Page 3 Profile: Mikhail Bulgakov, Russian author


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The Independent Culture

Mikhail who?

He is not the best-known depressive Russian writer, but Bulgakov has a small, very loyal, and increasingly high-profile following.

John Hamm, better known as Mad Men's Don Draper, has said he is so taken with the revolutionary writer's work that he is dramatising one of Bulgakov's books – A Young Doctor's Notebook – simply because he was so distracted by it.

The American actor will play the lead in Bulgakov's semi-autobiographical story about life as a doctor in 1917 Russia. "I love the tone of it all," he said, "the mystery and sense of 'other' it engendered."

He'll be joined by Harry Potter star, Daniel Radcliffe, who is such a fan that he spent his 21st birthday in Russia on the Bulgakov trail.

Why isn't he more widely read?

It may be due to his opaque writing style. His masterpiece, The Master and Margarita, attacks Soviet Russia through an existential theistic debate that takes place while Satan is visiting Moscow.

What about during his lifetime?

After abandoning his medical career, his first plays – Self-Defence and The Turbin Brothers – were a success, but he soon fell foul of the authorities. Stalin, an early fan, banned six of Bulgakov's plays, forcing the writer to request emigration. This was refused, and he died in Moscow in 1940 aged 48 of kidney disease.