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The White Guard (Vintage Classics)

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Drawing closely on Bulgakov's personal experiences of the horrors of civil war as a young doctor, The White Guard takes place in Kiev, 1918, a time of turmoil and suffocating uncertainty as the Bolsheviks, Socialists and Germans fight for control of the city. It tells the story of the Turbins, a once-wealthy Russian family, as they are forced to come to terms with revoluti Drawing closely on Bulgakov's personal experiences of the horrors of civil war as a young doctor, The White Guard takes place in Kiev, 1918, a time of turmoil and suffocating uncertainty as the Bolsheviks, Socialists and Germans fight for control of the city. It tells the story of the Turbins, a once-wealthy Russian family, as they are forced to come to terms with revolution and a new regime.


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Drawing closely on Bulgakov's personal experiences of the horrors of civil war as a young doctor, The White Guard takes place in Kiev, 1918, a time of turmoil and suffocating uncertainty as the Bolsheviks, Socialists and Germans fight for control of the city. It tells the story of the Turbins, a once-wealthy Russian family, as they are forced to come to terms with revoluti Drawing closely on Bulgakov's personal experiences of the horrors of civil war as a young doctor, The White Guard takes place in Kiev, 1918, a time of turmoil and suffocating uncertainty as the Bolsheviks, Socialists and Germans fight for control of the city. It tells the story of the Turbins, a once-wealthy Russian family, as they are forced to come to terms with revolution and a new regime.

30 review for The White Guard (Vintage Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    “And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood.” Revelation 16:4 A hellish pandemonium reigns all around… And the heroes of the book dwell in the land of delusions… And their story begins with the party… And this party is like a feast at the time of plague… ‘Russia acknowledges only one Orthodox faith and one Tsar!’ shouted Myshlaevsky, swaying. ‘Right!’ ‘Week ago... at the theater… went to see Paul the First’, Myshlaevsky mumbled thickly, ‘an “And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood.” Revelation 16:4 A hellish pandemonium reigns all around… And the heroes of the book dwell in the land of delusions… And their story begins with the party… And this party is like a feast at the time of plague… ‘Russia acknowledges only one Orthodox faith and one Tsar!’ shouted Myshlaevsky, swaying. ‘Right!’ ‘Week ago... at the theater… went to see Paul the First’, Myshlaevsky mumbled thickly, ‘and when the actor said those words I couldn’t keep quiet and I shouted out “Right!” – and d’you know what? Everyone clapped. All except some swine in the upper circle who yelled “Idiot!”’ ‘Damned Yids’, growled Karas, now almost equally drunk. A thickening haze enveloped them all… Tonk-tank… tonk-tank… they had passed the point when there was any longer any sense in drinking more vodka, even wine; the only remaining stage was stupor or nausea. In the narrow little lavatory, where the lamp jerked and danced from the ceiling as though bewitched, everything went blurred and spun round and round. Pale and miserable, Myshlaevsky retched violently. Alexei Turbin, drunk himself, looking terrible with a twitching nerve on his cheek, his hair plastered damply over his forehead, supported Myshlaevsky. And the innocent are doomed… And the meek inherit nothing… And those who go into the battle to defend their ideals die first… ‘Are you deaf? Run!’ Nikolka felt a strange wave of drunken ecstasy surge up from his stomach and for a moment his mouth went dry. ‘I don’t want to, colonel’, he replied in a blurred voice, squatted down, picked up the ammunition belt and began to feed it into the machine-gun. Far away, from where the remnants of Nai-Turs’ squad had mine running, several mounted men pranced into view. Their horses seemed to be dancing beneath them as though playing some game, and the gray blades of their sabres could just be seen. Nai-Turs cocked the bolt, the machine-gun spat out a few rounds, stopped, spat again and then gave a long burst. Instantly bullets whined and ricocheted off the roofs of houses to right and left down the street. A few more mounted figures joined the first ones, but suddenly one of them was thrown sideways towards the window of a house, another’s horse reared on its hind legs to an astonishing height, almost to the level of the second-floor windows, and several more riders disappeared altogether. Then all the others vanished as though they had been swallowed up by the earth. Nai-Turs dismantled the breech-block, and as he shook his fist at the sky his eyes blazed and he shouted: ‘Those swine at headquarters – run away and leave children to fight…!’ When on high they cut throats fighting for power at the bottom all the vermin crawl out of cracks and start marauding, looting and killing.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    After graduating from Kiev University, Mikhail Bulgakov would go on to decide his future lie in literature rather than practicing as a doctor, during which he witnessed the horrors of the Russian civil war. Bothered though by the censors and political unrest, Bulgakov would write to Stalin asking to be allowed to emigrate, if he couldn't make a living as a writer in the USSR. And the word goes Stalin actually phoned him up offering a job in the Moscow Arts Theatre instead. Similar to that of rev After graduating from Kiev University, Mikhail Bulgakov would go on to decide his future lie in literature rather than practicing as a doctor, during which he witnessed the horrors of the Russian civil war. Bothered though by the censors and political unrest, Bulgakov would write to Stalin asking to be allowed to emigrate, if he couldn't make a living as a writer in the USSR. And the word goes Stalin actually phoned him up offering a job in the Moscow Arts Theatre instead. Similar to that of revolutionary writer Victor Serge, Bulgakov's work only saw the light of day posthumously. Safe to say, thank god it did. Not as well known as his most recognizable 'The Master and Margarita', The White guard is certainly closer to non-fiction, and built on Bulgakov's own experiences during the turmoil and unpredictability of conflict. The story takes place in a snow covered Kiev, 1918, turning the spotlight on the once wealthy Turbin family. After their mother passes away, the three children of, doctor Alexei, the oldest, Elena, twenty four, and seventeen year old Nikolka face up the fact of a new regime, as Bolsheviks, Socialists and Germans fight for total control over the city. Elena's husband Captain Talberg would leave for battle, as the household enters a fragile and worrying time. The city itself is vivid to the eyes, as confusion grows on the streets as to who is fighting with who?, through all it's unorganized chaos, Bulgakov does a grand job of showing just that, the chaos. Nothing is ever perceived clear as to what is actually going on, in terms of leadership. Bulgakov asserted that Kiev changed hands some 14 times in little over a year, and could have written an epic Tolstoyish novel that covers more ground, but this is more of a snapshot, a panoramic view, moving from character to character at regular intervals, and it's length pleased me fully. The departing German Imperial Army lead by the Hetman of Ukraine are replaced by opportunist leader Petlyura's supposed rise to power, whilst the Ukrainian nationalist movement along with the 'The White Guard' (supporters of the Tsar) jostle in the background. Both brothers Alexei and Nikolka are White Guard officers who place their lives in danger as change takes shape. There is no doubt Bulgakov pokes fun at both Petlyura and Hetman for their weak inabilities, and the sheer waste of life, youth and energy sacrificed in fighting. And Bulgakov seems to foresee tribulations yet to come. The novel is very military Regarding the narrative, not all the time, but when things get going in terns of the different forces involved, Bulgakov clearly knows his stuff, corruption in rife, anti-Semitism is high, and the various armies struggle with personnel and supplies during some seriously cold weather. But the household of the Turbins still remains central to the story, which provides the humane touch, although it doesn't feature as often during the middle third, Elena waits for news on husband and one of the brothers who failed to return home, whilst friends of the family come and go, each with their own problems. The Turbins do side with Tsar, but there isn't any reel political stance from Bulgakov's viewpoint, as normal life is trying to continue, people get up for work, mingle out shopping, kids play out in the snow little realizing what's happening around them, and folk gather to talk rumours that spread like wildfire. There are gaps in between the conflict where Bulgakov clearly shows his love for Kiev, the ancient cathedral sits graceful, the huge statue of Saint Vladimir overlooks the city holding aloft the cross, whilst a blanket of snow wistfully settles on the homes and buildings below, creating a whiteness through dark times. Bulgakov presents a glimpse of the fear, confusion and death that faced so many, and he does it exceptionally well. The snow would melt, the grass would grow, and the sun would rise to dry the blood of battle....but sadly one hundred years on, not much has changed, divided territories are still the recipe for disaster, where loved ones will not be returning to loves ones, and all for what?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Белая гвардия = The White Guard, Mikhail Bulgakov The White Guard is a novel by 20th-century Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, famed for his critically acclaimed later work The Master and Margarita. Set in Ukraine, beginning in late 1918, the novel concerns the fate of the Turbin family as the various armies of the Ukrainian War of Independence – the Whites, the Reds, the Imperial German Army, and Ukrainian nationalists – fight over the city of Kiev. Historical figures such as Pyotr Wrangel, Symon Белая гвардия = The White Guard, Mikhail Bulgakov The White Guard is a novel by 20th-century Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, famed for his critically acclaimed later work The Master and Margarita. Set in Ukraine, beginning in late 1918, the novel concerns the fate of the Turbin family as the various armies of the Ukrainian War of Independence – the Whites, the Reds, the Imperial German Army, and Ukrainian nationalists – fight over the city of Kiev. Historical figures such as Pyotr Wrangel, Symon Petliura and Pavlo Skoropadsky appear as the Turbin family is caught up in the turbulent effects of the October Revolution. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دوازدهم ماه جولای سال 2007میلادی عنوان: گارد سفید؛ نویسنده: میخائیل آفاناسیویچ بولگاکف؛ مترجم: نرگس قندچی؛ تهران، نشر قصه، 1385، در 336ص؛ شابک 9645776856؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان روسیه - سده 20م عنوان: گارد سفید (نمایشنامه)؛ نویسنده: میخائیل آفاناسیویچ بولگاکف؛ مترجم: پیمان مجیدی؛ تهران، کتاب زمان، 1385، در 144ص؛ شابک 9646380344؛ گارد سفید عنوان رمانی از «میخائیل بولگاکف»، رمان‌نویس روسیه است، نویسنده ای که با رمان برجسته ی «مرشد و مارگاریتا» نامدار شدند؛ داستان در «اوکراین»، در پایان سال 1918میلادی آغاز می‌شود، و به سرنوشت خانواده ی «توربین»، در جنگ ارتش‌های دوگانه (سفیدها، و سرخها)ی روسیه، با ارتش پادشاهی «آلمان»، و ناسیونالیست‌های «اوکراین»، بر سر «کی‌یف» می‌پردازد؛ شخصیت‌های تاریخی، همچون: «پیوتر ورانگل»، «پتلیورا»، و «پاولو اسکوپادسکی»، در حالیکه خانواده ی «توربین»، به ناپایداری گرفتار شده‌ اند، در داستان پدیدار می‌شوند؛ داستان متأثر از مرگ مادر نویسنده (زنی توانمند و سرآمد) است، که پس از درگذشتش، خانواده اش، همانند خانواده ی «توربین‌»ها یتیم شده است؛ «نیکولا» نام برادر کوچک «بولگاکف» است، که به ارتش «دنیکن» پیوسته، و خانواده بیش از یکسال، از او بی‌خبر است، و برادر سومش «ایوان» نیز، همین سرنوشت را دارد؛ همه می‌اندیشند آن دو کشته شده‌ اند؛ اما هر دو سالم هستند، یکی در «زاگرب» و دیگری در «کی‌یف» است؛ دو برادر بعدها به «فرانسه» مهاجرت می‌کنند؛ «نیکولا» در «انستیتو پاستور فرانسه» بیولوژیست میشود؛ «النا» ویژگی‌های مادرش را به ارث برده، خواهری که شوهرش از ولخرجی و گستاخی «بولگاکف» انتقاد دارد؛ «میشلایوسکی» و «شروینسکی» هم، دو تن از وابستگان، و نزدیکان خانواده ی «بولگاکف‌» هستند؛ «پدر الکساندر» هم، در دنیای واقعی، عقد ازدواج بولگاکف (1913میلادی)، و انجام مراسم خاکسپاری مادرش (1922میلادی) را به دوش دارد؛ «واسیلی پاولویچ لیستوویچی» که مالک راستین «آپارتمان شماره سیزده» و نویسنده است، در این دوران در «کی‌یف» زندگی می‌کرد؛ در آپارتمان، کلکسیونی از بنمایه های جان‌دار و بی‌جان است، که همگی روح کانون خانواده را، تشکیل می‌دهند؛ «النا»، «آنیوتا»، «خدمتکار»، «اتاق‌های مجزا»، و «کتابخانه» در مرکز آمدوشد بین این اتاق‌هاست، و حتی «پارتیشن فاوست» که در تمام طول رمان، روی پیانو باز مانده است؛ ساختار رمان، از سه بخش نامساوی تشکیل شده، که اولی «سرگشتگی‌ها»، دومی «سقوط شهر»، و سومی «تلاش برای رستاخیزی دیگر» را، شرح می‌دهند تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 27/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kalliope

    Now that I wander through the angular sentences of Andrei Bely’s Petersburg, reading the novel in a GR group, I feel I have to jump in my mind to another city, to Kiev - The City for Bulgakov. From a city-novel to another city-novel and forwards in time – from 1905 to 1918. If in one I am feeling immersed in a kaleidoscopic representation in this one I felt more immersed in chaos. The history of this novel, and especially its theatrical version (Days of the Turbins), offers also an echo with Sho Now that I wander through the angular sentences of Andrei Bely’s Petersburg, reading the novel in a GR group, I feel I have to jump in my mind to another city, to Kiev - The City for Bulgakov. From a city-novel to another city-novel and forwards in time – from 1905 to 1918. If in one I am feeling immersed in a kaleidoscopic representation in this one I felt more immersed in chaos. The history of this novel, and especially its theatrical version (Days of the Turbins), offers also an echo with Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk in the way it drew, with alarmingly intimidating repercussions, Stalin’s attention. The dictator stated publicly that Bulgakov was anti-Bolshevik. In Kiev Bulgalkov lived through times in which at least five political forces confronted each other. He counted between ten to eighteen coups in a relatively short period of time. We have Germans, with the Hetman Pavlo Skoropodasky, the Ukranian nationalists with their leader Symon Petliura, and then the Russians: the Monarchists (like the Turbins themselves), the Whites and the Reds (the hated ones by everyone). Five conflicting forces. The spects that struck me most were the descriptions of the town. One can feel that in Bulgakov’s heart, it is The City – and in that dreamlike place (turned into a nightmare place), the house in number 13 of the Andriyivskyy Descent becomes the only place where some sort of sanity can be attained. This is where Bulgakov was born and lived and is now the Bulgakov Museum. These descriptions become oases in the read –a respite to the ongoing violence in their evocation of sheer beauty. There is also the humour. And in this one could recognize the author of the later The Master and Margarita. It has a surreal tone, it is subtle (it has to be when wedded to the violence) and figures like the Devil already make an appearance. Before I leave this sorrowful Kiev and return to Petersburg, I want to draw attention to the translations of this novel. Originally serialized, until the magazine where is was published was closed down, it metamorphosed into the very successful play (if not with Stalin), it was then published in the sixties when Bulgakov was rehabilitated. But it had suffered cuts, and this trimmed version was the one translated into English by Michael Glenny. Later on a new translation by Marian Schwartz, of the original full text, was issued. I read one in Spanish that corresponds to the complete Russian version. The translator, José Laín Entralgo is the brother of the more famous and somewhat older Pedro. The latter was a member of the Spanish Royal Academy and was a very prolific writer. José joined the Communist party during the thirties and later emigrated to the Soviet Union but came back to Spain in the late fifties and worked as a translator. Both brothers fought on opposite sides during the Spanish Civil War. José died in 1972 and Pedro in 2001.

  5. 5 out of 5

    MihaElla

    This heavy volume included two works: The White Guard and Theatrical Novel (Notes of a Deceased). Bulgakov's fate seemed to be governed by the same mixture of satire, fantasy and tragedy that is the hallmark of his entire work. A trained doctor (aka Chekhov), after he abandoned his medicine career in 1920 to devote entirely to writing, he joined the theater world and his first play put on stage The Days of the Turbins, adaptation of the novel The White Guard, has received a great success, paradox This heavy volume included two works: The White Guard and Theatrical Novel (Notes of a Deceased). Bulgakov's fate seemed to be governed by the same mixture of satire, fantasy and tragedy that is the hallmark of his entire work. A trained doctor (aka Chekhov), after he abandoned his medicine career in 1920 to devote entirely to writing, he joined the theater world and his first play put on stage The Days of the Turbins, adaptation of the novel The White Guard, has received a great success, paradoxically, becoming Stalin's favourite play. The obvious sympathy for the White officers made that the play to be eventually banned, so from 1929 is no longer published any book, nor is played any of his new plays, or previous ones. Leading an existence to the limit of survival, Bulgakov felt forced to send to the dictator Stalin a petition, then, also in a letter to the Soviet government, to talk about the mental imbalance to which an artist is subjected to when his living existence is threatened. The letter remained famous both as a model of the writer’s assumed dissidence and its unexpected effects. Although following a direct phone call from Stalin, Bulgakov is re-employed at the theater, yet all his works remained unpublished, writing in the last decade of his life with frenzy, afraid he will not finish the novel The Master and Margarita, for which the latest corrections he made in 1940, on the deathbed, blind, dictating to his wife, Maria Sergeevna, who apparently inspired the character of Margaret. The White Guard is a work portraying a historical reality. The focus is on the Whites, normally depicted in Soviet literature as evil reactionaries, who are nonetheless ordinary human beings with their own problems, concerns and ideals. The novel, same as its stage adaptation The Days of the Turbins, had an extremely complex history. [Written between ’22-’24, and receiving numerous substantial revisions later, it was originally conceived as the first volume of a trilogy portraying the entire sweep of the post-revolutionary Civil War from a number of different points of view. Although the first and only volume was criticized for showing events from the viewpoints of the Whites, the third volume would apparently have given the perspective of the Communists. Many chapters of the novel were published separately in literary journals as they appeared. The ending of the novel (the sequence of dreams) never appeared because the journal it was due to be printed in, was shut down by official order, precisely because it was publishing such material as Bulgakov’s. The novel only appeared complete in Russian, having been proofread by the author, in 1929 in Paris.] The background is the Civil War in Kiev after the Bolshevik Revolution. The novel starts with December 1918 and ends in February 1919, and it portrays a series of conflicting events happening during the confrontations between the three main armed forces (Whites/Tsarist Empire, Ukrainian Nationalists and Bolsheviks/Communists) that were trying to dispute and gain the power and authority of the City (aka Kiev), and consequently of the Country (aka Ukraine). As for the major protagonists, the novel unfolds the story of the Turbins, a noble but now in poverty family, broadly moderate Tsarists in their view, and therefore anti-Bolsheviks but, being ethnically Russian, have no sympathy with the Ukrainian Nationalists either, and so end up fighting for the White Guards. At the beginning of the novel, apparently, we are still in the world of the old Russia, with artistic and elegant furniture dating from the Tsarist era, there is a piano, books and high-quality pictures on the walls. There is the Turbins’ warm flat, in which the family can take refuge from the events outside, however the general atmosphere is nonetheless of fear for the future, and great apprehension at the world collapsing. The novel ends with a series of sinister apocalyptic dreams which foresee the catastrophe for the society, as a whole, and, of family, as its cell of unity. Maybe I was being drifted a bit too far away, but, for a massive part of the novel, I felt like re-watching the movie The Barber of Siberia, released in 1998 and directed by Nikita Mikhalkov. [Needless to say that I had to stop my flowing reading for a while and went on you-tube to watch some couples of scenes from the movie. Nostalgia showered on me recalling that I have watched it first time in a Moscow cinema, 20 years ago, directly in its Russian-talking version which, sadly, I didn’t understand much, but then I watched the English version and everything turned to pure light ;-). Additionally, most critics attacked it furiously for various reasons, but I just loved it ‼! I still love it :-)]. The only thing is that in the movie, opening with the Tsarist atmosphere of 1885, there is no openly engaged war, at least not as the one to break up starting with the WW1, continuing with the 1917 Bolsheviks revolutions, the Civil War and then Stalin dictatorship. Surprisingly for such a big novel - normally it would have taken me some good days – I felt in a rush to read it through. As a matter of fact, I found myself sympathizing with the Turbins, the two brothers and sister, even if it doesn’t necessarily mean that I was in some partial agreement with the actions that they felt compelled to do. I enjoyed the story in its real, dramatic and tragic sense. I felt that Bulgakov really loved his characters, despite their weaknesses. In a way, it can be that the author himself identified with the overall story and it can be interpreted, on a different layer, as a autobiography. A Theatrical Novel (Notes of a Deceased), or, in other versions, Black Snow or White Snow. This is a very interesting piece of text about the theatre and life within theatre. It is regarded as a strong satire on events in the Soviet theatre – in November 1936 – after Bulgakov eventually resigned from the management of MHAT (Moscow Arts Academic Theatre) and his play Moliere was vigorously attacked by the Communists and rejected from being put on stage. On a different angle, if we follow just the narrative thread, Theatrical Novel can be seen as the story of the destiny of White Guard and its play adaptation, The Days of the Turbins, in other words, it’s the story of a story. It starts with a short introduction, allegedly by an author who has found a manuscript written by a so-called theatrical personage who has committed suicide. The style is very direct and harsh. Bulgakov takes a swipe at censorship and the vicious and abject authorities of the theatre world, dealing savagely with the reputations of those people that lead the theatre, who are seen as some tyrannical figures who crush the individuality and flair of writers and actors in the plays they are directing. The manuscript ends inconclusively, with the dead writer still proclaiming his wonder at the nature of theatre itself, despite its intrigues and frustrations; the initial author who has found the manuscript does not reappear, and it’s uncertain whether the point is that the theatrical figure left his memories uncompleted, or whether in fact Bulgakov failed to finish his original project. It leaves room to imagine some possible scenarios, for those who love to use their imagination generosity.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    Written in the 1920s, but this early Bulgakov novel touches on some topical issues like Ukrainian nationalism and the relationship between the Ukrainian and Russian languages. Plus ça change...? More than that though, it's a drama about a family caught up in the collapse of their society. The middle class Turbin family live in Kiev but are ethnic Russians, monarchists and generally firm adherents to the old social order. But the Tsarist Empire has collapsed and the family are swept up in a 3 way Written in the 1920s, but this early Bulgakov novel touches on some topical issues like Ukrainian nationalism and the relationship between the Ukrainian and Russian languages. Plus ça change...? More than that though, it's a drama about a family caught up in the collapse of their society. The middle class Turbin family live in Kiev but are ethnic Russians, monarchists and generally firm adherents to the old social order. But the Tsarist Empire has collapsed and the family are swept up in a 3 way conflict involving the Bolsheviks, the "Whites" and the Ukrainian nationalists. Confusion is the dominant theme. Soldiers on the frontline do their duty unaware their generals have already abandoned them; crowds listen to political speeches without having any idea who or what they are listening to; and ordinary people have no notion of what is happening 10 miles outside the city. Throughout the chaos the Turbins and their friends try to maintain their loyalty to each other, the only anchor they have left. The novel's portrayal of the anti-Bolshevik Turbins is entirely sympathetic. Unsurprisingly its publication at the time was blocked and Bulgakov was marked down as a counter-revolutionary. A modified version was however produced for the stage under the title "Days of the Turbins" and apparently many in the audiences were deeply affected by Bulgakov's recreation of the terrible days of 1918-19. Another well-crafted novel by this truly great writer.

  7. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    Before Bulgakov wrote several of the most exquisite Russian satires known to woman, he toyed in the Tolstoyan mode with this wartime chronicle set during the Ukrainian War of Independence, featuring a cast of terror-pocked soldiers and wives. A mixture of poetic reflection on the changing face of Ukraine, action sequences, domestic turmoil, and dreamlike digressions, the novel is an overlooked historical étude, trumped by the arrival of masterpieces like Heart of a Dog and The Fatal Eggs, not de Before Bulgakov wrote several of the most exquisite Russian satires known to woman, he toyed in the Tolstoyan mode with this wartime chronicle set during the Ukrainian War of Independence, featuring a cast of terror-pocked soldiers and wives. A mixture of poetic reflection on the changing face of Ukraine, action sequences, domestic turmoil, and dreamlike digressions, the novel is an overlooked historical étude, trumped by the arrival of masterpieces like Heart of a Dog and The Fatal Eggs, not devoid of humour, although most certainly an attempt at a grand literary statement to make the Moscow literati spit their stolichnaya (the novel remained unpublished until the 1960s).

  8. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Bulgakov's elegant first novel about the unfolding of the October revolution in Kiev--referred to as The City in the novel--has been rereleased by the wonderful independent publisher Melville House this year, in the Michael Glenny translation. Outstanding.Told through multiple points of view, the book centers upon two days in the Russian Civil war, December 13 and 14, 1918, when the city of Kiev, up to then controlled by the Ukrainian Hetman Skoropadsky, a German puppet and ally of the Monarchis Bulgakov's elegant first novel about the unfolding of the October revolution in Kiev--referred to as The City in the novel--has been rereleased by the wonderful independent publisher Melville House this year, in the Michael Glenny translation. Outstanding.Told through multiple points of view, the book centers upon two days in the Russian Civil war, December 13 and 14, 1918, when the city of Kiev, up to then controlled by the Ukrainian Hetman Skoropadsky, a German puppet and ally of the Monarchist Russians, falls to the armies of Petlyura, a Ukranian peasant nationalist, a figure of mystery and rumor. The enemy of the Whites, Petlyura's troops especially target the Russian officers who have supported the corrupt Skoropadsky and the Russian imperialist presence. As Faulkner said, the past is not over. It is not even past. The heart of the novel is the family of the Turbins, Alexei, a doctor returning from WWI, his little brother Nikolai, 17 and a cadet at the Russian military academy, and their sister Elena, the muse of a circle of Alexei's officer friends, each quickly but masterfully drawn, as well as the Turbin's comic foil, Vasily Lisovich, known as Vasilisa (after the folk heroine Vasilisa the Beautiful) an almost Doestoyevskian idiot who is the Turbin's downstairs neighbor. Admirably told, the novel reveals the hand of Bulgakov the dramatist as well as that of the prose artist. I especially admired the skill in passing the story from one point of view to another, the brilliant timing. The dreams and Alexei Turbin's delirium in a fever from typhus very much herald the arrival of the surrealist Master and Margarita, as well as recalling some of the more feverish moments of The Magic Mountain. The White Guard beautifully portrays the chaos of a civil war, in which rumor is only contradicted by actual shooting, in which someone's giving you orders one minute and in the next, jumps on a train heading for Germany, or simply disappears. There is no clearcut 'good' or 'bad' in this book, except for loyalty itself. Although it describes the taking of Kiev from the White side, it shows that the real loyalty in this world lives in one's family (the Turbins) and friends (the officers), a total stranger who saves your life, or a superior who holds his ground in the face of a dissolving defense. Bulgakov, it was said, had a very happy home life growing up, and the affection and mutual aid of the three Turbins and their household definitely reflects that. The prose work was published in 1925 as a magazine serial, but the magazine folded before the serial was complete. The popular play based on this story ran in Soviet Russia from 1926 to 1941--though the book did not appear until 1966. Stalin was said to have seen the play many times, and it probably saved Bulgakov's life. The Master and Margarita was far more politically questionable and never saw the light of day in Bulgakov's lifetime.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC Radio 4 Extra: 1/2: Kiev is protected by an uneasy alliance. Two brothers discover it's a bad time to be Tsarist. Stars Paul Hilton and James Loye. 2/2: The Turbin brothers find their survival skills tested, and Elena is driven to intense prayer. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00761h8 From BBC Radio 4 Extra: 1/2: Kiev is protected by an uneasy alliance. Two brothers discover it's a bad time to be Tsarist. Stars Paul Hilton and James Loye. 2/2: The Turbin brothers find their survival skills tested, and Elena is driven to intense prayer. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00761h8

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    I wasn't sure if Bulgakov's first novel, described as a historical novel about the fortunes of the city of Kiev in the year 1918, as the repercussions of the Russian revolution and the tail-end of the first world war play out, would be as good as his satirical masterpieces, The Master And Margarita and Black Snow. It certainly is. Bulgakov was a literary genius, that's the only conclusion I can draw. Not only does he maintain complete control over a narrative that segues constantly from the pano I wasn't sure if Bulgakov's first novel, described as a historical novel about the fortunes of the city of Kiev in the year 1918, as the repercussions of the Russian revolution and the tail-end of the first world war play out, would be as good as his satirical masterpieces, The Master And Margarita and Black Snow. It certainly is. Bulgakov was a literary genius, that's the only conclusion I can draw. Not only does he maintain complete control over a narrative that segues constantly from the panoramic to the personal, he keeps finding memorable motifs and metaphors to bring his tale to life. There is an entire section where he describes people's expressions and states of minds in terms of clock-hand positions. It seems like a subjective, potentially opaque conceit, but Bulgakov makes it work brilliantly. A good deal of his tale is told through dreams - again something potentially confusing and tedious that he does incredibly well. His talent for invoking the truly fantastic was evident in The Master, as was his facility with conjuring the bad numinous. Here, in an early vision of heaven, he brings us face to face with an equally convincing vision of divinity, both comforting and chilling. There are numerous bravura scenes of crowds and action, and of the thoughts and experiences of a his focus characters. This novel is also amazingly well structured, casting out a bewildering array of narrative threads that are all woven together into a tight, immaculate narrative tapestry. The novel ends with a virtuoso display of oneiric head-hopping which culminates in a passage which shows where the true strength of this novel lies - not in its many technical merits and literary flourishes, amazing though they are - but in its strong sense of the pathos of human destiny.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kerry

    A trip to Kiev cannot be complete without a little Bulgakov. A museum dedicated to the master lies just off of St. Andrew’s Descent, a cobblestone street passing from St. Sophia’s cathedral down to the Dneiper. The museum is contained in House No. 13 where, at one time, Mikhail Bulgakov and his family lived. While “The White Guard” is not as widely known as “The Master and Margarita” (which Salman Rushdie drew upon heavily for “Midnight’s Children”), it provides a better sense of Ukraine and, pa A trip to Kiev cannot be complete without a little Bulgakov. A museum dedicated to the master lies just off of St. Andrew’s Descent, a cobblestone street passing from St. Sophia’s cathedral down to the Dneiper. The museum is contained in House No. 13 where, at one time, Mikhail Bulgakov and his family lived. While “The White Guard” is not as widely known as “The Master and Margarita” (which Salman Rushdie drew upon heavily for “Midnight’s Children”), it provides a better sense of Ukraine and, particularly, Kiev. House No. 13 in Kiev provides the place, while 1918 and Ukrainian civil war provides the setting. The story is about the survival of the Turbin family in the midst of this upheaval. Bulgakov’s writing is transcendent: For many years before her death, in the house at No. 13 St. Alexei’s Hill, little Elena, Alexei the eldest and baby Nikolka had grown up in the warmth of the tiled stove that burned in the dining-room. How often they had followed the story of Peter the Great in Holland, ‘The Shipwright of Saardam’, portrayed on its glowing hot dutch tiles; how often the clock had played its gavotte; and always towards the end of December there had been a smell of pine-needles and candles burning on evergreen branches..…But clocks are fortunately quite immortal, as immortal as the Shipwright of Saardam, and however bad the times might be, the tiled Dutch stove, like a rock of wisdom, was always there to radiate life and warmth. (p.10) The tiled stove, upon which many political and apolitical messages are written, is nearly a character in its own right. The life it gives is not only comfort, but humor too: Then printed [on the stove:] in capitals, in Nikolka’s hand: I herby forbid the scribbling of nonsense on this stove. Any comrade found guilty of doing so will be shot and deprived of civil rights. Signed: Abraham Goldblatt, Ladies, Gentlemen’s and Women’s Tailor. Commissar, Podol District Committee. 30th January 1918. Bulgakov’s mastery of these slices of life make this an ideal book for reading while in Kiev. The city comes alive with a personality that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Reading how things were, while seeing how things are makes both the past and the present striking. This book has not only history, but action too. The stakes are incredibly high. Characters are shot, they are robbed; characters live, they die. The politics of the novel provide a roiling backdrop, though I do not think politics is the point. The intersection of politics and daily life, particularly when politics has brought war, is a fascinating topic and one that Bulgakov explores, but never in a heavy-handed manner. The political is merely backdrop to the personal: Something had settled in Alexei’s chest like a stone and he whistled as he breathed, drawing in through bared teeth a sticky, thin stream of air that barely penetrated to his lungs. He had long ago lost consciousness and neither saw nor understood what was going on around him. Elena stood and looked. The professor took her by the arm and whispered: ‘Go now, Elena Vasilievna, we’ll do all there is to do.’ Elena obeyed and went out. But the professor did not do anything more. (p. 275) This moment, to me, was perfect. Bulgakov has captured the essence of this type of situation. The only thing the professor could do for Alexei was to reassure Elena. Bulgakov brilliantly sketches even minor characters. Outside of House No. 13, a war is raging. Several family members are involved and, in this way, the reader is provided a view of the wider world and the characters that inhabit it. Perhaps my favorite is this troubling scene in which the janitor, drafted into service as coroner, is helping Nikolka, the younger brother, find Colonel Nais-Turs, Nikolka’s fallen comrade-in-arms. Moving carefully in order not to slip on the floor, Fyodor grasped Nais-Turs by the head and pulled hard. A flat-chested, broad-hipped woman was lying face down across Nai’s stomach. There was a cheap little comb in the hair at the back of her neck, glittering dully, like a fragment of glass. Without stopping what he was doing Fyodor deftly pulled it out, dropped it into the pocket of his apron and gripped NaiTurs under the armpits. As it was pulled out of the pile his head lolled back, his sharp, unshaven chin pointed upwards and one arm slipped from the janitor’s grasp. (p.271) Bulgakov keeps the plot taut and the reader engaged. This book requires little suspension of disbelief. The White Guard is realist, unlike the much more fanciful “The Master and Margarita.” Bulgakov does, however, add a touch of the supernatural. And while the book is political enough to have been suppressed by Stalin, the question of which of the three sides fighting the war is “right” is never really posed, much less answered. The interesting questions all pertain to the individual and, more, to a family trying to survive a civil war. The primary loyalties are personal which, in Ukraine as elsewhere, reflects reality. The book is ambivalent toward political loyalties and the revolutions borne of having putting those loyalties before the personal. The author, as surely as the characters, must have had little enthusiasm for revolutionary politics. In the end, perhaps the highest praise I can give is that it would be difficult to read “The White Guard” without becoming attached to the Turbin family. Perhaps, this, more than any overt politics, is why the novel was banned in the Stalinist Soviet Union.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    “Blood is cheap on those red fields...” It is 1918, and Kiev in the Ukraine is at the swirling centre of the forces unleashed by war and revolution. The three Turbin siblings live in the house of their recently deceased mother in the city. They are White Russians, still loyal to the Russian Tsar, hoping against hope that he may have escaped the Bolsheviks and be living still. But there are other factions too – the German Army have installed a puppet leader, the Hetman Skoropadsky, and the Ukrania “Blood is cheap on those red fields...” It is 1918, and Kiev in the Ukraine is at the swirling centre of the forces unleashed by war and revolution. The three Turbin siblings live in the house of their recently deceased mother in the city. They are White Russians, still loyal to the Russian Tsar, hoping against hope that he may have escaped the Bolsheviks and be living still. But there are other factions too – the German Army have installed a puppet leader, the Hetman Skoropadsky, and the Ukranian peasantry are on the march in a nationalist movement, under their leader Petlyura. This is the story of a few short days when the fate of the city seems up for grabs, and the lives of the Turbins, like so many in those turbulent times, are under constant threat. Great and terrible was the year of Our Lord 1918, of the Revolution the second. Its summer abundant with warmth and sun, its winter with snow, highest in its heaven stood two stars: the shepherds' star, eventide Venus; and Mars – quivering, red. I found the beginning of this book rather difficult because I had no idea who all the various factions and real-life characters were, nor what they were attempting to achieve. But I soon realised that in this I differed less from the fictional characters than I first thought. This is a book about confusion and betrayal, shifting allegiances, chaos and fear. Bulgakov takes a panoramic approach, following one character and then panning off to another. This gives it an episodic feel and adds to the sense of events moving too quickly for the people involved ever to fully grasp. The Turbins actually aren't in it a lot of the time, but they provide a thread for us to catch at in the maze, and a human side to the story for us to care about. One of the early episodes tells the story of the soldier Victor, a friend of the Turbins, who with 39 companions is ordered to defend the city from the approaching forces of Petlyura. Ill-equipped and insufficiently clothed for the extreme cold, two of the men die of frostbite and the rest are lucky to survive. They achieve nothing. While reading this, I was simultaneously reading the beginning of Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution , where he talks of the mass mobilisation of workers and peasants into the Russian army to fight against Germany in WW1. His description of the ill-trained, poorly-equipped troops dying needlessly in vast numbers is chillingly similar and I found that each book lent verisimilitude to the other. Although the Turbins are on the side of the Tsar, the book itself doesn't seem to take a political stance. If anything, it paints an equally despicable picture of all the various faction leaders, as cowards hiding behind the men they send carelessly to their deaths. As senior officers on all sides run into hiding, middle-ranking officers are left to decide whether to make a stand or disband their troops, many of them no more than young boys in cadet corps. It gives an only too credible feeling for the chaos in the city, for people not knowing what's happening, and for each new rumour spreading like wildfire. Amidst all this, we see odd glimpses of life continuing – boys out playing in the snow, workers making their way to their jobs, people shopping. Through the Turbin brothers, Nikolka and Alexei, we see the battle each man must individually face between fear and heroism, while Elena, their sister, must wait at home, praying for their safety. In the gaps between scenes of extreme brutality, Bulgakov lets us glimpse his love for the city. He describes the streets his characters pass through, the alleyways they use to escape, the ancient cathedral, the huge statue of Saint Vladimir on the hill above the city. But we are never allowed to forget the approaching threat... But the brightest light of all was the white cross held by the gigantic statue of St Vladimir atop Vladimir Hill. It could be seen from far, far away and often in summer, in thick black mist, amid the osier-beds and tortuous meanders of the age-old river, the boatmen would see it and by its light would steer their way to the City and its wharves. In winter the cross would glow through the dense black clouds, a frozen unmoving landmark towering above the gently sloping expanse of the eastern bank, whence two vast bridges were flung across the river. One, the ponderous Chain Bridge that led to the right-bank suburbs, the other high, slim and urgent as an arrow that carried the trains from where, far away, crouched another city, threatening and mysterious: Moscow. As the chaos worsens, so we see the atrocities that are never far from war – the criminals jumping on the lack of order to terrorise an already demoralised citizenry, the bodies left unidentified and unclaimed in the City's morgue, the wounded frightened to seek help for fear of capture. Not quite knowing who every faction was made it even more unsettling, though I wondered if Bulgakov's first readers would have known, and so might have read it differently. A truly brilliant book that, while concentrating on one small city, gives a brutal and terrifyingly believable picture of the horrors unleashed in the wake of bloody revolution. And here we are, one hundred years later, with Moscow again invading the Ukraine – this troubled and divided territory still fighting what is essentially the same war... The snow would just melt, the green Ukranian grass would grow again and weave its carpet over the earth... The gorgeous sunrises would come again... The air would shimmer with heat above the fields and no more traces of blood would remain. Blood is cheap on those red fields and no one would redeem it. No one. www.fictionfanblog.wordpress.com

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    The year is 1919 and the Civil War has spread to Kiev, Bulgakov’s home town. Ukraine is under the control of the iron-fisted nationalist, Petliura,. He’s brutally securing Kiev in preparation for the invasion of the Reds (Bolsheviks) looming on the horizon. Central to the novel is the Turbin family who live in a cozy apartment in town. The furnishings and atmosphere of the dwelling have a 19th century feel as if they were still living under the Tsar, which is what they’d prefer. They’re trying t The year is 1919 and the Civil War has spread to Kiev, Bulgakov’s home town. Ukraine is under the control of the iron-fisted nationalist, Petliura,. He’s brutally securing Kiev in preparation for the invasion of the Reds (Bolsheviks) looming on the horizon. Central to the novel is the Turbin family who live in a cozy apartment in town. The furnishings and atmosphere of the dwelling have a 19th century feel as if they were still living under the Tsar, which is what they’d prefer. They’re trying to shut out the upheaval outside by closing “the cream colored curtains” and pretending they are still in the past. But the death of the Turbins’ mother is a harsh reminder of reality. The funeral has an apocalyptic feel and the priest is unable to comfort the eldest, Alexei. The White Guard is a novel without a hero. One curious townfolk is Shpolyansky, an eccentric man who keeps a ballerina as a mistress. He despises Petliura, so is ready to back the Bolsheviks when they invade. Rusakov, a poet who suffers with venereal disease, is convinced that Shpolyansky is the Antichrist. Alexei is caught out on the street during a violent clash. He is wounded, but does not die. While recovering, he has many apocalyptic dreams. They’re a message that Alexei and his family have been wrong about many things. They have clung to the myths of Tsarist Russia. But the world has changed. It will not go back to the old ways. One cynic tells Alexei’s sister, Elena, “go ahead and doze by the reading lamp while the storm outside howls—and wait until they come for you.” The book is full of literary allusions including Dostoevsky’s The Possessed that Elena is reading but fails to connect to what is happening in Kiev. Bulgakov modeled his book after War & Peace, but it is much more narrowly construed. The action takes place over 47 days and the great Russian army that was victorious in Tolstoy has long since been crushed by 1919.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I've just finished The White Guard and I think it will stay with me for some time.I have the 2009 edition from Yale University Press which includes an introduction by the translator Marian Schwartz, as well as an introduction by Russian history professor Evgeny Dobrenko, who explains the historical and political context of the novel. I would encourage readers to seek out this edition, and to read the two introductions first.While The White Guard, Bulgakov's first novel, doesn't have the same sur I've just finished The White Guard and I think it will stay with me for some time.I have the 2009 edition from Yale University Press which includes an introduction by the translator Marian Schwartz, as well as an introduction by Russian history professor Evgeny Dobrenko, who explains the historical and political context of the novel. I would encourage readers to seek out this edition, and to read the two introductions first.While The White Guard, Bulgakov's first novel, doesn't have the same surreal or supernatural elements as his later works, such as The Master and Margarita or Heart of a Dog, those qualities are presaged in the dream sequences and lyrical descriptions of the city of Kiev.This is a heart-breaking, profound and very Russian novel.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    "But the sword is not fearful. Everything passes away—suffering, pain, blood, hunger, and pestilence. The sword will pass away too, but the stars will still remain when the shadows of our presence and our deeds have vanished from the earth. There's no man who does not know that. Why, then, will we not turn our eyes toward the stars? Why?" (300) "But the sword is not fearful. Everything passes away—suffering, pain, blood, hunger, and pestilence. The sword will pass away too, but the stars will still remain when the shadows of our presence and our deeds have vanished from the earth. There's no man who does not know that. Why, then, will we not turn our eyes toward the stars? Why?" (300)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Pavel

    Ukraine. Kiev. Times of turnmoil (1918). Revolution. German troops are leaving Kiev to Petlura, controversial leader of Ukranian nationalists, the one who tries to gain his power through stirring a conflict between Russians and Ukrainians and Jews. Pogroms are on their way. Bolsheviks are going in just in a few weeks. Big family of Turbins, Russian intelligent people and their friends. Whole world of their is collapsing right in front our eyes. Bulgakov is best-known for his "Master and Margarit Ukraine. Kiev. Times of turnmoil (1918). Revolution. German troops are leaving Kiev to Petlura, controversial leader of Ukranian nationalists, the one who tries to gain his power through stirring a conflict between Russians and Ukrainians and Jews. Pogroms are on their way. Bolsheviks are going in just in a few weeks. Big family of Turbins, Russian intelligent people and their friends. Whole world of their is collapsing right in front our eyes. Bulgakov is best-known for his "Master and Margarita", but I actually prefer "The white guard", it's a masterpiece of Russian realistic prose. He himself did not afraid to compare it to the "War and piece". Indeed it's a "War and piece" of Russian clerisy, their tragic fate and inadaptability and idealism. Bulgakov came from this environment, he was from Kiev himself, all the main characters: Alexey Turbin, Nikolenka, Lariosik, Mushlaevsky, Shervinsky, Talberg have their protopypes in Bulgakov's real life. And not only Ukranian turnmoil reflects with our times, but this difficult situation for intellectuals, when they are caught between own notions of events and the fear of political purges. Love and death and defeat of all hopes, everything is in there. Play based on this novel - "Days of Turbins" was a huge MXT success, Stalin saw it at least 15 times and didn't allow to ban it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Eadweard

    As far as russian novels go, "The White Guard" is perfect, so why didn't I give it 5/5? I don't know. The characters are well written, the story is fascinating (for those interested in the subject), the prose and descriptions are great, everything is perfect. Perhaps I wanted a longer book and I'm taking it out on the rating? Okay, I'll give it a 4.5/5. "Alexei, Elena, Talberg, Anyuta the maid who had grown up in the Turbins' house, and young Nikolka, stunned by the death, a lock of hair falling As far as russian novels go, "The White Guard" is perfect, so why didn't I give it 5/5? I don't know. The characters are well written, the story is fascinating (for those interested in the subject), the prose and descriptions are great, everything is perfect. Perhaps I wanted a longer book and I'm taking it out on the rating? Okay, I'll give it a 4.5/5. "Alexei, Elena, Talberg, Anyuta the maid who had grown up in the Turbins' house, and young Nikolka, stunned by the death, a lock of hair falling over his right eyebrow, stood at the foot of the ancient brown ikon of St Nicholas. Set deep on either side of his long bird-like nose, Nikolka's blue eyes had a wounded, defeated look. Occasionally he raised them towards the ikon screen, to the vaulted apse above the altar where that glum and enigmatic old man, God, towered above them and winked. Why had he inflicted such a wrong on them? Wasn't it unjust?" ---- "For the fact was that although life in the City went on with apparent normality – it had a police force, a civil service, even an army and newspapers with various names – not a single person in it knew what was going on around and about the City, in the real Ukraine, a country of tens of millions of people, bigger than France. They not only knew nothing about the distant parts of the country, but they were even, ridiculous though it seems, in utter ignorance of what was happening in the villages scattered about twenty or thirty miles away from the City itself. They neither knew nor cared about the real Ukraine and they hated it with all their heart and soul. And whenever there came vague rumors of events from that mysterious place called 'the country', rumors that the Germans were robbing the peasants, punishing them mercilessly and mowing them down by machine-gun fire, not only was not a single indignant voice raised in defense of the Ukrainian peasants but, under silken lampshades in drawing-rooms, they would bare their teeth in a wolfish grin and mutter: 'Serve them right! And a bit more of that sort of treatment wouldn't do 'em any harm either. I'd give it 'em even harder. That'll teach them to have a revolution – didn't want their own masters, so now they can have a taste of another!'" ---- "Hundreds of heads in the choir-loft crowded one on another, jostling forward, hanging down over the balustrade between the ancient pillars adorned with smoke-blackened frescoes. Craning, excited, leaning forward, pushing, they surged towards the balustrade trying to look down into the well of the cathedral, but could see nothing for the hundreds of heads already there, like rows of yellow apples. Down in the abyss swayed a reeking, thousand-headed crowd, over which hovered an almost incandescent wave of sweat, steam, incense smoke, the lamp-black from hundreds of candles, and soot from heavy chain-hung ikon-lamps. The ponderous gray-blue drape creaked along on its rings and covered the doors of the altar screen, floridly wrought in centuries-old metal as dark and grim as the whole gloomy cathedral of St Sophia. Crackling faintly and swaying, the flaming tongues of candles in the chandeliers drifted upwards in threads of smoke. There was not enough air for them. Around the altar there was incredible confusion. From the doors of side-chapels, down the worn granite steps, poured streams of gold copes and fluttering stoles. Priestly headdresses, like short violet stovepipes, slid out of their cardboard boxes, religious banners were taken down, flapping, from the walls. Somewhere in the thick of the crowd boomed out the awesome bass of Archdeacon Seryebryakov. A headless, armless cope swayed above the crowd and was swallowed up again; then there rose up one sleeve of a quilted cassock, followed by the other as its wearer was enrobed in the cope. Check handkerchiefs fluttered and were twisted into plaits."

  18. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    After I finished reading the first time I went to the Introductions and read them. The one by the translator, Marian Schwartz, is very nice, informative - she did this in 2009. But the one by Evgeny Dobrenko is totally marvelous, thoughtful and informative, giving background information on Bulgakov as well as the Ukranaian War of Independence (Russian Civil War). In fact, I was so taken by Dobrenko’s introduction I went back and reread the entire work - very carefully - and was stunned. This tim After I finished reading the first time I went to the Introductions and read them. The one by the translator, Marian Schwartz, is very nice, informative - she did this in 2009. But the one by Evgeny Dobrenko is totally marvelous, thoughtful and informative, giving background information on Bulgakov as well as the Ukranaian War of Independence (Russian Civil War). In fact, I was so taken by Dobrenko’s introduction I went back and reread the entire work - very carefully - and was stunned. This time I followed all the action, family or not. I took notes (see the link). I googled for more specific info. I was mesmerized. The writing is beautiful, lush, sensual. Everything has meaning and I know that no matter how much I studied it in this day and age, 2010 - California - there is no way I could possibly understand the nature of all the symbolism, the dream sequences, the characters and their ideas. I understand how Stalin could let the play be staged and love it, but ban the book because in the play and the book the Petlyiura forces are made to look seriously bad but in the book it’s complex, in the play that part is simpler. Apparently Bulgakov had conflicting feelings about the Revolution - although I didn’t catch that - Dobrenko did. The narrative gives off a strong bit of nostalgia for the old Russian Kiev - that’s where Bulgakov was from and the book is semi-autobiographical. Kiev is the religious center of Russia - where Prince Vladimir accepted Christianity in 988. His statue and hill play a central roll in White Guard. But Bulgakov also wrote the book as a kind of commentary on the meaningless, violent, stupidity of war. Also important in the book are the themes time is moving on and running out (so many clocks) and that everybody is running away. There seem to be lots of ways of running away but the physical act is important here. Lampshades color, dim, hide the truth of the situation while religion seems to distance it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rosemarie

    This book does an excellent job portraying the confusion and chaos in Kiev in December 1918. The White Guard defending the city are woefully outnumbered by those who are going to attack the city-- the Bolsheviks. The leaders of the Whites flee the city, leaving few instructions to those left behind, mostly Cadets. Many of the Cadets and officers are killed but some are able to flee. The Turbin family, two brothers and their sister, show how this confusion and disaster affected the people of Kiev o This book does an excellent job portraying the confusion and chaos in Kiev in December 1918. The White Guard defending the city are woefully outnumbered by those who are going to attack the city-- the Bolsheviks. The leaders of the Whites flee the city, leaving few instructions to those left behind, mostly Cadets. Many of the Cadets and officers are killed but some are able to flee. The Turbin family, two brothers and their sister, show how this confusion and disaster affected the people of Kiev on a more personal and emotional level.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ivan

    A truthful and frightening recount of an ordinary pre-revolution family transformed by successive events in Ukrainian history. This isn't a horror story, and it doesn't have any gore, but the functioning and the breakdown of society; life of a family in such a society with its hopes and fears in absence of clear outcome is a fearsome sight to behold. This is especially true when we look back to contemplate the uneasy history of UkrSSR that followed and hundreds of thousands of people's lives dest A truthful and frightening recount of an ordinary pre-revolution family transformed by successive events in Ukrainian history. This isn't a horror story, and it doesn't have any gore, but the functioning and the breakdown of society; life of a family in such a society with its hopes and fears in absence of clear outcome is a fearsome sight to behold. This is especially true when we look back to contemplate the uneasy history of UkrSSR that followed and hundreds of thousands of people's lives destroyed in successive expropriation and forced industrialisation. I acknowledge that for a native anglophone the multitude of names can be confusing, and back in soviet times this book, while certainly banned could really be comprehended by select few, as most individuals have never known a productive life outside of the system, nor envisaged a possibility of its existence. I would recommend this book to those who have Russian ancestry (first wave emigration) and want to understand what pushed them to leave and how uneasy this decision was in a WWI Europe; it is also somewhat representative of my great-grand uncle family story.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Toria

    This is a book I need to process and read again another time, hopefully to get more into the story. Think Mikhail is one of those authors I need to warm up to and get used to his writing style. Giving The white guard 3 stars for now but might change on my next reread sometime in the future

  22. 4 out of 5

    Yigal Zur

    bulgakov thinks that every revolution is a caos, end of the world. this a novel about collapse of society. a bit old fashion in view. maybe. but great writer.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Hell of an evocation of Ukrainian Civil War from the vantage point of a pro-monarchy Russian family and their friends in Kiev. Important, complex history in a master work of fiction. Bulgakov illustrates the confusion and tension far from revolutionary Petrograd and how Kievans sort through the chaos and interpret events they cannot even attempt to control. As pointed out by others, it is ironic that Bulgakov and his characters see themselves as honorable reactionaries hoping to reinstate a tsar Hell of an evocation of Ukrainian Civil War from the vantage point of a pro-monarchy Russian family and their friends in Kiev. Important, complex history in a master work of fiction. Bulgakov illustrates the confusion and tension far from revolutionary Petrograd and how Kievans sort through the chaos and interpret events they cannot even attempt to control. As pointed out by others, it is ironic that Bulgakov and his characters see themselves as honorable reactionaries hoping to reinstate a tsar. They support the mostly inadequate-to-malignant Romanovs yet the characters are strongly motivated by honor. They yearn to return to a government that has been, irl, very dishonorable and bad for pretty much the whole Russian Empire. Thankfully, this translation in includes the dream sequence. Marian Schwartz’s word choices seem wonderful. I would love to go back to Kiev and try to see it through Bulgakov’s eyes. When I was there in the early 1990s it seemed glorious but a bit sad and rundown, trashed by communism. Ukraine is in such a vulnerable geographic position with no relief in sight. Russia and Ukraine as allies and trading partners could move forward faster together than as conqueror and conquered. If only Russia could keep it’s paws to itself. I know it’s complicated and that Russians also live in Ukraine but they’d all be better off as allies. I've known people who live inside contemporary Ukrainian borders who identify as Ukrainian and those who identify as Russian. I have no preference. I just want neither to get screwed, but screwed they are. Maybe they need to build a Trumpian wall! (jk, naturally) I learned that Stalin loved the censored play version of this book, The Day of the Turbins, so much he saw it many times and protected Bulgakov from an unnatural demise. Fascinating!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Richardson

    This book is a page turner at it's finest- not because it is action packed and full of cheesy cliffhangers, but because Bulgakov's writing style so successfully recreates for the reader the torturous confusion these characters experienced in this bizarre time of war- and these characters and I want to figure out what the hell is happening! Why is everyone running in the other direction and ripping off their epaulets? Where is Turbin and why hasn't he made it home yet? And who the hell is this Pe This book is a page turner at it's finest- not because it is action packed and full of cheesy cliffhangers, but because Bulgakov's writing style so successfully recreates for the reader the torturous confusion these characters experienced in this bizarre time of war- and these characters and I want to figure out what the hell is happening! Why is everyone running in the other direction and ripping off their epaulets? Where is Turbin and why hasn't he made it home yet? And who the hell is this Petlyura fellow anyway? The narration of these events taking place in Kiev during Russian Civil War is given through many different perspectives. You will experience a battle with someone, confused and distraught over why things are happening this way. In the next chapter you will back peddle through the perspective of another character to see how the event played our from the start. This style of story-telling keeps in-tact the chaotic experience these people were dealing with while also allowing the reader to eventually assemble the big picture. Bulgakov makes the City come to life so thoroughly with vivid descriptions of objects and places that reach out to all of ones senses, always unique but through reappearing motifs. While the main story revolves around the members of the Ukrainian Turbin family, the essence of the story is much more far reaching and captures the seemingly endless turbulence of both the City and the nation.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Volodymyr Okarynskyi

    Talented Russian imperialist agitation, the apology of colonialism. Book full of prejudice, racism and annoying sentimentality.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Moon Rose

    The horrifying cadence of a revolution that swept Russia in the early part of the 20th century; which replaced the seat of the governing aristocracy with the austerity of the intense power of the collective plebeian regime that gave rise to an ideal that cried for justice and equality, breathing life to a series of senseless violence causing the untimely deaths of the many in its wake showed in full daylight the unobtrusive intention beneath the noble purpose, forfeiting its essence by its oppos The horrifying cadence of a revolution that swept Russia in the early part of the 20th century; which replaced the seat of the governing aristocracy with the austerity of the intense power of the collective plebeian regime that gave rise to an ideal that cried for justice and equality, breathing life to a series of senseless violence causing the untimely deaths of the many in its wake showed in full daylight the unobtrusive intention beneath the noble purpose, forfeiting its essence by its opposite virulent results, a clear manifestation of man's inconsistency, showing the immature state of his consciousness that still governs his soul as part of his ongoing path towards the evolution of the mind. Mikhail Bulgakov captures this violent and endearing past of Russia, its pivotal point in history that centers on its transition state, written with such poignancy as he vividly describes the sudden disintegration of the Russian society that existed for half a millennia, the demise of the Tsarist regime and the fall of the aristocracy in the hands of the revolutionary commoners as prophesied by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in Demons , which parallelism with Pyotr Verkhovensky seems evident in Bulgakov's unseen moving character of Petlyura in The White Guard, hovering like a dark cloud over a horizon that signals only an impending doom. The style of writing is different from his more famous novel, The Master and Margarita which is filled with profound comicality that hides the inner truths in the depth of his masterful utilization of magical realism. At first glance, it seems that the two novels are penned by two different authors, as The White Guard, on the other hand, there are only misty streaks of profundity emitting from it, as it gears towards descriptive realism, encapsulating a specific period in time, as it describes the physical aspects of circumstances rather than delving into its underlying meaning. It is written in an almost straight forward way, except during Bulgakov's bouts of lucid imagery in between and at the last part of the novel, displaying his keen grasp of the surreal through the symbolic dream sequences that foretell his genius as a writer. Furthermore, the novel in its entirety appears more like a stage play rather than a novel, as its deliberate compactness has this kind of effect in visualization to the reader. The White Guard is the story of the Turbin siblings, mainly Alexei, Elena and Nikolka living in Ukraine at that time during the critical period in the Russian revolution. The narrative is told from the different angles of their viewpoints, as their experiences intertwined into the hellish change that is about to take shape in Russia. It untangles their lives caught in the grim prospect of death, as they all struggle to survive amid the sea of uncertainty. The novel opens with a bleak metaphor, the gloom of death at hand, as the death of their adored mother appears as a symbolic gesture of their own fate or more aptly the fate of the whole of Russia, as they all become a living witness to the death of their own society that keeps them safe and intact, as it gives them a preview of the vicissitudes that would come out of it as a repercussion. In terms of character development, there are minor appearances of interesting personas that are just left hanging in mid air without further elaboration on the part of Bulgakov. They seem to appear like bubbles out of nowhere that burst immediately into thin air, which if their development has been taken into consideration, it could have made the novel more intense, keeping the audience riveted on its pages as it will allow them to go deeper into the depths of the situation, giving contrast to the humanitarian efforts of the Turbin siblings against the psychological implications a tragedy can cause to other people. For instance, the sudden appearance of the syphilis infected Ivan Rusakov by the middle of the novel, whose sexually transmitted disease made him remorseful, turning him away from his wicked past, as it turns him into a religious fanatic enclosed into the rigidity of an ascetic belief. His character is actually loosely detached from the lives of the main protagonists with the exception of a brief encounter with Alexei in the end, but in his character, which is only abruptly mentioned by Bulgakov lies the psychological depth that exists in all of humanity, especially those on the verge of transformation. Same goes with the other minor characters who flutter fleetingly within the novel, leaving their hidden implications to the imagination of the reader, like the inconsistent behavior of the depraved character of Mikhail Shpolyansky, or the bravery displayed by the tragic character of Colonel Nai-Turs, his own unquestionable heroism leading him to his own demise. These are just few of the several instances within The White Guard, surrounding the lives of the Turbin siblings and their friends, as they pop out disconnectedly from the whole, yet congenial to the rest of the novel. Perhaps, it is Bulgakov's own demonstration to imply the sheer uncertainty of that particular period in time. ☾

  27. 5 out of 5

    Anastasia

    Great and terrible was the year of Our Lord 1918, of the Revolution the second. Its summer abundant with warmth and sun, its winter with snow, highest in its heaven stood two stars: the shepherds' star, eventide Venus; and Mars - quivering, red With this exquisite opening sentence Bulgakov starts his first novel, a story of a family very much like his own, of bleak winter days and personal losses scattered with drops of blood on the map of 20th century Kiev. It will take the author five more years Great and terrible was the year of Our Lord 1918, of the Revolution the second. Its summer abundant with warmth and sun, its winter with snow, highest in its heaven stood two stars: the shepherds' star, eventide Venus; and Mars - quivering, red With this exquisite opening sentence Bulgakov starts his first novel, a story of a family very much like his own, of bleak winter days and personal losses scattered with drops of blood on the map of 20th century Kiev. It will take the author five more years to start working on “The Master and Margarita”, but even here in his snow-covered City of 1918 the doctors dream of Heavenly Gates, fragile and vicious strangers save them from enemy bullets, cadets go down to Hades to recover the bodies of fallen friends and miracles happen to those desperate enough to ask. Amidst the tumult and the confusion the Turbins’ house remains the only constant point with all of the world revolving around it, and everyone inside safe and sound behind the cream-coloured blinds, very much like a Christmas scene locked in a snowball, tranquil and eternal. Whatever happens, they will all return as if they’ve never left. The Russian empire is no more, the Germans have left and so did eventually the forces of Petliura. As the red star rises over Kiev, Bulgakov hints that this too shall pass. If you take a walk around Old Kyiv, a lot of those houses are still there, the houses that saw the Bulgakovs and the Turbins, bombs and parades, guns and flags, and the Saint Volodymyr with his sword-like cross.

  28. 4 out of 5

    pedro

    It was indeed a very amusing book. I randomly found it on my usual supermarket. I got astonished bylooking at the cover and seeing the names of the most prestigious Russian translators we have in Portugal (Nina Guerra & Filipe Guerra) I thought: well since I have a few books of Mikhail Bulgakov on my to-read list, I’ll just take this one as a first pitch. It was a safe bet. Although the author is considered to be a disciple of Nikolai Gogol, I find this comparison a bit too much. Sure he had and s It was indeed a very amusing book. I randomly found it on my usual supermarket. I got astonished bylooking at the cover and seeing the names of the most prestigious Russian translators we have in Portugal (Nina Guerra & Filipe Guerra) I thought: well since I have a few books of Mikhail Bulgakov on my to-read list, I’ll just take this one as a first pitch. It was a safe bet. Although the author is considered to be a disciple of Nikolai Gogol, I find this comparison a bit too much. Sure he had and showed witty moments, but Nikolai Gogol shows a lot more consistency in his prose. It’s an amusing book, recounting some troubled time in Ukraine, that the author himself, testified, somewhere between WWI and the Soviet Revolution and the prce Ukraine and its people paid, its divisions and contradictions. Fun book but confused at time. At least for me. Maybe because its Mikhail Bulgakov first novel? Can’t really say. Il be sure to check that on his next novel I get my hands on.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    6 MAR 2019 - a terrific listen-to for a slow workday. Listen here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03y... P.S. I will be reading the book, too. 6 MAR 2019 - a terrific listen-to for a slow workday. Listen here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03y... P.S. I will be reading the book, too.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth P.

    More than anything, I see this novel as a love letter to the city of Kiev. Frankly, it's easier for me to see it this way. From cover to cover Mr. Bulgakov takes pains to present us with the beauty and charm of his beloved city. In late 1917, early 1918 chaos reigned. During the coldest winter in memory, in the frigid snow, with blood-drenched ice, Kiev managed to be beautiful. Civil war would be an understatement. I read in Wiki that Mr. Bulgakov personally witnessed ten political coups in his More than anything, I see this novel as a love letter to the city of Kiev. Frankly, it's easier for me to see it this way. From cover to cover Mr. Bulgakov takes pains to present us with the beauty and charm of his beloved city. In late 1917, early 1918 chaos reigned. During the coldest winter in memory, in the frigid snow, with blood-drenched ice, Kiev managed to be beautiful. Civil war would be an understatement. I read in Wiki that Mr. Bulgakov personally witnessed ten political coups in his lifetime. The novel is about the Turbin family and their immediate friends. Ukrainians, they are monarchists, loyal to Tsar Nicholas and his family who have already been assassinated by Bolsheviks. They love the Ukraine but are Russians at heart. National distinctions are difficult in this book. When are the characters speaking Russian and when Ukrainian? Fights break out among characters over the appropriate language to use. "Speak Russian you Prick." "Fuck you, you Bolshevik yid!" The Turbin family and friends are fighters, members of the White Guard, a small anemic army who are in denial over the death of their beloved Tsar. They seek to defend Kiev from a huge socialist army of one hundred thousand (or was it eight hundred thousand?); an army of Ukrainians (as far as I could ascertain). Meanwhile the Muskovite Bolsheviks wait like wolves (with guns and mortars from WW1 squireled away, buried everywhere until their time arrives). This particular battle for Kiev is quick and one-sided. It is the Russian Civil War or it is the War of Ukrainian Independence. All parties on both sides drink vodka for breakfast (and lunch and dinner). It is brutally violent, often pathetic and sometimes funny. I would recommend a copy of this book that has a prologue with a bit of historical clarification. It would have helped me. But of course it's a novel. It is what it is. The Turbin family and surviving members of the White Guard hide like rats in their own homes, waiting for history to unfold, waiting to die, quaffing vodka during card games, screaming at one another over shitty whist-play. Now, nearly a century later, there is a chaotic mess in that region; which is why I take the easy way out and see Bulgakov's novel as a love letter to Kiev. Mikhail Bulgakov gives us both barrels in his final paragraph. No longer a Ukrainian or a Russian...... listen: Everything passes away-- suffering, pain, blood, hunger and pestilence. The sword will pass away too, but the stars will remain when the shadows of our presence and our deeds have vanished from the earth. There is no man who does not know that. Why, then, will we not turn our eyes toward the stars? Why?

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