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Reading Master & Margarita - 10

Reading Master & Margarita - 10

10 mins 162 10 mins 162

Chapter 10

      News from Yalta           



In this chapter Bulgakov tells about Styopa’s activities from Yalta.


Action takes place in Variety Theatre. Variety is also situated on Sadovaya Street. Action starts at the same time when Ivan is being interrogated in Prof. Stravinsky’s clinic; Styopa is flung out of his flat into Yalta; Nikanor Ivanovich is arrested after the foreign currency is found in the lavatory of his flat ---please remember that it is the morning of Thursday.


So, the financial director and administrator of Variety are waiting for Styopa Likhodeev, who had informed the financial director Rimsky from his flat that he is reaching there in half an hour’s time.


 Varenukha, the administrator, is sitting in Rimsky’s cabin, so that he can avoid those who always surrounded him for free tickets.


Rimsky is unhappy with Styopa. He informs Varenukha that the day before Styopa had rushed like a crazy fellow into his cabin with a contract for this black-magic show and made Rimsky pay him some advance money for the magician. But where was magician? No one had seen him. And at 2.00pm in the afternoon there is neither Styopa nor the magician present in the theatre.


Then suddenly some telegrams start pouring into Rimsky’s cabin.


The first telegram (super lightening) was from Yalta’s secret service police which said that at 11.30 in the morning a crazy Likhodeev, in a night dress, with no shoes, was found in Yalta. He claimed to be the director of Variety. The secret police of Yalta wanted to know the whereabouts of Likhodeev.


Even before Rimsky could respond to this by saying that “Likhodeev – in Moscow” another super lightening thing pours in. It was from LIkhodeev, saying, ‘Request believe thrown Yalta hypnosis Woland. Inform secret police; confirm about Likhodeev.”


Before answering this telegram they try to contact Styopa on telephone in his flat – no response. Courier boy was sent there – the flat was found locked; and while they were wondering what to do, a third telegram with Styopa’s signature on a black photographic background is delivered. Styopa has attached his signature and requests to confirm that it is him who is in Yalta.


The biggest puzzle for Rimsky and Varenukha was how Likhodeev could be present at 11.30 a.m. in Moscow as well as in Yalta:

'How many miles is it to Yalta?' asked Rimsky.

Varenukha stopped his running and yelled:

'I thought of that! I already thought of it! By train it's over nine hundred miles to Sebastopol, plus another fifty to Yalta! Well, but by air, of course, it's less.'

Hm ... Yes ... There could be no question of any trains. But what then? Some fighter plane?

Who would let Styopa on any fighter plane without his shoes? What for? Maybe he took his shoes off when he got to Yalta? It's the same thing: what for? And even with his shoes on they wouldn't have let him on a fighter! And what has the fighter got to do with it? It's written that he came to the investigators at half past eleven in the morning, and he talked on the telephone in Moscow ...

excuse me ... (the face of Rimsky's watch emerged before his eyes).

Rimsky tried to remember where the hands had been ... Terrible! It had been twenty minutes past eleven!

So what does it boil down to? If one supposes that after the conversation Styopa instantly rushed to the airport, and reached it in, say, five minutes (which, incidentally, was also unthinkable), it means that the plane, taking off at once, covered nearly a thousand miles in five minutes.

Consequently, it was flying at twelve thousand miles an hour!!! That cannot be, and that means he's not in Yalta!

What remains, then? Hypnosis? There's no hypnosis in the world that can fling a man a thousand miles away! So he's imagining that he's in Yalta? He may be imagining it, but are the Yalta investigators also imagining it? No, no, sorry, that can't be! ... Yet they did telegraph from there?


 But as the signature was confirmed to be his, Rimsky informs Yalta police that Likhodeev could not be contacted in Moscow, though he had called Variety from his flat at 11.30 a.m., but that the signature attached with the telegram is his.

Then comes the next telegram from Styopa requesting Rimsky to send him 500 roubles telegraphically so that he could start for Moscow.


Money is sent.


We notice that Rimsky, Varenukha and Styopa did not like each other. Rimsky is a serious type of person who could not tolerate Styopa’s dare-devil type of attitude. He was always in search of an opportunity to get Styopa punished by the authorities.


Rimsky puts all these telegrams in a cover and requests Varenukha to carry them personally to THEM:


Rimsky meanwhile did the following: he neatly stacked all the received telegrams, plus the copy of his own, put the stack into an envelope, sealed it, wrote a few words on it, and handed it to Varenukha, saying:


'Go right now, Ivan Savelyevich, take it there personally. Let them sort it out.'

'Now that is really clever!' thought Varenukha, and he put the envelope into his briefcase.


Now and then we notice such oblique reference to organs like KGB (which was called NKVD at that time.)


But as Varenukha was about to leave for THAT place, he is threatened on the telephone not to carry them anywhere:


And Varenukha ran out of the office with the briefcase.


He went down to the ground floor, saw the longest line at the box office, found out from the box-office girl that she expected to sell out within the hour, because the public was simply pouring in since the additional poster had been put up, told the girl to earmark and hold thirty of the best seats in the gallery and the stalls, popped out of the box office, shook off importunate pass-seekers as he ran, and dived into his little office to get his cap. At that moment the telephone rattled.


'Yes!' Varenukha shouted.


'Ivan Savelyevich?' the receiver inquired in a most repulsive nasal voice.

'He's not in the theatre!' Varenukha was shouting, but the receiver interrupted him at once:

'Don't play the fool, Ivan Savelyevich, just listen. Do not take those telegrams anywhere or show them to anyone.'

'Who is this?' Varenukha bellowed. 'Stop these jokes, citizen! You'll be found out at once! What's your number?'

'Varenukha,' the same nasty voice returned, 'do you understand Russian? Don't take the telegrams anywhere.'


But Varenukha has to go. Before leaving he decides to peep into the green room in Variety’s garden to check whether the mechanic has fixed the metallic net on a bulb in the lavatory there.


Bulgakov very beautifully describes how the wind was roaring, how it was pushing him back hitting him on his face… there starts heavy downpour:


In the garden the wind blew in the administrator's face and flung sand in his eyes, as if blocking his way, as if cautioning him. A window on the second floor slammed so that the glass nearly broke, the tops of the maples and lindens rustled alarmingly. It became darker and colder.


The administrator rubbed his eyes and saw that a yellow-bellied storm cloud was creeping low over Moscow. There came a dense, distant rumbling.


However great Varenukha's hurry, an irrepressible desire pulled at him to run over to the summer toilet for a second on his way, to check whether the repairman had put a wire screen over the light-bulb.


Running past the shooting gallery, Varenukha came to a thick growth of lilacs where the light-blue toilet building stood. The repairman turned out to be an efficient fellow, the bulb under the roof of the gentlemen's side was covered with a wire screen, but the administrator was upset that even in the pre-storm darkness one could make out that the walls were already written all over in charcoal and pencil.


'Well, what sort of...' the administrator began and suddenly heard a voice purring behind him:


'Is that you, Ivan Savelyevich?'

Varenukha started, turned around, and saw before him a short, fat man with what seemed to him a cat-like physiognomy.

'So, it's me', Varenukha answered hostilely.

'Very, very glad,' the cat-like fat man responded in a squeaky voice and, suddenly swinging his arm, gave Varenukha such a blow on the ear that the cap flew off the administrator's head and vanished without a trace down the hole in the seat.

At the fat man's blow, the whole toilet lit up momentarily with a tremulous light, and a roll of thunder echoed in the sky. Then came another flash and a second man emerged before the administrator - short, but with athletic shoulders, hair red as fire, albugo in one eye, a fang in his mouth... This second one, evidently a lefty, socked the administrator on the other ear. In response there was another roll of thunder in the sky, and rain poured down on the wooden roof of the toilet.

`What is it, comr...' the half-crazed administrator whispered, realized at once that the word 'comrades' hardly fitted bandits attacking a man in a public toilet, rasped out: 'citiz...' - figured that they did not merit this appellation either, and received a third terrible blow from he did not know which of them, so that blood gushed from his nose on to his Tolstoy blouse.

'What you got in the briefcase, parasite?' the one resembling a cat cried shrilly. 'Telegrams?

Weren't you warned over the phone not to take them anywhere? Weren't you warned, I'm asking you?'

`I was wor... wer... warned...' the administrator answered, suffocating.

`And you skipped off anyway? Gimme the briefcase, vermin!' the second one cried in the same nasal voice that had come over the telephone, and he yanked the briefcase from Varenukha's trembling hands.

And the two picked the administrator up under the arms, dragged him out of the garden, and raced down Sadovaya with him. The storm raged at full force, water streamed with a noise and howling down the drains, waves bubbled and billowed everywhere, water gushed from the roofs past the drainpipes, foamy streams ran from gateways. Everything living got washed off Sadovaya, and there was no one to save Ivan Savelyevich. Leaping through muddy rivers, under flashes of lightning, the bandits dragged the half-alive administrator in a split second to no.502-bis, flew with him through the gateway, where two barefoot women, holding their shoes and stockings in their hands, pressed themselves to the wall. Then they dashed into the sixth entrance, and Varenukha, nearly insane, was taken up to the fifth floor and thrown down in the semi-dark front hall, so well-known to him, of Styopa Likhodeev's apartment.

Here the two robbers vanished, and in their place there appeared in the front hall a completely naked girl - red-haired, her eyes burning with a phosphorescent gleam.

Varenukha understood that this was the most terrible of all things that had ever happened to him and, moaning, recoiled against the wall. But the girl came right up to the administrator and placed the palms of her hands on his shoulders. Varenukha's hair stood on end, because even through the cold, water-soaked cloth of his Tolstoy blouse he could feel that those palms were still colder, that their cold was the cold of ice.

`Let me give you a kiss,' the girl said tenderly, and there were shining eyes right in front of his eyes. Then Varenukha fainted and never felt the kiss.


So, Varenukha is the victim of this chapter. He is punished for telling lies, mismanaging the free tickets.


The description is full of suspense and mystery. The pouring rain, the gushing water on the streets, the raging storm create a very dreary atmosphere.


Bulgakov does not write…he creates a live scenario! The readers feel that they are experiencing the whole thing. Total involvement by readers….You are no longer a reader who is separate from the author!



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