cover image Notes on the Cuff and Other Stories

Notes on the Cuff and Other Stories

Mikhail Bulgakov. Ardis Publishers, $32.5 (223pp) ISBN 978-0-87501-057-1

This collection of early autobiographical stories and light reportage demonstrates that Bulgakov's (1891-1940) talent emerged full-blown with his earliest literary efforts. The title story and its companion piece, ``Bohemia,'' describe how the author, abandoning his career as a doctor, established himself as a writer of fiction and drama during the last years of the Russian Civil War. Their emotionally charged scenes, naturalistically overwrought dialogue and gallows humor vividly capture the instability of the 1920s. ``The Red Crown'' assesses the role of the guilty bystander in history, a subject Bulgakov explored more fully in his best work, The Master and Margarita . Sketches originally published in a Berlin-based Russian-language newspaper describe the post-Revolution rebuilding of Moscow in the '20s and the new Soviet order's impact on people's lives. Bulgakov makes an ideal eyewitness to history, with his marvelous eye for the absurd and his obvious ambivalence about Communist excesses. (His works were banned in the Soviet Union for most of his career.) His tangible, convincing portrait of life in Moscow during the '20s is a key addition to the literature of life behind the Iron Curtain. ( Sept. )