THE WHITE GUARD by Mikhail Bulgakov


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Another fine Bulgakov work, this is a compassionate and gently satirical novel about a likable, feckless White Russian family coping as best they can while all hell breaks loose in Kiev outside their parlor in 1918-19. The play derived from this novel, The Days of the Turbins, was a popular Moscow Art Theatre piece until, under Stalin, it was considered to be too compassionate toward these gentle stumblers in the march of progress. The Turbin family consists of doctor Alexei, sister Elena married to a disappearing opportunist, and young Nikolka. All are as anxious as whippets and cherish their safe harbors of familiar ideals, their home of books, music, conversation and whist. When the shooting flairs up and subsides in Kiev, the White forces are routed by advancing armies and their own impotent confusion. Assuming military postures Alexei and Nikolka attempt to help for they are brave, and they do perform touching acts of kindness amid the brutal mindlessness of mobs. There are marvellously theatrical moments: the Turbins and their White officer friends happily shouting songs and slogans while their timorous landlord is being terrorized by raiding hoodlums; the arrival of an orphan of the storm, an unstrung relative (with bird), whose first definitive act is to crash into the dinner china. An epilogue by Victor Nekrasov from Novy Mir sets forth an affectionate appreciation of the Turbins and the translation is by Michael Glenny. A Russian Heartbreak House in which the Turbins barely survive.

Pub Date: June 21st, 1971
ISBN: 0897332466
Publisher: McGraw-Hill