Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdanie khudozhstvennoi literatury, 1966-1967. Pp. 6-127 (#11, 1966), pp.56-144 pp. (#1, 1967). 24,9x16 cm. In two issues, both in original printed wrappers, with marbled edges. Restored, water stains and pale stamps in issue of 1966, otherwise good and clean.
Scarce on the market.
The first printed appearance of one of the most influential novels of the 20th century.
Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940) started to work on his novel in 1928 but stopped writing four weeks before his death, leaving the novel with some unfinished sentences and loose ends. His wife made several attempts to publish the novel but was able to do it only during Khrushchev’s Thaw.
For the first time the novel was printed in the magazine “Moskva” (i.e. Moscow) with a preface by Konstantin Simonov, afterword by Abram Vulis. It was unexpected, because the magazine was not considered at that time a stronghold of free-thinking. The most liberal magazine of the time was “Noviy mir” (i.e. New World) by Tvardovsky that famously printed Solzhenitsyn. “Moskva» was quite the opposite of that but the circulation of it was 150 thousand, and it is understandable that the novel after that became widely known.
Publication was made possible thanks to Vulis’ monograph where he presented Bulgakov as a very Soviet writer. Vulis was ordered an afterword. According to the unwritten rules of the time, such publications should have been prefaced with ideologically correct comments. This was done not so much to enlighten the reader as to dull the vigilance of distrustful officials from the Censor Committee. The reader, they say, will be explained that the novel “Master and Margarita” is not “against Soviet power”, but bout another. Vulis understood perfectly what they wanted from him.
The editorial board decided to publish the first part of the novel in the eleventh issue of the journal for 1966. That means to quietly wait for authorities’ reaction. And if everything goes well, the end of the novel is given in the first issue for the year 1967. That’s why preface and afterword, both important, are published with the first chapter - if the reaction was adverse and the second part was never published.
According to the researchers, more than 14,000 words were withdrawn from the text (159 censor cuts, of them 138 from the second part). People responsible for the publication of the novel not only considered it possible to erase certain words and phrases from the author’s text, but also to throw out whole pieces and episodes, sometimes on many pages (for example, Nikanor Ivanovich’s dream, or the scene in Torgsin). Cuts were also made in order to put the novel in the place assigned to it in the magazine (“in order to save more space”). When the novel was published in the “Moskva”, Bulgakov’s wife signed all the changes. This was Simonov’s advice: the main thing was to publish the novel, in any form.
It’s amusing that in “samizdat” separate typewritten lists of notes appeared, that is all pieces of text absent in the magazine publication, with an exact indication of where each missed piece should be inserted. The activity of censorship was thus exposed and pointless.