Black Snow
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Black Snow

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3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  1,288 ratings  ·  72 reviews
A masterpiece of black comedy by the author of The Master and Margarita.

When Maxudov's novel fails, he attempts suicide. When that fails, he dramatizes his novel. To Maxudov's surprise - and the resentment of literary Moscow - the play is accepted by the legendary Independent Theater, and Maxudov plunges into a vortex of inflated egos. Each rehearsal sees more and more spa...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published March 3rd 2005 by Vintage Classics (first published 1965)
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Community Reviews

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Jonfaith
It may be heretical to muse along these lines, but I was heartened to imagine what would've been the result of a collaboration between Mikhail Bulgakov and Preston Sturges. My mind's eye sees something similar to 42d Street but with Joel McCrea in the lead as a struggling playwright, Barbara Stanwyck vamping her way into the production, causing the author to rewrite and ruin his artistic vision. The NKVD (led by William Demarest) will undoubtedly swoop in during the final reel. A pipe and mustac...more
Blair
Bulgakov's 'theatrical novel' Black Snow introduces the reader to the unfortunate Maxudov, whose efforts to publish a book, and later to turn that same book (based on his own suicide attempt) into a play, are met with varying degrees of contempt, incompetence and unhelpful interference from the literary contingent of Moscow. It's a typically Russian novel: it feels more modern than it has any right to, brims with sarcastic wit, and is often morbid. It's years since I read The Master and Margarit...more
MJ Nicholls
There are some oppressive regimes (well, most of them) where it’s not a good idea to be a wit. Like Burma, for example, where two comedians were sentenced to twenty years hard labour for, um . . . telling jokes. Or, as Bulgakov learned the hard way, when Stalin is King and Russia is tooling up for another war. Black Snow is about censorship but mainly about the inner workings of the Moscow Theatre, how Stanislavsky was a fraud, and how being a playwright in Stalinist Russia was harder than swall...more
Philip
Black Snow is a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov. This apparent platitude is full of contradiction. The book is perhaps better described as an autobiographical episode, with Bulgakov renamed as the book’s central character, Maxudov. It’s also a satire in which the characters are precise, exact and often vicious caricatures of Bulgakov’s colleagues and acquaintances in the between-the-wars Moscow Arts Theatre, including the legendary Stanislawsky. In some ways, Black Snow is a history of Bulgakov’s grea...more
Katinki
4.99 stars

brilliant and funny and just lovely. especially after having just suffered through that godawful kundera garbage.

in a hurry. will come back to say more if i have a chance. if i forget, just take away that i definitely recommend this quick read (and really, anything else by bulgakov)
Al Bità
The apparent ease with which Bulgakov can skewer pretentiousness, both on a personal level as well as on a wider social perspective is found here in "Black Snow". The general target is the theatrical scene in Russia, but the specific satirical barbs converge on a character identified by critics as Stanislavsky. This is of course a narrower world than that covered in his masterpiece "The Master and Margarita", but the same wide-eyed innocence of the narrator, which precisely because of this allow...more
Maijabeep
3.5 stars.

So parts of this book are completely gorgeous and it's totally hilarious, but I'm not sure how mainstream this book might be. For people like me, who've worked in the theatre and studied Russian history, it was very funny but otherwise, it’s pretty obscure. I really enjoyed the skewering of Stanislavsky and his method (Which is the WORST.) You get the impression that underneath all the angst and sarcasm Bulgakov really loves the theatre – he really does capture how enchanting it can be...more
Rich
Black Snow is about the frustrations a writer experiences after being contracted by a theater company to write the play from a novel he had written. Mikhail Bulgakov has a striking ability to evoke the sinister or the comic from a scene and in Black Snow he does this, displaying the pathos and the cheer in life.

The key line of the book, in my opinion, is "I floated home, trying not to see the ugly truth of life all around me." (p69)

And on the comic end of the spectrum, there is this:
"'I agree th...more
Tommy
I love Bulgakov's Master and Margarita, and this holds up almost as well. I love the despair displayed in this novel. It is similar to the feel of Crime and Punishment, but without the madness or anger. There are highs, lows and ridiculous arbiters controlling the protagonist's life. I don't know how Bulgakov managed to keep it together under the craziness of Stalinist Russia or why he chose to stay, but his writing is amazing and he does a great job expressing the feel of what it must have been...more
Naira
“Когда я первый раз читал «Театральный роман» — умирал от смеха. Читал недавно — плакал.”
Армен Джигарханян
Понимаю чувства Джигарханяна: и когда умирал от смеха, и когда плакал.
Есть диалоги, читая которые понимаешь, что это и есть жизнь, в жизни именно так и бывает, и горько от этого, и в то же время так мастерски написано, что не удержаться от смеха.
Четко видна аналогия с театром, и Станиславским, и Немировичем-Данченко. Не знаю какие были разногласия у Булгакова со Станиславским, но последний е...more
Marie-Pier Paré-Ruel
Somehow, despite Bulgakov's reputation, I had no expectations when I began this book. Nonetheless, everything fell into place quite nicely. Sometimes, it felt like (as Sergeï Leontievich lightly narrated) what was written was pure gibberish, although it was well-done, poetic and meaningful gibberish that left you with stunning visions and a new sense of wonder at the meaning of writing.Bulgakov's style is interesting, but what I mostly liked about this book is the way it depicts art, writing and...more
Seth
Throughout his life, author and playwright Mikhail Bulgakov suffered from a combination of political censorship and the whims of Moscow Art Theatre director Constantin Stanislavsky, who is known for creating method acting. Bulgakov’s satire is full of wonderful caricatures.

Stanislavsky himself, who goes by the name and patronymic Ivan Vasilievich, is depicted as dictatorial and mercurial. Then there is the jealous writer Likospastov, who is labeled a “snake in the grass.” The house manager at t...more
Hadrian
Bulgakov knows how to write a fine novel - this one all about the hilariously bizarre and frustrating world of stage plays.

It ends very abruptly, but the author was about to die. A shame, but it can be more than excused. A wonderfully funny book.
Pats
the woody allen of soviet russia. maybe woody allen should be called the bulgakov of america.
Hamish
It's ok, Bulgakov. I still love you.
Vittorio Ducoli
Il tragico teatro del potere

La lettura di questa scarna edizione Einaudi di Romanzo teatrale, nella quale non vi è neppure una prefazione e l'unico breve commento è quello in quarta di copertina, mi ha lasciato un po' insoddisfatto. Non il romanzo in sé, che pur essendo incompiuto rivela la ovvia grandezza di Bulgakov, ma proprio il fatto che per comprenderlo appieno forse erano necessarie note e spiegazioni.
Infatti il testo abbonda di personaggi che rimandano direttamente all'ambiente culturale...more
Stephen
Okay! This is strange. The book I read is entitled "A Dead Man's Memoir (A Theatrical Novel) and was published by Penguin in 2007 (ISBN 978-0-140=45514-0). There are references in the novel to "Black Snow," although it is too complicated here to explain the nature of those references. Sorry to start a review like this, but I find no trace of the book I read on the book list connected to "Good Reads." Okay, this is a small book (167pp) written by Mikhail Bulgakov, the esteemed Russian author of "...more
Alex Sarll
In which Bulgakov satirises his own experiences in trying to get produced the play which made his name. His avatar, Maxudov, is not a flattering self-portrait - but in being merely a weakling and a fool, while surrounded by scoundrels and worse, he is still emphatically the closest we have to a hero. In other words, this is Extras if Ricky Gervais were something other than a thundering twat. But it is still a slight work, whose main interest is that foremost among the thinly-disguised rogues gal...more
Hugo Emanuel
I have stumbled upon Bulgakov quite recently. I found a dirt-cheap edition of "The Master and Margarita" which sported in the cover a huge cat sitting on a couch smoking a cigarette, drinking whisky and holding a smoking gun. I have a knack for the bizarre and this was as odd and funny as possible. It also helped that I absolutely adore cats. Of course, such things do not usually inform my decisions on what to read, so I researched on the writer and it seemed to me that I would enjoy his work a...more
Gina
Another stellar book with more than a tinge of biographical background from the great Bulgakov. A fantastic book about censorship that every writer should read. In it, the anguished protagonist, Maxudov, writes a play based on a book he has written & he is suddenly thrust, nay, forced into the world of theater of the most utmost pretension. His bitterness towards the very thinly veiled egomaniacal Stanislavski is front & center. There are multiple accounts of him & other pompous, pre...more
José Pimentel Teixeira
Releio estas desventuras de Bulgakov, aqui feito este Serguei Leontievich Maxudov, em tentativas de fazer representar a sua primeira peça "Neve Negra". E nisso a bater no muro, intransponível, de uma gerontocracia (artístico-teatral, no caso) na qual o conservadorismo é questão da sua sobrevivência, manutenção de estatuto, nem mesmo lhe vem de coisas estéticas. Que nem todas as opressões são Estaline, suspira a azeda novela, de canelada em canelada nas proas académicas de então - Stanislavski, O...more
Brian
Perhaps because Bulgakov's Black Snow is so specifically focused in its satire on specific personages of the Moscow theater in the early twentieth century, it does not resonate as strongly today. Some of his other works, such as Heart of a Dog and The Master and Margarita are also sharply satirical of early Soviet society, but are less specific in their treatments, and so remain accessible to modern audiences. 'Black Snow' also lacks the characteristic surrealism of these other novels, which is...more
Denislav Yanev
Another truly astonishing work of satire by Bulgakov ! The way he describes the atmosphere in the theatre - the envy, vanity and gossip that surrounds the actions of the theatre staff - is so picturesque, it becomes impossible for the reader not to get absorbed in the book. Dealing also with the serious topic of censorship, from which the author himself suffered greatly, "Black Snow" makes us wonder in between all the funny parts how ravaging a censorship could be not only in the field of arts,...more
Ross Nelson
This should probably be a 3-1/2 rating, because it's easily 4 stars when it gets rolling, but it doesn't really take off until the second half of the book and then the ending is rather abrupt. But when it's rolling, it's a hilarious satire on Stanislowski's Moscow Art Theatre and the social perils of literary success and the path to actually getting a new play up on the stage.
Sean
Hey, nobody told me this was an unfinished novel. Gets right up to the juicy part of actually staging the play the whole book is about, and then... nothing. Still, not bad, but a far, far cry from The Master And Margarita. Might have had a bit more satirical impact at the time, in the '30s. In this day and age, reading about all the wacky people making up a theater company isn't much of a revelation.
Kelly
Bulgakov is one of my favorite novelist, and is my favorite 20th century Russian novelist. I loved the Master and Margarita and Heart of a Dog. I adored this book too. It is very well written, very easy to get into, but I found myself trying to push myself to get through this at times. This is the reason why I gave it four stars.

Reading it like this, being into it one day and a few days later having trouble getting back into the flow of the reading was difficult. I guess this tells me not to re...more
☯Bettie☯


CENSORSHIP: When Maxudov's novel fails, he attempts suicide. When that fails, he dramatizes his novel. To Maxudov's surprise - and the resentment of literary Moscow - the play is accepted by the legendary Independent Theater, and Maxudov plunges into a vortex of inflated egos. Each rehearsal sees more and more sparks flying higher and higher and less and less chance of poor Maxudov's play ever being performed. Black Snow is the ultimate backstage novel and a brilliant satire on Mikhail Bulgakov'...more
Hugh Coverly
Also known as Black Snow (wish I had known this earlier as I now have a copy of each), A Dead Man's Memoir (A Theatrical Novel) is an entertaining and humorous look at the publishing and theatrical world in 1920s and 30s Moscow. It is unfinished, but for all that it was a masterpiece in the making; that it was abandoned to create The Master and Margarita, speaks

When a mysterious stranger arrives to interrupt Maksudov's suicide, I was set to be disappointed, expecting yet another Faust imitation...more
Jim
I'd have had a different appreciation of Black Snow if I'd read an article that I skipped over at the front of the book entitled "About Mikhail Bulgakov, his Novel, The Moscow Art Theatre, Stanislavsky". Without that knowledge, I assumed I was working my way through a novel about a playwright attempting to get his work produced with pages and pages of descriptions of all the back-stage shenanigans that probably occur at such times. If I'd known that pseudonyms had been used for people like Stani...more
Stoyan Petrov
A good read, I liked it. The general idea that fighting the "status quo" doesn't give promising results can be a bit depressing but I'm glad Bulgakov is not afraid to share his opinion with the world.
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Mikhaíl Afanasyevich Bulgakov (Russian: Михаил Булгаков) was the first of six children in the family of a theology professor. His family belonged to the intellectual elite of Kiev. Bulgakov and his brothers took part in the demonstration commemorating the death of Leo Tolstoy. Bulgakov later graduated with honors from the Medical School of Kiev University in 1915. He married his classmate Tatiana...more
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