Black Snow by Mikhail Bulgakov
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Black Snow

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  3,142 ratings  ·  208 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
Paperback, 192 pages
Published March 3rd 2005 by Vintage Books (first published March 1965)
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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 ·  3,142 ratings  ·  208 reviews

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Steven Godin
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I must be one of only a few that didn't think a great deal of Master and Margarita. Not that it was bad, I just didn't think of it as the masterpiece I expected, generally brought on by all the hype surrounding it. Personally, I much preferred The White Guard, of which the subject matter interested me far more, and now having read Black Snow, I can put it right along side that as my fave Bulgakov. This is one of the last books Bulgakov wrote (although it didn't see the light of day until 1967) a ...more
E. G.
Introduction & Sources
A Note on the Text
Further Reading

--A Dead Man's Memoir (A Theatrical Novel)


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'
Jun 12, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mother-rus
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
May 18, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Sep 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
MJ Nicholls
Jul 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Chez Abaa
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My sweet delight author. ♥️
Jan 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Mikhail Bulgakov must have had a thing for cats. He’s must have been like the Russian Edward Gorey or something because there are cats in this book.
Satan, however, is of a different from than cat in this book.
If Satan is in this book, he is the powers that control the theater and drive an author to the end of his rope. This isn’t Satan conjuring Helen, this isn’t a bargain with a temporary gain but eternal damnation, this is just eternal damnation.
Not really surprising that Terry Gilliam wro
Ileana Cartagena
I read first "A Dead Man's Memoir: A Theatrical Novel" (Penguin Classics) and right after I finished it I read this edition, Black Snow (Melville House). While I appreciated a lot the abundant notes of the Penguin edition, I must point out that I enjoyed the Melville House edition far better, probably because I was reading the same novel for the second time; but I also liked the translation better.
I wish the author had been able to finish this novel. I was left wanting more. But I do have a soft
Callum McAllister
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I like the cut of this Bulgakov guy’s jib. His books are so funny and so melancholy, and he can’t contain his hatred of the Russian literary world.
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is literally a rant/burn book that Bulgakov churned out in a few hours. You get the point (that the theater scene in Moscow is ridiculous) in about twenty pages and unless you know quite a bit about twentieth century Soviet theater it will be pretty difficult to pick up on his many detailed burns on specific people. The supplementary materials and introduction are really interesting but the book itself didn't do much for me, I skimmed the last third.

Apparently Bulgakov set this aside to co
Jan 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, russian-lit
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)
Kobe Bryant
Oct 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Really great scenes and characters
Joan Kerr
Jul 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Many years ago I read and loved 'Black Snow', Mikhail Bulgakov’s satire on the literary and theatrical world of Moscow in the 30’s, so 'A Dead Man’s Memoir (A Theatrical Novel)' caught my eye in the local library. And it turns out to be a new translation (a livelier one) of the same book. It arose from Bulgakov’s fraught dealings with the Moscow Art Theatre and its famous actor/director Constantin Stanislavski. They had had a fruitful relationship after Bulgakov’s very successful first play, but ...more
Aaron Haspel
Nov 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Second-rate Bulgakov, still to be preferred to most other authors at their best. It is a satire of the Moscow Arts Theater (the "Independent Theater" in the novel) in general and Stanislavski ("Ivan Vasilievich") in particular. Bulgakov had two encounters with M.A.T., a brilliant success producing his play Days of the Turbins, which was Stalin's favorite play, and a disastrous failure with his play about Moliere, on which the novel, naturally, is based.

With the exception of the portrait of Stani
Mademoiselle Matea
There are two things I enjoy in Bulgakov's books : the dialogues and the way he describes his characters' emotional state.

In Novela Teatral (The Black Snow) we meet a melancholic writer living an ordinary life, who hates his job and rushes to come home to write his novel. He manages to get in to the literature and theatre world, and realizes that there is business in art, and art is never pure or uncensored.

To give the theatre a product with which the directors will be satisfied, he has to cha
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Strangely a few years back I've read this book only through the first 11 chapters of the 1999 Vintage Edition of Black Snow. The reason for this is because of a print failure where after p.102 of Chapter 12 came a reprint of p.47-70 then continuing with p.127 of Chapter 13! This was appalling for me because it was as if you were watching your favorite movie, and right at the climax of the film the electricity goes out! So below is a re-read version review of Black Snow of the 2005 Random House U ...more
J. Joan
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Short and amusing fun read. Read it after Master and Margarita and can definitely tell it's the same author, whose quirky observational writing is rather notable.
Daire Hogan
May 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read, with genuine humor. It's a shame it was never finished but then we got Master and Margarita so I guess I can't complain .
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most hilarious pieces Russian literature has to offer.
Al Bità
Nov 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Hugo Emanuel
Jan 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
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
Sep 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
Black Snow is one of those books that is easy to read but hard to pick up. You know the type. Fun, light, well written, but for some reason you’re just not sucked in. You look at it sitting on the nightstand, beckoning you, but you just groan and waste a little more time checking Facebook or hustling up another Words With Friends game. Black Snow is a farce by Mikhail Bulgakov, writer of the brilliant The Master and Margarita and Heart of a Dog. Black Snow is a fictionalized account of Bulgakov’ ...more
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
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Denislav Yanev
Jul 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Since I have suddenly acquired 5 likes for this - a book I read years ago and rated without reviewing when I joined GR in 2014, perhaps I should write a review, but all I remember about this book was that it seemed a little disappointing compared with The Master and Margarita ...more
lyell bark
Aug 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
read this book if you want to read about mikhail bulgakov owning a bunch of stupid dead theater people left and right. take that head of the people's ballet troupe from the year of our lord 1920-1930, stupid idiot moron.
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Mikhail Bulgakov was born in Kyiv, Russian Empire (today Ukraine) on May 15 1891. He studied and briefly practised medicine and, after indigent wanderings through revolutionary Russia and the Caucasus, he settled in Moscow in 1921. His sympathetic portrayal of White characters in his stories, in the plays The Days of the Turbins (The White Guard), which enjoyed great success at the Moscow Art Thea ...more

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