin’s: “monologues and couplets for a variety team,” while Kavalerov’s senior double, Ivan, also earned money “in beer halls[, where] he drew portraits of those who wished”). A ‘Communist lord’ is a new and controversial phenomenon. Kavalerov reacts to it by interpreting the problems it poses for him in terms of confrontations between ‘little man and Bronze Horseman’ and between ‘son and father: As for his own father, Kavalerov both dislikes him and recognizes him in himself, as somebody “already done, finished [or completed] … there won’t be anything more.”12

Kavalerov’s Oedipal paradigm also includes his sexual rivalry with Andrei (over Valia) and with Anechka’s fatherlike first husband.

The break with Andrei sends Kavalerov seeking guidance and protection from Andrei’s brother and opponent, Ivan, who plays a (mock) Christ to Kavalerov’s disciple. In terms of Heart of a Dog, this makes Ivan a ‘reverse Shvonder,’ only given much more ideological and narrative prominence as Envy’s chief Provocateur. Kavalerov’s relationship with Ivan, like that with Andrei, ends in a humiliating sexual triangle.

The problem of ‘(non)belonging’ (touched upon, but peripheral, in Heart of Dog) now becomes a central theme. Kavalerov alternately relishes (albeit with ambivalence) his vicarious and servile (kholuiskii) participation in Andrei s official status and suffers from exclusion and the ubiquity of insurmountable barriers.

Brought to the airfield by Andrei (pt. 1, chap. 9), he later finds himself outside looking in, separated by a barrier and guards from the “we” in-group. The text clearly plays with the title of Zamiatin’s then unpublished but famous novel: “We gathered at the air terminal. I say, ‘we!’ Really, I was something on the side… You are not from there,’ — the soldier said, smiling.” Thus, Kavalerov’s narrative clearly spells out the sense of his neprinadlezhnost’, ‘nonbelonging.’ 13

Ivan, on the contrary, seems to succeed in ‘transcending the barriers.’

In his wish-fulfilling “Tale” (pt. 2, chap. 6) about the inauguration-turned-destruction of Andrea’s pet project, the Chetvertak (Two Bits) diner, Ivan “did venture to get over the rope guarding the approaches to the tribunal” and eventually onto the lectern itself.

Along with physical and social barriers, there is the impenetrable communication wall that fences out Kavalerov and Ivan. The new establishment can and does ignore the outsiders. Throughout the plot, Valia fails to notice Kavalerov. Andrei never looks at him, nor does he react to his innuendoes (“He is not listening. His indifference to me is insulting”). And Makarov barely responds to Ivan. An emblem of this ‘figure of ignoring’ is the recurrent motif of Andrei s ‘unseeing gaze.’

Kavalerov perceives him as an “awesome, invincible idol with bulging eyes…. Only from the side do I see his eyes; when his face is turned in my direction his gaze isn’t there: only the pince-nez sparkles, two blind, round plates” (1: 8). Similarly, Ivan, while arguing with Andrei, “didn’t see his brother’s eyes … only the sparkle of the lenses.” 14 At the airfield, Andrei’s blind face “turns toward [Kavalerov] on an immobile body,” and in the ensuing chase at the construction site, Kavalerov can see only his nostrils, “as if…looking up from below at a monument.”15

The stone-walling of the anti-heroes by the establishment breeds in them the title emotion of the novel. The Soviet “holiday … beckons” to Kavalerov, producing the negative, self-destructive ‘envy’ syndrome, based on the acceptance of the hostile value system that rejects him. In so portraying the intellectual (anti-)hero of his time, Olesha may have been somewhat unfair but not too wide of the mark: even Mandelstam would soon sound a similar note.

In a 1931 poem,16 he regrets that it is beyond him to join “the youth” at Moscow’s stadiums and “glass palaces on chicken feet.” Even though written at a later and grimmer time, this attitude is instructive, coming as it does from the once worshipper of the “unshakable scale of values” (1914) and a future anti-Stalin epigrammatist (1933). The “stadiums” seem to refer to the football episode in Envy (2: 8-9); the “glass palaces” reactivate the (anti)utopian ‘crystal palace’ motif, 17 while the rhythm and syntax of the stanza echo an earlier nostalgia for “world culture,”18thereby poignantly certifying the sincerity of the new poem.

To be sure, in Olesha the envy syndrome is far more acute: a pathetic mixture of humility, hatred, desire for revenge (to “get Valia — as a prize — for everything: for the humiliations, . . . for my dog’s [!] life”), and defiant but impotent rage (“to leave with a bang, slam the door, as they say…. take the young world down a peg [sbit’ spesi molodomu miru]”; see also 1: 11).19

With remarkable symmetry, the ‘envy/defiance’ complex is reciprocated by the ‘new men.’

Makarov wants to “organize a union, for the knocking down of the bourgeois world a few pegs [po sbivaniiu spesi]”; “many [young Communists] envy [him]” because he lives with Andrei (cf. the stray dogs envying Sharik), while in his own heart “envy toward the machine has taken hold! … We invented it, but it turned out much more ferocious than we.”

The last element is also a variation on the ‘hybrid creatures’ motif.

If Sharikov is half man, half dog, Makarov is on his way to becoming a machine, while Ivan, on the contrary, has “corrupted” [or “debauched,” razvratil] — and thus humanized — his ideal machine, Ophelia. 20 As a result, Ophelia ends up murdering him, in full accord with the Frankensteinian paradigm.21

An important component of ‘envy’ is the kind of narrative optics it promotes: a jealously attentive, voyeuristic contemplation, somewhat from below, of the fortunate object by the virtually invisible subject (in accord with the etymology of the words zavist’ and ‘envy’ and their Latin prototype invidia, lit. “on-looking”). Inherent in this perspective (fundamentally akin to the Bloomean ‘anxiety-of-influence’ concept of writing) is a potent weapon that the ‘envier’ can use against his superior adversary: the power of observation, reporting, (re)interpreting, and distorting, stylistically and otherwise, the image of the ‘envied.’ These strategies, used to the full by the narrator, are Olesha’s original contribution to the dialogue. In the next section, we will see how Bulgakov revisits and revises the topos once again .22


The political equation in Envy is a mirror reversal of that in Heart of a Dog:

Two men representing the ancien regime are pitted against two prophets of the brave new world. In each pair, there is an older and a younger member, and in the Soviet pair, the younger (Makarov) is more aggressive and ideologically extremist than the older (Andrei), whom he finds too soft and is prepared to kill (1: 13; cf. Sharikov as a threat to Shvonder). 23

Similarly reversed is the view of the West and Western values taken, with the author’s imprimatur, by the doctors in Heart of a Dog.

Kavalerov’s flawed individualistic ideals — his dreams of being born in France, achieving world fame, being immortalized as a waxwork figure (one more hybrid!) — are a collage of characters and quotations from Western literature and history of technology. Ivan Babichev openly parades as a new Mephistopheles. Makarov, naturally, opposes the bourgeois world, both philosophically and physically, as he confronts on the football field the embodiment of Western success, the celebrated German player Getzke. The narrator openly disapproves of the individualist aesthetics of this star (“the famous Getzke … strove only to show his skill [or art, iskusstvo]”), whose name sounds like a pejorative-diminutive version of Goethe.

Andrei’s command of European culture is more of a surprise, especially when compared to Kavalerov’s exaggerated ignorance.

Andrei Babichev has lived abroad (as a former revolutionary exile) and speaks German. Kavalerov does not, and is only able to guess, from the rhyme and the foreign guests’ laughter, that Andrei “ended the conversation [in German] with a proverb.” This is a characteristic pro-Soviet sleight of hand by the author, especially since elsewhere Kavalerov archly spoofs Babichev’s primitive and at times ungrammatical Russian (befitting a Soviet apparatchik; cf., on the contrary, in Heart of a Dog, the two doctors’ conspiratorial recourse to German vorsichtig, spaeter, gut — in the presence of the ignoramus Sharikov).

The struggle between the two camps is as acute as in Heart of a Dog. Both sides readily talk of violence and sometimes come down to fisticuffs.

Kavalerov, goaded by Ivan and on his own, keeps planning the assassination of Andrei. Ivan threatens to strangle Valia. Makarov threatens to and does beat up Kavalerov. Both Andrei and Makarov speak of shooting Ivan. Makarov threatens, Frankenstein-style, to kill Andrei, while Ophelia is envisioned (in Kavalerov’s dream) killing Ivan. Ivan foretells Andrei’s death at the hands of Ophelia, while Kavalerov sees Valia’s “collarbones flashing like daggers” in a foreshadowing of Ivan’s destruction by Ophelia (which reinforces the important parallel between Valia and Ophelia).

Unlike the old-timers, the new masters also have the options of arresting the antagonists (see the confrontations of Andrei and Ivan and the GPU episode) or packing them off to the lunatic asylum. Even in Ivan’s own “Tale” Andrei believes that Ivan is “seriously ill .. . delirious.” The threat of psychiatric commitment corresponds to the dystopian lobotomy motif, reversed in the two medics’ use of surgery in Heart of a Dog.


Once again, ‘food’ — indeed, sausage — plays a central, well-nigh mythological role in the narrative.

Andrei Babichev is a fat man, “a glutton and a gourmandizer” (while eating, “his eyes became bloodshot”). From his father he has inherited a gift for cooking. He likes to hold forth on the topic of food (“We don’t know how to make sausages! … Real sausages should spatter”). “He is a mighty sausage-maker, confectioner, and cook.”

But unlike Preobrazhensky and the dog Sharik, Andrei (along with Kavalerov and probably Olesha) takes the Soviet Breadtrust, the Supreme Soviet for National Economy, and the like seriously.

“He [Andrei] heads everything that concerns glutting…. He would like to give birth to food. He gave birth to ‘Two Bits’ — his crystal palace. Not only does he want to ‘father’ food; he wants to ‘marry’ it:24 “Like a bridegroom who has noticed how beautiful his young bride is,” he blushes, proud of the “cooked, tea-time sausage: a fat, evenly rounded rod cut,” “a tightly stuffed intestine,” “a beauty!”

The ‘pagan priest’ metaphor is also prominent. Andrei s laughter is that of a zhrets (1: 3), and his negative double, Ivan, is described as a “priestlike [kak zhrets] devourer of crayfish” (2: 2). Andrei’s other ‘double’ is, in a remarkable analogy to Heart of a Dog’s Dar’ia, the widow Anechka Prokopovich.

She too gives Kavalerov shelter, bed, and nourishment. The parallel is reinforced by Andrei’s androgynous traits, beginning with his plumpness and female surname (baba means “[folksy] woman”)25 and the snoring habit they share.

But above all, Anechka shares with Andrei the leitmotif association with the kitchen, sausage, and slaughter.

She “cooks dinner for the barbers’ artel’,” is “fat, and flabby. You can squeeze her out like a liver sausage.” And she is consistently shown at the kitchen stove. “She feeds cats. Silent, slender cats fly up after her hands with electrodynamic movements. She strews some sort of giblets to them…. Once I slipped, having stepped on something’s heart [!] — small and tightly formed like a chestnut. She walks enmeshed in cats and the blood vessels of animals. A knife sparkles in her hand. She tears through intestines with her elbows like a princess through a cobweb.” 26

But then, according to Makarov, Andrei himself is a backward cook, too close to crude butchering, despite all his emphasis on industrialization that so upsets Kavalerov.

“You are using primitive means. You are happy cutting up calves” (Makarov’s letter to Andrei; 1: 13). “In the evening I proofread: ‘The blood collected during slaughter may be processed either for food, for the preparation of sausage, or for the manufacture of light and dark albumin, glue, buttons, paints, fertilizers, and feed for cattle, fowl and fish…. The heads and hooves of sheep with the aid of spiral electric drills, 27 automatic-acting cleaning machines, gas-operated lathes, and scalding vats are processed for food products, industrial bone oil, the hair and bones for various articles.”‘

Babichev’s brochure reads like a variation on the ‘technoslaughter’ topos we have noted in connection with the transplantation surgery and cats-to-coats processing in Heart of a Dog.

Its direct subtext seems to be the following passage from chapter 3 of Pilnyak’s “Mother Earth”: “Anna began to speak in a matter-of-fact way …: ‘The skin is used for leather, the fats are used in soap-making, we feed the proteins to the pigs. The bones and sinews go to the glue works. Then the bones are ground to make fertilizer. We waste nothing here [U nas vse ispol’zyvaetsia]: Anna’s hands were covered with blood” (1968: 57).

In a striking parallel to Pilnyak’s line about waste, Kavalerov, parodying Andrei Babichev, uses a similarly broken verb form in a similar context: “You want to utilize her [Valia], as you utilize [ispol’zovyvaete] (I purposely employ your word) ‘heads and hooves of sheep with the aid of … electric drills’” (1: 11). 28

Associated with ‘food,’ in particular through its ‘carnal’ overtones, is the topos of ‘love and sex,’ bearing some resemblance to that of Heart of a Dog, notably to Sharikov’s sexual harassment of the two women servants, his abortive marriage to the typist, and Dar’ia’s powerful sexuality (supposedly quenched by her fireman boyfriend).29 But in Olesha’s novel it is much more prominent, forming a major theme and the source of narrative suspense. In this respect, Envy incorporates, compressed into a nutshell, elements of the novelistic tradition, with its families, triangles, rivalries, and (eventual) marriages — a repertoire to which it adds the modernist motifs of androgyny, homosexuality, sex a trots, and others. These genre differences correspond to the shift of thematic focus: from an all-out philosophical subversion of the ‘new man’ in Heart of a Dog (combining a surgically resolved sci-fi cum gothic plot with elements of a political tract) to a close, and painfully ambivalent, look at the ‘new vs old’ human emotions (as signaled by Olesha’s very title).

Hence ‘love-and-sex,’ always provocatively linked to ‘food,’ are at the core of Envy’s plot.

Kavalerov dreams in his sleep of a “sweet young thing” (prelestnaia devchonka) whose love costs “just two bits” (the associations with Valia’s looks, Anechka’s venality, and Andrei’s diner are unmistakable). Andrei is in love with his “beauty” the sausage, priced at only “thirty-five kopecks.” The sausage exudes strong sexual fluids, both anal and phallic, in accordance with Andrei’s own bisexual image. Kavalerov (who despite the manly ring of his surname, meaning something like “Mr. Beau” or “Mr. Knight,” is obsessively insecure about his masculinity) has a grotesque attack of castration fear in connection with Andrei’s sausage: having to take it across town, he “several times was ready to fling ]it] over the railing … into the waves,” much in the manner of Gogol’s barber carrying Kovalev’s cut-off nose (!). On receiving the sausage, the addressee, another sausage expert, “congratulate [s Andrei] and want[s] to kiss [him].”

‘Food,’ ‘sex,’ and ideology also come together in the issue of byt (‘everyday lifestyle,’ esp. the ‘food and lodging conditions’).

Andrei wants to abolish the traditional family, sordid private kitchens, and the idea of privacy in general, replacing them with communal diners and other crystal palaces on a humankind scale (“We are not a family — we are humanity”).

Ivan defends “native home — home, sweet home!” (cf. Preobrazhensky’s pleas for the right “to dine in the dining room, and operate in the surgery!” chap. 2). As an emblem of home, family, and traditional human links and feelings, he carries a pillow; he brings it to his public confrontations with his daughter and his brother, claims that she used to sleep on it and that Andrei, crushed by Ophelia, will come to die on it.

In Kavalerov’s case, the pillow is echoed by his strong identification with beds, sheets, and blankets (in both Andrei’s and Anechka’s apartments), symbolizing his infantilism and sexual anxieties.

The narrative’s ambivalence vis-a-vis the world of flesh is also projected onto the portrayal of women, represented by two opposite but equally threatening and essentially castrating types, Gogol-style. The carnal, mother-earth figure of Anechka is opposed to the unattainable, ideal, sexless, adolescent, tomboyish, machine- and dagger-like Valia. Kavalerov and Ivan rush between the two, drawn to and angry at both, 30 while the ‘new men’ are indifferent to sex, proclaiming the demotion of family values and emancipation of women from homemaking and byt: Makarov and Valia plan to get married only four years later and not to kiss until the opening of the Two Bits diner.

This incorporeal rationalism in matters of love and marriage has a positive prototype in Chernyshevsky’s family engineering in What Is to Be Done? and a negative one, in the Enlightenment-inspired attitude of the Bolkonsky father and son (War and Peace), who postpone and thus doom Andrei’s and Natasha’s wedding. At a more general level, Valia’s cluster of asexual features is an original and successful combination of the traditional virginality of the novelistic heroine (who does not get married until the end) with the new technological, utopian, and sexual-revolutionary topoi.31

Valia is not given any distinct social role of her own and is dependent on the male parental figures (her disowned father and adoptive father/uncle); thus, she remains a typical romantic damsel waiting for prince charming, her newly acquired athletic ways being but a new version of Natasha Rostova’s adolescent prankishness. On the other hand, her “soaring” over the ground (in Kavalerov’s dream; 2: 11), her “dagger-like collarbones,” and other affinities with the murderous Ophelia are a new hybrid of romantic (Gothic) and dystopian (machinistic) elements.


The shift from carnal surgery to the sphere of feelings, prestige, and perceptions does not mean a renunciation of carnival. If anything, Olesha’s novel is more carnivalesque than Heart of a Dog, with the difference that the focus is now on ‘symbolic action.’ Since the antiheroes’ major problem is their ‘invisibility’ to the new establishment, two principal counterstrategies are available to them: exploiting their powers of vision and maneuvering themselves into positions of visibility.32 The former underlies much of the novel’s ‘invidious’ narrative (as discussed earlier); the latter is put to provocative use by Kavalerov and Ivan Babichev through their mostly dreamed-of, wished-for, or otherwise symbolic actions. Both strategies, especially the latter, are by definition intimately connected, indeed, tend to merge with the creative — literary or theatrical — act itself.

Symbolic action compensating for real-life defeat is another name for ‘gratuitous gestures’ (as practiced by Professor Preobrazhensky). Olesha’s anti-heroes engage in or threaten clowning, scandals, assassination, suicide.

Kavalerov wants “to raise the barrier [!) with a big scandal … suddenly just go ahead and do something obviously absurd, to perpetrate some sort of ingenious prank [genial’noe ozorstvo, “a prank of genius”] and then to say: ‘So that’s the way you are, and this is the way I am: To come out on a square and do no matter what, and exit bowing…. Suicide without any motive. Out of mischief…. [C]ommitting a disgusting malicious crime” [the assassination of Andrei].

Of paramount importance to this rhetoric (originating with Dostoevsky’s underground man and ideological suicides like Kirillov) is the element of provocative ‘publicity’:

Kavalerov challenges a “troupe of monsters” in a beer hall. Ivan, who plans “to leave with a bang,” organizes (real and imaginary) disputes and demonstrations, including his pet project-the “last conspiracy/parade of feelings.”

This distinguishes Envy from Heart of a Dog (Preobrazhensky delivers his gratutious speeches in the privacy of his dining room, and only out of necessity and in self-defense — before the intruding officials) and foreshadows the public performances to be put on by Woland and his troupe.

Now that Order has become firmly associated with Soviet reality, the role of clowning provocateurs devolves to its rejected opponents.

Kavalerov repeatedly refers to himself as a “jester” and “clown,” and Ivan deliberately poses as a carnival ‘king of fools’: his self-description, korol’ poshliak6v, “king of vulgarians,” is a rhyming echo of the carnivalesque phrase korol’ durak6v. Even Andrei is endowed with clownish traits (fatness, gluttony, etc.), at least in the perceptions of Kavalerov and Ivan (especially in his “Tale of the Meeting of Two Brothers”).

A major provocateurial cluster (anticipatory of The Master and Margarita) is based on a carnivalesque inversion of the Gospels.

Ivan is a “new preacher.” He poses as a mock Christ, refers to his Calvary, gets himself arrested and interrogated by the GPU. His conversation with the anonymous Soviet Pontius Pilate is modeled on a similar episode in Ehrenburg’s Jurenito (which, in turn, goes back to the Grand Inquisitor chapter of Brothers Karamazov), while his “reverse miracles” (wine to water, etc.) go back to Goethe’s Mephistopheles. Ivan undertakes a Mephistophelian seduction of Kavalerov and at the same time playfully disclaims his satanism in his doggerel verses, in which he claims he is “no German hocus-poker” but a “modest, Soviet joker,” a “modern sorcerer.”

Ivan is not only Kavalerov’s master but also his senior ‘double’ as far as his frustrated ambitions are concerned. As an artist of sorts (versifier, inventor, hypnotist, etc.), he talks of fusing his envy and the aesthetics of gratuitous gesture into a planned carnival of feelings that are spurned by the New Man, in a sort of modern Walpurgisnacht (the novel’s draft actually mentions a witches’ Sabbath).33

For this, Ivan needs a “demonic woman, and [her] tragic lover. But where should one look for him? In Sklifosovsky Hospital?” (2: 3). “I dreamed of finding a woman who would blossom in this hole with an unprecedented feeling…. I found such a being … Valia” (2: 4). But as the New Men succeed in taking her away from him, he pins all his hopes on the imaginary, feminine and sinful, machine, Ophelia, whom he sends (in his wishful storytelling) to destroy the Two Bits diner.

The (future) celebration of the Chetvertak’s opening (of the kind usually reserved the culmination place in Soviet production novels, e.g., Cement [Clark 1981: 259]) is rewritten — or shall we say reproduced, re-performed — by Ivan as its spectacularly theatrical destruction.

“They took [Andrei] for the master of ceremonies [konferans’el”; “the public was switching its attention, ready to watch and listen to the actors”; when Andrei failed to stop Ivan, the “crowd screeched:… ‘This is hypnosis!’ ” “And indeed the whole scene could have been taken for a performance…. After all, actors often appear out of the audience. And what’s more, real actors were pouring out of the wooden shed. Yes, like nothing other than a butterfly, a ballerina fluttered out from behind the boards. A clown in a monkey vest was climbing onto the lectern” (2: 6).

As for Ivan, he “stood leaning on the rope, or rather half sat on the rope hanging his rear over it, and, not caring about what complete disorder would occur if the rope should break, imperturbably, apparently amused, swung himself on the rope.” Later, he emerged on the lectern with a pillow in his hand, as a typical circus or carnival clown.

In a draft version, Ivan refers to himself as “a touring actor … giving a gala performance in the provinces” (Ingdahl 1984: 94). Kavalerov appears there barefoot and draped in his blanket as a mock Christ (a foreshadowing of this scene made it to the published text; 2: 11), anticipating Woland’s attire: “a long, dirty, black nightshirt, patched on the left shoulder” (chap. 22) and the intermittently half- and undressed state of Ivan Bezdomny in The Master and Margarita.

Remarkable are also the German/magical origins of the machine Ophelia: Andrei’s arguments against her/its existence (“Who is this she? … It was just the wind that knocked a lantern against a beam…. That’s a shadow!” 2: 6) are patterned on the reassuring explanations given by the father to his child in Goethe’s “Erlkoenig.”

On balance, the alignment of values and subversions in Envy is much closer to the archetypal Bakhtinian-Rabelaisian carnival than in Heart of a Dog. And yet despite all his ambiguities, Olesha too exhibits a measure of preference for monologic seriousness, anxious to distance himself from his clowns and to protect from them the representatives of Order — in his case, the triumphant Soviet establishment.

The Master and Margarita


In his last finished novel, Bulgakov continued his carnivalesque subversion of the Soviet system, especially its cultural scene. Focused on the problems of writing, a writer’s life, and coping with the Truth, the novel is famous for deploying a panoply of cultural references 34 (often shared with Heart of a Dog and Envy) and foregrounding the multilayered Text.

Regarding the narrative structure, the Moscow and Jerusalem subplots are told in different voices — a satirical and a more objective one, respectively. There are the historical, fictional, and fantastic planes. The text comprises dreams, framed stories, staged performances, telegrams, poems, songs, characters’ memories, and so on.

These polyphonic techniques are echoed by a similar treatment of characterization.

Characters literally split into several voices (e.g., Azazello talking to Annushka on the staircase landing; Ivan Bezdomny in the psychiatric hospital, as his ‘old’ and ‘new’ selves argue with each other); use double-talk (e.g., Pilate in his veiled instructions to Arthanius concerning the execution of Judas); and undergo drastic identity transformations, internal and/or external (Woland and his team of tricksters, Bezdomny, Margarita, Natasha, Varenukha).

The novel’s various layers and splits are held together by numerous motific and textual correspondences, which include

— doubling of characters (the Master and Yeshua; Ivan and Levi Matthu; Woland and Arthanius);

— sharing of thoughts and intentions by different characters (e.g., Pilate and Levi Matthu);

— reification of tropes (e.g., of references, made “in vain,” to the devil);

— inner voices and thoughts of characters, overheard and promptly responded to by others (mostly by the demonic/ divine characters — Woland’s team, Yeshua, but also Margarita).35

The interplay of polyphony and unity (i.e., essentially, monologism) is nowhere so evident as in the status of the Jerusalem subplot.

It is presented as a collective or anonymous Absolute Text that belongs to many narrators (Woland; the Master: “Oh, how well I guessed it all!” [chap. 13]; Ivan Bezdomny; the [implied and real) author; and Reality itself) and is eventually read by its divine protagonist (Yeshua).

In other words, this time around, Bulgakov wraps his satirical monologism in an atmosphere of genuine Carnival. The dialogism is also enhanced by

— casting demonic clowns-provocateurs as officers of supreme justice;

— a total theatricalization of the plot;

— a dualistic juxtaposition of the two worlds;

— the imperfection of the hero (the Master); and

— the unfinishedness of the Pilate — Yeshua exchange.

A major dialogic dimension is added to all this by the position The Master and Margarita takes vis-a-vis Envy and Heart of a Dog.


The motifs of ‘shelter’ and ‘communal squabbling’ reemerge in The Master and Margarita, but in a radically modified version.

The Master acquires his own cozy flat with a table, lampshade, and sofa. Similarly, his disciple Bezdomny (lit. Homeless) is shown in the epilogue working by a lamp in his apartment. The Master’s self-sufficiency is achieved by the Master only thanks to the sponsorship of higher powers, in the shape first of a lottery win and eventually of the “eternal refuge” granted him by Woland. 36

Predictably, the first, this-worldly domestic idyll is soon undone by Soviet reality: the Master is denounced, evicted, and arrested, and becomes a “pauper” (cf. Kavalerov’s similar self-perception). But unlike the situation in Envy, this is not the whole story.

The housing problem ends in the eviction of the evictor (Aloysius Mogarych), as part of Woland’s denounce-and-punish campaign against the “Muscovites, soured by the housing shortage.” Also unlike the situation in Envy, Margarita leaves her husband’s spacious government-provided apartment; later, having turned into a witch, she wrecks a whole apartment building (owned by the members of the Soviet cultural establishment). Another house becomes the epicenter of Woland’s pernicious activities, centering on apartment 50, which belongs to two Soviet nouveau bosses (Berlioz and Likhodeev), but undergoes a ruthless ‘de-consolidation’ (the bosses are evicted; cf. Heart of a Dog) and transformation into the devils’ den (the title of chap. 7 refers to it as nekhoroshaia kvartira, reminiscent of the pokhabnaia kvartirka in Heart of a Dog).

This aesthetic of destruction is a characteristic new twist. In Heart of a Dog, the Professor defended order and the sanctity of home from Sharik/Sharikov’s carnivalesque destructiveness. Similarly, in Envy, “things liked Andrei,” not the clown Kavalerov. The other clown, Ivan, repeatedly created provocative disorder, and both of them ended up in the pathetic and slovenly abode of the widow Prokopovich.

In The Master and Margarita, however, the obsession with mundane comforts is an accusation leveled at typically Soviet people, who are then punished accordingly.

The likable clowns/provocateurs/wreckers, who mete out the punishments, take the side of the independent intellectuals, who this time do not mind wreaking havoc in somebody’s bathroom on an even grander scale than Sharikov. The destruction befalls Latunsky’s apartment, the currency shop, the Griboedov restaurant, the money and goods produced by “black magic” for the covetous Soviet audience.

Thus Bulgakov, having absorbed a measure of Envy’s ‘disorder,’ moves to a more carnivalesque position.

A new spin is also given to the motif of ‘education/apprenticeship’ (a cognate of ‘adoption’ and ‘fathering’). 37 It is central to the plot, involving such pairs of protagonists as Matthu and Yeshua, Ivan and the Master, Natasha and Margarita, the petty demons and Woland. The reeducation of the foundling (Ivan Bezdomny) meets with more success than in the two previous cases; its direction is the same as that in Heart of a Dog but opposite to that in Envy.

Sharikov had to be returned back to his canine state; Kavalerov remained unreformed by Andrei. Now Ivan Bezdomny, a loudmouthed Soviet literary hack, is transformed into a truth-seeking intellectual, while in Envy the “hack” label was stuck on Kavalerov (despite the indubitable talent evidenced by his narrative) and on Getzke, the self-centered artist of German soccer. One could also argue that Bezdomny’s apprenticeship with the Master is a positive version of Kavalerov’s apprenticeship with Ivan Babichev.

The official ideological dogma and way of life are also abandoned, in one way or another, by Margarita, the Master, Varenukha (who becomes a vampire), Natasha, Levi Matthu, Pilate. To those who will not desist, severe — sometimes capital — punishment is in store.

The ‘envy’ complex, too, undergoes a conversion. Now it is the members of the literary establishment (the MASSOLIT writers’ union) who are envious of one another.

An eloquent passage, spiced with irony, is devoted to the title theme of Olesha’s novel — and in connection with a restaurant, too (“Who will say anything in defense of envy?” chap. 5); and the remark “Lavrovich has six [rooms] to himself…. And his dining room is paneled in oak!” revisits, with a gloating wink, Shvonder’s strictures against Professor Preobrazhensky’s housing habits.

The antiestablishment characters, on the contrary, are free from this syndrome.

Ivan Bezdomny watches “without envy” the happy reunion of the Master and Margarita. As for the Master, who is denied entry to the writers’ world, he feels not envy but disbelief and horror. Unlike Kavalerov, he does not crave fame (despite Margarita’s initial prodding, which she comes to regret). Even Riukhin realizes that no fame short of Pushkin-scale glory is worth much, and a Pushkinian view of literary values is recognizable in the otherworldly rest (pokoi) reserved for the Master in the end (in a positive, indeed sublime version of Kavalerov’s utter indifference at the end of Envy) 38

As for the barriers set up by the new establishment (in The Master and Margarita, as in Envy), they now come to be magically transcended.

Behemoth’s and Koroviev’s favorite hobby consists of invading the Soviet bosses’ offices and the elite’s currency shop and restaurant, providing a triumphant sequel to the pranks of Ivan Babichev. Thus, Behemoth’s kerosene primus and his wicked toppling of the chocolate pyramid are similar, respectively, to Ivan’s pillow and his balancing on the rope fence. And in what reads like a literal vindication of Kavalerov’s craving to participate in the Soviet feast of life, Margarita and the Master are invited to (and she presides over) the Satan’s ball.

The protagonists’ ‘belonging,’ and at the very top too, is underscored in both spatial and temporal terms. Contrary to Kavalerov’s futile chase after the diabolically elusive Andrei, Woland’s agents seek out the two antiestablishment heroes and decide, for their sake, “to prolong the festive midnight for a while.”


The political equation is not as symmetrical as before: both the balance of power and the conflict’s center of gravity are now different. The mirror symmetry, of the kind pervasive in Heart of a Dog and Envy, is replaced with a more complex pattern involving a third, Satanic force. This third force sides with but is quite separate from the positive heroes (the Master, Margarita, Yeshua), while in the two previous texts, the demonic element was distributed between the opponents (Sharikov and Preobrazhensky, Andrei and Ivan). Nor do the representatives of the official camp form neat pairs with their opponents. Rather, the ‘officials’ are many and secondary in narrative and spiritual stature; and they either reform (Bezdomny, Pilate) or are dispatched quite decisively by the combined forces of the satirical narrative, the (literally) devilish plot, and judgment in light of absolute values.

The ‘absolutist’ stance includes, among other things, a Westernism taken for granted (as in Azazello’s view of Moscow: “I prefer Rome, Messire”; chap. 29) and a rhetorical shift from ideological arguments (which are from the start declared irrelevant: Christ just existed, and no proofs are needed) to specific accusations (of stealing, lying, cowardice, meanness) and appropriate punishments.

Still, the general framework of the struggle on the whole follows, and varies, the familiar paradigm: debate, arrest, psychiatric hospitalization, physical repression. Ideological confrontations are many, involving Woland and the two litterateurs (Berlioz and Bezdomny), the Master and his critics, Yeshua and Pilate, Levi Matthu and Pilate, and so on. But more than anything, the novel reads like a record of an epidemic of 1930s-style arrests, aggravated by the provocative participation of Woland and his team.

Bezdomny’s urge to deport Immanuel Kant to the Gulag for his proof of God’s existence and to “sort out” Woland39 is followed by numerous disappearances of major and minor characters, arrested not for “ten days,” as in Envy, but for real. Some of the disappearances (e.g., the Master’s) are arranged by the victims’ colleagues and neighbors, others by the devils, provocatively engaging in Soviet-style denunciations. In many cases (e.g., Likhodeev’s), Woland and his minions attend to the deporting themselves. The arrest of the Master is only hinted at (chap. 13), probably for Aesopian reasons, but this is compensated for by the fully elaborated martyrdom of Yeshua (which can also be seen as a reification of Ivan Babichev’s largely imaginary Calvary in Envy). The interplay between the mystique of the Soviet secret police and the truly supernatural powers reaches its climax in the failed arrest of the devils-in one more materialization of Ivan Babichev’s vindictive dream tales.

The psychiatric ward option, with which Makarov threatened Ivan Babichev, develops into the very real Stravinsky clinic, to which characters are hauled in droves.

The hospital’s role as an analog to the unmentionable Gulag is underscored by the exchange between the Master and Bezdomny in the psychiatric ward (chap. 13): “Itak, sidim?” — “Sidim.” In the English version (“So, here we are?” — “Here we are”), this Aesopian pun remains as innocent as it ostensibly is in Russian, unless the second meaning of the verb sidet’, “to sit,” is taken into account: “to do time [in jail].”

In the high literary tradition, those pronounced insane (the Master, Bezdomny, Woland) are, of course, much wiser than their “normal” denunciators.

The topos has been defined by the ‘madness’ of Hamlet and Chatsky (in Griboedov’s Woe from Wit), the compulsory lobotomy of fantasy in Zamyatin’s We, and Ilf and Petrov’s dissidents seeking refuge from purges in Dr. Titanushkin’s psychiatric clinic (The Golden Calf, chap. 16, a likely source of Bulgakov’s episode).

The potent mix of police arrests with repressive medicine and outright devilry may seem — and is — idiosyncratically Bulgakovian, and yet it too had been anticipated by Olesha.

The three elements, often appearing separately in Envy, come together in the confrontation of the two antagonist brothers: “‘To the GPU!’ [Andrei] said. Hardly had the magic word been pronounced when everything came out of its lethargy, rousing itself’ (2: 3; italics added).

In a broader perspective, of course, these (and some other) features of The Master and Margarita signal its kinship to modern dystopias.

In accordance with the dystopian masterplot (see Chapter 9 of the present volume), the novel centers on a protagonist who falls out of the system, becomes a truth seeker, writer, and ailing man. His love relationship with a woman focuses on writing and safeguarding his book, and they move beyond the boundaries of the system’s space and time. The plot involves suprarealistic forces (this time around, magical rather than the usual science-fictional) and so on.

But Bulgakov’s optimistic tone and the protection extended by his Provocateurs to the positive heroes clearly distinguish The Master and Margarita from “regular” dystopias.


The reification of vicious metaphors results in an orgy of physical violence, which for the most part is done to the representatives of the new order by their victims or by the satanic tricksters acting on their behalf. The great terror of the 1930s is implied, avenged, and ambivalently replicated by the provocative desacralization of death in

— the provisional beheading of Bengalsky and the terminal executions of Berlioz and Baron Meigel;

— the cheerfully cruel disclosure of the date of the greedy bar manager’s imminent death (chap. 18);

— the episode of “invalid shooting” (nedeistvitel’noi strel’by) in the course of the attempt to arrest the magic cat (chap. 27), which fitfully crowns the novel-long play with ‘murder mania’; and

— Matthu’s plan to kill Yeshua and Judas, Margarita’s determination to poison Latunsky, and the execution of Judas by Pilate and Arthanius (chap. 13).

The fanciful cruelty of such scenes reflects the leitmotif of ‘arbitrary gesture,’ typical of the entire triptych.

Besides visiting a well-motivated (but quite excessive and spectacular) vengeance upon the Master’s nemesis, Latunsky, Margarita-turned-witch engages in pranks dictated by a distinctly arbitrary desire “to do something amusing and interesting as a way of saying good-bye.” Implementing Ivan Babichev’s program of a ‘door-slamming exit,’ Margarita undertakes such “unnecessary acts” as breaking a streetlamp to pieces.40

Indeed, in Margarita, who now speaks in a “criminal voice,” Woland has found the “demonic woman” once sought by Olesha’s provocateur for his “parade of feelings.”

Margarita’s literary genealogy is similar to Ophelia’s: her homonym prototype was to Faust what Ophelia’s was to Hamlet. She too is a hybrid creature: woman and witch, a product of provocateurial corruption; and like Olesha’s Ophelia (and Valia), she becomes airborne, a condition she uses to destroy the establishment’s crystal palace — in her case, the Dramlit Building.

Incidentally, as she stops by to soothe the little boy whose sleep has been disturbed by the noise, she does so in a way reminiscent of the same “Erlkoenig” implied in the corresponding passage in Envy: to the boy’s question “Where are you, auntie?” she replies, la tebe snius”‘ (lit. “I am being dreamed by you”; chap. 21).

Bulgakov’s (quasi-)historical and fantastic episodes confer the status of fictional ‘reality’ on what Olesha introduced under the proviso of dreams, metaphors, and figments of characters’ imaginations. Reified in the primary narrator’s text of The Master and Margarita are the vindictive designs of Olesha’s antiestablishment protagonists, their conspiracy of feelings, and the mythological figures they identified with or pretended to become.

The Master and Margarita features, in flesh and blood, such figures as Jesus Christ, Pontius Pilate, Roman soldiers (cf. Ivan Babichev’s childhood episode involving the Pharsalus battle), and Woland-Mephistopheles (i.e., in Ivan Babichev’s words, a “German hocus-poker,” “a modest Soviet joker,” a “modern sorcerer”).

The ‘parade of old feelings’ even takes place twice. The first time, it is a farce at the Variety theater (claimed, as in Envy, to be a mere case of collective hypnosis); the second time, a bona fide mysterial rite, the Satan’s ball. The ball is, as it were, Kavalerov’s waxwork hall of fame come alive, with the Master and Margarita living his dream of attained dignity while Woland and Abadonna carry out his fantasies of deadly vengeance.


The Master is lucky in love. Bulgakov rehabilitates his weak superfluous man and romantic dreamer by having him conquer his traditional counterpart, the strong woman of Russian literature.

Contrary to Olesha’s Valia,41 Margarita leaves her highly placed Soviet husband to share the life and fate of the Master. It is Kavalerov’s dream come true (“Not you — I’ll get Valia. We’ll thunder in Europe — there, where they love glory”; Envy, 1: 11).While Valia fails to notice Kavalerov at close range, Margarita meets, the Master as she is out looking for him (“She said that she had come out with the yellow flowers that day so that I’d find her at last”; chap. 13).

In both cases, the encounter takes place in a small lane off Tverskaia Street (quite probably the same, to judge by the topographical clues). Both heroines are caught at the moment of an important transition. Both scenes involve ‘flowers,’ which are offered and rejected, foreshadowing the eventual tragedy. Kavalerov’s perception of Valia’s collarbones as “daggers” is echoed, with a difference, by the Master’s description of his and Margarita’s instant love as having “leaped out at us like a brigand with a switchblade knife.”42

In another sense, however, Bulgakov’s treatment of ‘love and sex’ is rather traditional — ‘absolutist,’ as it were, and certainly less ambiguous than Olesha’s. Despite the abundant carnivalesque display of naked female flesh (including Margarita’s), the relationship between the title protagonists remains a romantically disembodied one.

‘Food’ is less than central to The Master and Margarita, but its treatment is consistent with the general dynamics of our dialogic triad.

The bleak view of Soviet reality is emblematized by Woland’s axiom that the abolition of spiritual absolutes entails a shortage of foodstuffs: “How come, whatever one reaches for [chego ni khvatish’sia], it doesn’t exist here?!” — be it God, Satan, or mineral water (chap. 3). Soviet food services are based on such “nonsense” as “sturgeon of the second freshness” (chap. 18); decent food can be obtained only in the crystal palaces of the new elite, closed to the public (the Griboedov restaurant, the currency store). It is these that Woland and his team subject to carnivalesque destruction or at least practical sarcasm. (Thus, the breakfast served by Woland to the baffled Likhodeev, featuring “sausages with tomato juice” [chap. 71, might have earned the appreciation of Andrei Babichev.)

Contrary to the two preceding texts, this time ‘food’ is not fraught with sacerdotal connotations, but its links with creativity are ironically reified in the elitist writers’ restaurant’s bearing a simultaneously literary and gastronomical name — Griboedov. Named after the famous Russian writer, whose surname literally means “mushroom eater,” the club-restaurant is the object of envy of Moscow gourmets (chap. 5). In yet another probable shot at Olesha’s misguided respect for the Soviet food industry, Bezdomny mentally refers to the psychiatric clinic as a “factory-kitchen” (fabrika-kukhnia, chap. 8). And finally, the Master’s living quarters in the narrative’s present, Dr. Stravinsky’s clinic, read as a near-literal reification of Ivan Babichev’s idea about where one should look for the contemporary romantic hero-“in Sklifosovsky hospital?!”

* * *

How can the (quasi) dialogue of the two authors be summarized? Each text is ambiguous and open, if not fully polyphonic, yet each has its own ideological bias. Bulgakov voices a center-right position; Olesha “responds” in an ambiguously collaborationist, left-of-center spirit. Reacting to it, Bulgakov moves even further to the right. But the common framework of the debate remains rather stable, even as its thematics and carnivalesque treatment gradually shift from sausage and carnality to a dialogic probing of more spiritual, in particular metaliterary, issues.

Bulgakov’s 1925 semifantastic parable emphasizes the futility of revolutionary change and the importance of gradualness in the underdog’s acculturation. The tale’s bid for carnivalization is mitigated by the author’s nostalgia for law and order.

Olesha inverts the plot equation of Heart of a Dog; plays up the motifs of nonbelonging, envy, doubles, hybrid creatures, romantic love; and introduces — mostly on the stylistic and metaphorical lever and in an ambiguous, probably Aesopian manner — the themes of art, provocation, Calvary, revenge, and destruction. All this adds up to a generous measure of carnival chaos.

In The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov reifies Olesha’s metaphors, once again inverting the political equation. The absolute fabulaic vindication of the provocative wishful thinking of Envy’s anti-heroes is one of the original moves underlying the structure of The Master and Margarita. For its implementation, the novel relies on a combination of modernist and realist solutions. The introduction of the mythological plane adds a twentieth-century feature, and its naturalization through a traditional plot roots the novel in time-hallowed narrative conventions.43 Another mixed result of the lessons supposedly learned from Olesha concerns the heightened ambiguity of Bulgakov’s last novel. On one hand, the author has more clearly identified with the forces of subversion; on the other, he has farmed out this carnivalesque task (and attendant sexcapades) to special demonic clowns (Margarita the part-time witch is a notable exception), reserving for his romantic Master a strictly monological noble role.44

The ‘dialogue’ we have been discussing, whether a historical reality or a retrospective construction, need not be seen exclusively as an external, Tynianovian relationship between the two writers. Intertextualizing each other through the common literary topoi, each carried on an internal debate with himself, in the spirit of his characters and of the Bakhtinian view of dialogism.

Olesha was famous for his prophetic perceptiveness and generosity with creative ideas. Thus, he practically foretold, in a conversation reported by Lev Slavin (1975: 15), Fadeev’s suicide.

“‘He became timorous … [, Olesha said]. I pity him. There is in him a subliminal honesty. Like a powder keg. If it explodes, he will perish.’ I recalled this conversation when X. shot himself.” Fadeev is not named, but his identity is clear from the context. Slavin also notes Olesha’s perspicacity in predicting that Kazakevich would become a soldier (1975: 13).

Olesha also invented the character with limited vocabulary who was to become Ilf and Petrov’s Ellochka the cannibal (Slavin 1975: 12), and he started mentioning “the Dragon” long before Evgenii Shvarts wrote his startling eponymous play.

“A new figure should be introduced into chess. I have already thought of the name-dragon. . . . The dragon moves however it wants and takes whichever piece it chooses” (Ovchinnikov 1975: 52). “The dragon is a revolution in chess” (Kataev 1981: 193).

And he kept thinking of a film script that would feature a Black Man (Chernyi chelovek) uncannily similar to both Ivan Babichev and Woland.

The Black Man was to be “disposed against the world outlook of the new society.” He would want to use death to confound the “optimistic views” of the new youth. The “Black Man is not a ghost, but a living being. With some profession … unusual, but quite legal. I could make him a chiromancer … [or] a graphologist.” He would resemble Boris Karlov in the monster role of Frankenstein (Olesha admired the 1931 film) and “wear an old-fashioned raincoat with a velvet collar” (Gopp 1975: 151-53).

Olesha’s tragic flaw was probably the one that Bulgakov’s Yeshua considered the worst of vices. He was afraid-bothideologically and creatively — to draw from Envy the far-reaching conclusions that suggested themselves. “The difference was that, because of the makeup of his creative personality and social outlook, Bulgakov remained devoid [chuzhd] of that self-reflection which corrodes creativity and which, let us say, prevented Olesha from completing his projects” (Chudakova 1988: 535).

Bulgakov too was good at predicting. He foresaw that after his death the coffin with his body in it would hit, on the narrow staircase, the door of a neighbor playwright (Kataev 1981: 220). But then, Olesha had described in his “Liompa” (1928) the death of an intellectual whose coffin hits walls and doors on the way out. Which one of them had the last word? A month before dying a death imaged forth by Olesha a decade earlier, Bulgakov did finish the novel that Olesha dared not write and whose embryonic parts he had therefore tucked away in the dreams, fantasies, and stylistic fireworks of his anti-heroes.


1 “I snova skal’d chuzhuiu pesniu slozhit, / I kak svoiu ee proizneset” (“Ia ne slykhal rasskazov Ossiana,” Mandelstam 1967-69 [1914], 1: 41). On Mandelstam’s programmatic intertextualism, see Taranovsky 1976: esp. 1-7; Ronen 1983: esp. vii-xxi.

2 On Tynianov’s “systemic” version of Russian Formalism, see Steiner 1984: 99-137. Once viewed through the prism of modernist writing, Dostoevsky revealed to Bakhtin his inner dialogism and to Tynianov his external interplay with Gogol (see Tynianov 1977a [1921]).

3 L. E. Belozerskaia-Bulgakova explains the lack of reference to Bulgakov in Olesha’s posthumous (1965) book No Day Without a Line “by the [evil] design of a hyper-subservient editor”: “Of all people, Olesha should have been moved, by the logic of [their] mutual disposition, to recall Bulgakov” (1979: 106). On their closeness in the 1920s, see Chudakova 1988: 305.

4 The genre goes back to Lucian via Chekhov (“Kashtanka,” 1887), Gogol (“Diary of a Madman,” 1834), E. T. A. Hoffmann (“Account of the Most Recent Fortunes of the Dog Berganza,” 1813), and Cervantes (“Colloquy of the Dogs,” in his Exemplary Tales, 1613); see Ziolkowski 1983.

5 Sharik’s onomatopoetic/paronomastic linking of v’iuga (snowstorm) to names of stores (ga . . . stronomiia, Glavryba) is based on Pilnyak’s Gviiu, gvaau … Gla-vbumm! and mediated and narrativized by the barking sound gau-gau. The Glavryba = Abyrvalg palindrome harks back to some futuristic motifs in Andrei Bely’s Petersburg (1915): the Enfranshish = Shishnarfne equation and the dissertation about the “Tatarism” of the letter ыin particular, in the word r-y-y-y-y-ba (fish), consistently associated there with the ambivalent theme of ‘revolution/provocation.’

6 Cf. Ostap Bender’s proverbial reverence for the Criminal Code.

7 Cf. the motif of Evgraf Zhivago, his brother’s well-connected guardian angel (eventually a general), in Pasternak’s novel.

8 The Provocateur type-instanced by such characters as Julio Jurenito, Benia Krik, Ivan Babichev, Ostap Bender, and Woland cum retinue-emerged in the fellow-traveler writing as a result of cross-breeding Mephistopheles with traditional clowns and picaros, Sherlock Holmes-like intellectuals, and perversely enlightened Grand Inquisitors; see Chapter 9.

9 The Bronze Horseman, “The Overcoat,” Oblomov, “Notes from the Underground”; the Christian legend, Gulliver’s Travels, Don Quixote, Faust, The Prince and the Pauper; Rastignac, Quasimodo, Dick Whittington; H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds and “The Door in the Wall”; Julio Jurenito, We, Cement; Pilnyak; Mayakovsky’s and Gastev’s utilitarianism; Lenin iconography; and many more; see Beaujour 1970, Barratt 1981. In turn, echoes of Envy reverberate in The Egyptian Stamp (1928), The Golden Calf (1931), Kataev’s and Ehrenburg’s Socialist-Realist novels, and elsewhere.

10. Incidentally, the future prophet of dialogism, Bakhtin, was famous as a brilliant counsel for the defense at such trials (Clark and Holquist 1984: 50).

11. “Things don’t like” Kavalerov, and Makarov suspects that he “will bring lice”; cf. the “rack and ruin” brought by Sharikov and his fleas.

12. Note also Ivan Babichev’s conflicts with his father, as well as Olesha’s.

13. This motif, going back to Dostoevsky’s “Notes from the Underground” and projected by Olesha onto Soviet exclusionary practices, was later developed in Ilf and Petrov’s saga of Ostap Bender, who so brilliantly imitates Soviet ways and yet remains a total outsider; cf. the scene at the official opening of the railroad where he has to wait for Koreiko, a much more successful chameleon, “outside the fence” (Golden Calf, chap. 29); on the motif of ‘(non)belonging’ in the Bender novels, see Shcheglov 1986c: 90-93.

14. Cf. Professor Preobrazhensky’s eyes, which during the operation “glittered like the gold rims of his glasses,” then became “piercing, prickly,” while he “became awe-inspiring.”

15. The little man chasing in vain a powerful idol is, of course, a conversion of the Bronze Horseman’s pursuit of Evgenii; it is also akin to Gogol’s “major” Kovalev’s pursuit of his own nose turned state councillor, Mayakovsky’s “Prozasedavshiesia” (1922), and Bulgakov’s openly Gogolian “Diaboliad” (1923); and it anticipates Ostap Bender’s search for Skumbrievich in the corridors of The Herkules (Golden Calf, chap. 18). The Soviet bosses’ elusiveness due to their numerous functions was commented upon by Preobrazhensky, “an advocate of the division of labor. Let them sing at the Bolshoi, and I will operate.” “Of course, if I began to skip around from meeting to meeting. .. , I would never manage to get anywhere” (Heart of a Dog, chap. 3).

16. “Segodnia mozhno sniat’ dekal’komani” (Mandelstam 1967-69 [1931], 1:189-90).

17. It goes back to We, “Notes from the Underground,” What Is to Be Done? and is prompted by the new Le Corbusier building in Moscow (1990, 1: 517) and quite probably by Andrei Babichev’s Two Bits diner in Envy.

18. See “Ia ne slykhal rasskazov Ossiana” (1914), “Ia ne uvizhu znamenitoi Fedry” (1915); for the discussion of the rhythmical-thematic formula “Ia ne…” see Zholkovsky 1986a: 212.

19. Some of these postures, especially ‘envy’ and ‘haughty airs’ (spes’ ), are not alien to Mandelstam (cf. the ‘envy’ image in “Kantsona,” 1931, and the realization that “it is time to stamp one’s boots” in “Kvartira tikha,” 1933); on Mandelstam’s complex of ‘unstable emotional postures,’ see Zholkovsky 1986a: 211-13; on affinities with Envy, Zholkovsky 1992h.

20. Ivan “endowed [it] … with the most vulgar feelings,” “on purpose, out of spite,” like Dostoevsky’s “ridiculous man,” who had similarly “corrupted” the inhabitants of the utopian planet.

21. And more specifically, in the manner of the Martian from H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, who pins a man to the wall with his deadly needle of a nose. The motifs of man-machine hybrid and of blowing a “sorceress’ soul” into a machine are also prominent in Pilnyak’s Machines and Wolves (see Jensen 1979:253-55).

22. On the visual effects in Envy, see Nilsson 1973; on the defusing of threatening situations by perspectival manipulation, see Beaujour 1970: 3858, esp. 53.

23. The next generation of the ‘new world’ — the machine — is even “more ferocious” than Makarov; on pairings in Envy, see Barratt 1981: 37-40.

24. Cf. the quasi-marital relationship between Gogol’s Akaky and his overcoat.

25. On the sexual ambiguities in Andrei Babichev and Envy in general, see Harkins 1973.

26. The elbows may go back to the widow Pshenitsyna’s in Oblomov, where they also emblematize the hero’s eventual union with a kitchen-ridden simple woman instead of the romantic heroine (Olga Ilyinskaia, resp. Valia).

27. Cf. Anechka’s “electrodynamic” cats.

28. A further echo of this topos is the lynching scene in Mandelstam’s The Egyptian Stamp (1928), with its images of “entrails,” “lungs,” and “buttons … made of animal blood” and multiple links to ‘slaughterhouse’ and ‘horse-torturing’ motifs in Nekrasov, Mayakovsky, Babel, and others (Zholkovsky 1992b).

29. Note, however, the complete asexuality of the two doctors, resembling that of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and analyzable as crypto-homosexual and antiprocreative in the sense of various turn-of-the-century Russian utopian models (see Matich 1990).

30. Note Ivan’s memories of the little girl who “set the step at the ball … was the queen,” and “stole [his] show”; Ivan, “spoiled by worship, . . . couldn’t stand it … gave her a thrashing [and] tore off her ribbons.” The episode combines elements of the protagonists’ quarrel in “The Shot” with a streak of misogyny typical of Lermontov’s and Mayakovsky’s personae (see Zholkovsky 1986c, 1992d): the envious rage is not so much over a girl as directed at her.

31. Cf. the antiprocreation models of love typical of the promiscuous 1920s (Matich 1990) and the puritanically sacred view of family in high Socialist Realism; cf. also note 29.

32. See Beaujour 1970 (56-57) on their “need to see their existence reflected onto the world” and “attempts to impose [their] vision on the Soviet world.”

33. See Ingdahl’s chapter “The Carnival of Feelings” (1984: 87-99), where Olesha’s drafts are extensively quoted.

34. Among the most obvious are the Gospels, Roman history, Faust, Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Griboedov, Mayakovsky, Berlioz, Stravinsky; see B. Gasparov 1978. On the carnivalesque/polyphonic nature of Bulgakov’s novel, see Proffer 1973: esp. 190-91.

35. Cf. the ‘doubles’ relationship between Kavalerov and Ivan, who repeatedly spells out the other’s thoughts. The ‘mind-reading’ technique goes back at least to Dostoevsky (e.g., the exchanges between Stavrogin and Liputin in chap. 2 of The Possessed).

36. Cf. the ‘Evgraf’motif in Heart of a Dog.

37. In the 1930s, Bulgakov’s treatment of ‘education’ meant a polemic with its use in Socialist Realism, which, in turn, had adopted it from the Bildungsroman tradition (Clark 1981: 17).

38. Cf. Pushkin’s pokoi i volia in his “‘Tis time, my friend, ’tis time” (1834); on the motif of ‘superior peace’ in Pushkin, see Zholkovsky 1980a.

39. The verb raz”iasnit’, lit. “clarify, clear up,” was a 1920s vulgar euphemism for “investigate and arrest”; cf. Sharik(ov)’s desire to “sort out” the dummy owl (chap. 2), promptly enacted by tearing it apart (chap. 3); the owl has not been forgotten in The Master and Margarita, where it is shot to pieces by the cat Behemoth (chap. 24).

40. Cf. the toast, proposed by Pasternak in 1935, to Bulgakov as “an illegitimate phenomenon” (Ianovskaia 1983: 304; Chudakova 1988: 560), and Mandelstam’s concept of genuine literature as “created without permission” and downright criminal (Mandelstam 1990, 2: 92).

41. Valia ignores the old-style dreamers (her father, Ivan, and Kavalerov) and joins the men of action (Andrei and Makarov), following in the footsteps of an entire dynasty of Russian heroines (beginning with Onegin’s Tatiana, who married a general) and setting an example to a gallery of Soviet women (in Ilf and Petrov’s Golden Calf [1931], Ehrenburg’s Out of Chaos [Den’ vtoroi; 1933], and many others).

42. In a follow-up to notes 29 and 31, let us note that the romantic and reciprocal love of the novel’s two title heroes remains unprocreative, focused on the Master’s manuscript as their only “child.”

43. Cf., on one hand, the pointedly modernist narrative of Mandelstam’s The Egyptian Stamp (1928) and Pasternak’s Safe Conduct (1931), and on the other, the picaresque plot of Ill and Petrov’s Bender saga (1927-31). Incidentally, both mythologism and a strong fabula were in accord with the general “Thermidorian” style of the 1930s.

44. Similar ‘romantic’ treatment of the writer-protagonist figure (and the plot in general) in Nabokov’s The Gift (1937) and Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago (1957), the two other major attempts at a modem Russian novel, seem to testify to the deep-seated conservatism of the Russian tradition.