Reading Master & Margarita - 7
Reading Master & Margarita - 78 mins 267 8 mins 267
A Naughty Apartment
Earlier we have seen what sorts of facilities were provided to the litterateurs in the Soviet Union. Bulgakov knew this world very well. He knew that only the proletarian writers enjoyed the best treatment provided by the government. But they had to follow the diktats of powers. Those who did not do so suffered a lot. Bulgakov was one of them.
Chapter 7 is the beginning of narration about the theatre: the actors, the administrators, playwrights etc. etc.
Chapter 7 tells about the director of Variety Theatre Stepan Bogdanovich Likhodeev.
Styopa (Stepan ) lived in Flat No. 50, Building No 302, Sadovaya Street. He shared the flat with Berlioz.
This flat was infamous. It belonged to the widow of jeweler D’Fougeray, Anna Frantsevna D’ Fougeray. After Revolution, she let out three rooms, out of five, to two people. They disappeared without leaving any trace; Anna Frantsevna disappeared, her maid Anfisa too disappeared. And those who disappeared never came back.
It must be said that this apartment - no.50 - had long had, if not a bad, at least a strange reputation. Two years ago it had still belonged to the widow of the jeweller de Fougeray. Anna Frantsevna de Fougeray, a respectable and very practical fifty-year-old woman, let out three of the five rooms to lodgers: one whose last name was apparently Belomut, and another with a lost last name.
And then two years ago inexplicable events began to occur in this apartment: people began to disappear from this apartment without a trace.
Once, on a day off, a policeman came to the apartment, called the second lodger (the one whose last name got lost) out to the front hall, and said he was invited to come to the police station for a minute to put his signature to something. The lodger told Anfisa, Anna Frantsevna's long-time and devoted housekeeper, to say, in case he received any telephone calls, that he would be back in ten minutes, and left together with the proper, white-gloved policeman. He not only did not come back in ten minutes, but never came back at all. The most surprising thing was that the policeman evidently vanished along with him.
The pious, or, to speak more frankly, superstitious Anfisa declared outright to the very upset Anna Frantsevna that it was sorcery and that she knew perfectly well who had stolen both the lodger and the policeman, only she did not wish to talk about it towards night-time.
Well, but with sorcery, as everyone knows, once it starts, there's no stopping it. The second lodger is remembered to have disappeared on a Monday, and that Wednesday Belomut seemed to drop from sight, though, true, under different circumstances. In the morning a car came, as usual, to take him to work, and it did take him to work, but it did not bring anyone back or come again itself.
Madame Belomut's grief and horror defied description. But, alas, neither the one nor the other continued for long. That same night, on returning with Anfisa from her dacha, which Anna Frantsevna had hurried off to for some reason, she did not find the wife of citizen Belomut in the apartment. And not only that: the doors of the two rooms occupied by the Belomut couple turned out to be sealed.
Two days passed somehow. On the third day, Anna Frantsevna, who had suffered all the while from insomnia, again left hurriedly for her dacha... Needless to say, she never came back!
Left alone, Anfisa, having wept her fill, went to sleep past one o'clock in the morning. What happened to her after that is not known, but lodgers in other apartments told of hearing some sort of knocking all night in no.50 and of seeing electric light burning in the windows till morning.
In the morning it turned out that there was also no Anfisa!
For a long time all sorts of legends were repeated in the house about these disappearances and about the accursed apartment, such as, for instance, 'that this dry and pious little Anfisa had supposedly carried on her dried-up breast, in a suede bag, twenty-five big diamonds belonging to Anna Frantsevna. That in the woodshed of that very dacha to which Anna Frantsevna had gone so hurriedly, there supposedly turned up, of themselves, some inestimable treasures in the form of those same diamonds, plus some gold coins of tsarist minting... And so on, in the same vein. Well, what we don't know, we can't vouch for.
However it may have been, the apartment stood empty and sealed for only a week. Then the late Berlioz moved in with his wife, and this same Styopa, also with his wife. It was perfectly natural that, as soon as they got into the malignant apartment, devil knows what started happening with them as well! Namely, within the space of a month both wives vanished. But these two not without a trace. Of Berlioz's wife it was told that she had supposedly been seen in Kharkov with some ballet-master, while Styopa's wife allegedly turned up on Bozhedomka Street, where wagging tongues said the director of the Variety, using his innumerable acquaintances, had contrived to get her a room, but on the one condition that she never show her face on Sadovaya...
This points to the real situation of that period when people would disappear, especially at nights. Their fate could never be known.
So, in the morning after Berlioz’s death, Styopa wakes up in his bedroom with great difficulty. He sees a foreigner in front of him, who tells him that he is the professor of black magic and that the previous day Styopa had signed an agreement with him for giving a show of black magic in the Variety. Even some advance amount was paid to this magician.
Styopa thinks that as he had consumed a lot of Vodka, he is unable to remember anything about the magician and about his show. The magician shows him the contract…Styopa contacts the financial director of Variety who also confirms that the show of magician is scheduled for that very evening…
When Styopa comes back to the bed room after calling the financial director on telephone, he sees that the magician is now accompanied by three associates whom he sees entering the room one by one from the mirror –
The visitor was no longer alone in the bedroom, but had company: in the second armchair sat the same type he had imagined in the front hall. Now he was clearly visible: the feathery moustache, one lens of the pince-nez gleaming, the other not there. But worse things were to be found in the bedroom: on the jeweller's wife's ottoman, in a casual pose, sprawled a third party - namely, a black cat of uncanny size, with a glass of vodka in one paw and a fork, on which he had managed to spear a pickled mushroom, in the other.
The light, faint in the bedroom anyway, now began to grow quite dark in Styopa's eyes. This is apparently how one loses one's mind...' he thought and caught hold of the doorpost.
`I see you're somewhat surprised, my dearest Stepan Bogdanovich?'
Woland inquired of the teeth-chattering Styopa. `And yet there's nothing to be surprised at. This is my retinue.'
Here the cat tossed off the vodka, and Styopa's hand began to slide down the doorpost.
'And this retinue requires room,' Woland continued, 'so there's just one too many of us in the apartment. And it seems to us that this one too many is precisely you.'
Theirself, theirself!' the long checkered one sang in a goat's voice, referring to Styopa in the plural. 'Generally, theirself has been up to some terrible swinishness lately. Drinking, using their position to have liaisons with women, don't do devil a thing, and can't do anything, because they don't know anything of what they're supposed to do. Pulling the wool over their superiors' eyes.' `Availing hisself of a government car!' the cat snitched, chewing a mushroom.
And here occurred the fourth and last appearance in the apartment, as Styopa, having slid all the way to the floor, clawed at the doorpost with an enfeebled hand.
Straight from the pier-glass stepped a short but extraordinarily broad-shouldered man, with a bowler hat on his head and a fang sticking out of his mouth, which made still uglier a physiognomy unprecedentedly loathsome without that. And with flaming red hair besides.
'Generally,' this new one entered into the conversation, `I don't understand how he got to be a director,' the redhead's nasal twang was growing stronger and stronger, 'he's as much a director as I'm a bishop.'
"You don't look like a bishop, Azazello,' the cat observed, heaping his plate with
That's what I mean,' twanged the redhead and, turning to Woland, he added deferentially:
'Allow me, Messire, to chuck him the devil out of Moscow?'
'Scat!' the cat barked suddenly, bristling his fur.
And then the bedroom started spinning around Styopa, he hit his head against the doorpost, and, losing consciousness, thought: 'I'm dying...'
We notice that the magician explains that this is his team and the team needs space to live. The only person who is extremely useless here is Styopa and he has to leave the flat.
We also notice that Styopa’s uselessness is proved by the cat: He is a rogue, gets involved in scandals, misuses the official car, misuses his official position to get things done in his favour, does not do his work properly – because he does not know anything!
It is not only Styopa whose qualities are described, but Bulgakov is indicating that worthless people are occupying important positions in the theatrical world.
Styopa is hurled out of the flat and he finds himself on the seashore at Yalta!