Moscow: Nedra, 1925. 160 pp. 23x15 cm. In publisher’s illustrated wrappers. Wrappers carefully restored, back cover is new, previous owner’s signature on t.p. (red pencil), margins of several pages restored, occasional brown spots. Otherwise very good.
First edition of the first book by Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940) and the only book printed in his lifetime in the Soviet Union. One of 5000 copies. Very rare. Apart from ‘Diaboliad’, this collection consists of ‘The Fatal Eggs’, ‘#13. The House of Elpit Pabkomunna’, ‘The Chinese Story’ and ‘Chichikov’s Adventures’ (the satire on Gogol’s ‘Dead Souls’ in which the characters from the original work are placed in the early Soviet reality).
On August 31, 1923, Bulgakov reported in a letter to his friend, writer Yury Slezkin: “I finished ‘Diaboliad’ but it is unlikely that it will pass anywhere. Lezhnev (editor of the magazine ‘Rossiya’) refused to take it”. ‘Diaboliad’ was accepted for publication by the Nedra publishing house, headed by Nikolai Angarsky, an old Bolshevik distinguished by a good literary taste of the 19th century Russian classics.
The almanac ‘Nedra’ with the ‘Diaboliad’ was published on February 25, 1924. The reception was cold. The only noticeable response to ‘Diaboliad’ was the opinion of the famous writer Yevgeny Zamyatin (1884-1937), who later became Bulgakov's friend. He noted: “The only modern fossil in the ‘Nedra’ (i.e. Subsoil/Bowels) is Bulgakov’s ‘Diaboliad’. The author undoubtedly has a true instinct in choosing a compositional setting: fiction, rooted in life, fast as in a movie, changing pictures is one of those (few) formal frameworks in which we can put our yesterday...The absolute value of this Bulgakov’s thing - very much kind of thoughtless - is small, but from the author, apparently, you can expect good work”. Later, when Bulgakov was already known as the author of the play ‘The Days of the Turbins’, unfriendly critics drew attention to the ‘Diaboliad’ and called for Bulgakov’s book to be banned. Indeed it was banned and also confiscated (Bulgakov, M.A. Sobranie Sochinenii. Vol 2. Moscow, 1989. P. 663). In 1929 Glavpolitprosvet (the main censorship organ of the Soviet Russia) included this book as well as Bulgakov’s works printed by emigrant publishing houses in the list of banned books.
Blum. Zapreshchennie knigi russkih literatorov [i.e. Banned Books by Russian Authors], 1917-1991. #95.
Copies are located in Princeton, Yale, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Western Kentucky, Brigham Young, Nebraska, Trinity, South California, Brandeis, Eastern Washington, Calgary Universities, Harvard, Hartwick, The Claremont Colleges, Denver Public and Dartmouth Libraries.