About Korablev’s dissertation (1996)

03. 6. 2009  –  В рубриках: Кораблев

Американский исследователь об одном фрагменте из диссертации А.А.Кораблева.


While conducting in the RGB in Moscow this summer I discovered one such text which may be of great significance for understanding both Bulgakov’s Moscow period and Мастер и Маргарита. Thanks to the generous help of Boris Miagkov (who kindly allowed me to work with his extraordinary personal collection of critical articles, books, and dissertations on Bulgakov’s life and works) I found an intriguing citation to a work by Annie Besant in Aleksandr Korablev’s dissertation, «Ученичество как принцип читательского восприятия (на материале роана М.А.Булгакова “Мастер и Маргарита”» (Donetsk, 1988).

Korablev claimed that he found a Russion translation of Besant’s Theosophical work, Teachings of the Heart (Учение сердца; Petrograd, 1915) in the Lenin Library that was marked with red and blue pencil throughout the text. The book, according to Korablev, was similar to other texts from Bulgakov’s library preserved in the archives. Strangely, after Korablev’s dissertation, nowhere in the literature has this work been discussed. Curious about Korablev’s findings, I ordered the book (RGB 458/394) from the general collection of the Russian State Library.

As described, the book contained characteristic pencil marks which corresponded to those in texts like Florenskii and Mirimskii’s. In addition, several of the marked passages seemed to have relevance for Bulgakov’s final novel.

I consulted with Viktor Ivanovich Losev, assistant director of the RGB department of manuscripts, who is responsible for preserving Bulgakov’s legacy. Upon seeing the text Losev immediately agreed with my conclusions and decided to initiate an official investigation to determine the origin of the text and the authenticity of the marks. Should the administration of the RGB determine that the text is indeed Bulgakov’s, then it will be incorporated into the RGB archives.

Several hypotheses were offered as to the question of how such a text found its way into the general collection of the RGB given the careful and monumental efforts undertaken by the writer’s widow, Elena Sergeevna, to preserve all marked materials. Losev asserts that before Elena Sergeevna fled Moscow during World War II she left behind most of Bulgakov’s texts in the then Lenin Library for safekeeping. After her return, Elena Sergeevna may have opted to donate some of Bulgakov’s books to the library, not knowing or forgetting that they contained marked pages. In addition, she may have been forced to sell a number of books during very difficult times and thus, through independent booksellers several tomes eventually found their way to the library.

<…> A major impediment to ascertaining the origin of Besant’s book is that even if the RGB record of acquistion is found, it may only yield the name of a third party, leaving the finding of the investigation inconclusive. Given the wide range of Bulgakov’s interests, especially in the occult, such a text may very well have been part of his library. Regardless of the outcome of the RGB investigation, a textual analysis of Besant’s book, comparing the marked passages with Bulgakov’s works (particulary The Master and Margarita), will shed more light on this intriguing possibility.

Solomon H. Bulgakov and Theosophy: the Question of New Archival Materials for the RGB // The Newsletter of the Mikhail Bulgakov Society. – 1996. – N2. — Pp.29-31.

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