Chapter 12

Black Magic and Its Exposé

[Chernaia magiia i ee razoblachenie]

Exposé: The word used in Russian for "exposé" is razoblachenie. This comes from the verb oblachit' and the prefix raz-. The verb oblachit' means to put on clothing, in the sense of the ordination or investiture of a priest. The derivation of this word is significant considering the role that clothing plays in this chapter and subsequent chapters.

the Giulli family's cycling technique

call the place where Varenukha had gone

unpleasant but hardly supernatural occurrence

George Bengalsky

an armchair


"Have the Muscovites changed?"

3 ruble note

10 ruble notes

rain of bills


Bengalsky loses his head

scar on her neck

Guerlain, Chanel No. 5, Mitsouko, Narcisse Noir

Arkady Apollonovich Sempleyarov

Apollonian vs. Dionysian

the audience demands an explanation

Chistye Prudy, where the Acoustics Commission meets

bus to Yelokhovskaya St

provocative words of the march

the Giulli family's cycling technique--The Pol'di [Podrezov] family performed cycling tricks in the Moscow Music Hall in the 30s. Miagkov mentions that one can recognize the man in the yellow bowler and the blond woman on a unicycle in posters of Pol'di troupe (Miagkov 144).

call the place where Varenukha had gone--Rimsky doesn't even think the name of the NKVD to himself.

unpleasant but hardly supernatural occurrence--again Bulgakov's humor is at the expense of Soviet reality. Telephones to this day are extremely unreliable in Russia.

an armchair--Woland's position in the theater is in a seat, watching the audience, which is a reversal of what we expect. And indeed, the Muscovites in the audience end up putting on more of a show than Woland himself.

Fagot--Korovyev's second name means "bassoon," which connects him to the musical themes of the novel (remember that he's also a retired choirmaster).

"Have the Muscovites changed?": While this statement would not normally be condered offensive, in the Soviet Union under Stalin it was a very subversive question to pose. According to the Communist Party line, the peoples of the Soviet Union had arrived into the utopia of Communism. They were new "Soviet" men and women. Homo soveticus was a quite different species from any other human being on earth. They worked harder, knew more and were happier than anyone else. For Bulgakov to claim otherwise was dangerous.

rain of bills--the money, which eventually reverts to paper, may have its literary source in Part II of Goethe's Faust, where Mephistopheles creates paper money at the court of the Emperor (Ianovskaia, Tvorcheskii put', 270??)

scar on her neck--Gella's scar reminds us of Margarita's in the scene on Walpurgisnacht in Goethe's Faust. (l??)

Guerlain, Chanel No. 5, Mitsouko, Narcisse Noir--the incomprehensible but seductive words are all written in Russian letters in the original Russian. Of course Parisian clothing and perfumes would have been completely inaccessible to the average Soviet woman.

Apollonian vs. Dionysian: The philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche is very difficult to understand, but it appears to be quite appropriated in discussing this novel. In his work The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche exalts the culture of ancient Greece. He revered Greek tragedy and the way that it combines myth and music. Nietzsche saw tragedy as a synthesis of what he terms the Apollonian and the Dionysian. These names are derived from the names of the Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus. Apollo is associated with light and art in mythology. Dionysus is linked to music, drinking and revelry.

By definition, the Apollonian serves to distinguish, separate and define individuals. The Dionysian breaks up all of these boundaries and creates chaos. Nietzsche writes that the Greek philosophers applied a veil of Apollonian order to civilization. According to Nietzsche this veil of reason and rationality, ascribed to the world by the great thinkers Plato and Socrates, is an illusion. The downfall of civilization is believing in this illusion of order and not realizing that it is the modern world that is a shallow illusion. It is a precarious balance between applying the veil of order and remaining aware that the veil exists. In each of these instances, Woland has removed the veil of order surrounding these Soviet citizens and allowed them to act naturally. He removes reason and rationality from the equation and gets outrageous results. It shows the wild and chaotic nature that lurks beneath the surface of a calm exterior.

the audience demands an explanation--the word Sempleyarov uses is "the mass of the audience"--which reeks of Sovietism (like MASSOLIT), when "the masses" were ostensibly in control.

bus to Yelokhovskaya St.--A pretty straight shot from Chistye Prudy out Pokrovka (ul. Chernyshevskogo) and Staraya Basmannaya (ul. Karla Marxa). At one time bus 3 drove this route. See it on a map.

provocative words of the march--the words are adapted from an 1839 vaudeville by D. T. Lenskii reprinted in 1937, "Lev Gurych Sinichkin, or a Provincial Debutante." Bulgakov may have remembered seeing it in Kiev or Vladikavkaz. It was also performed in Moscow at the Vakhtangov theater (alongside Bulgakov's Zoika's Apartment) from 1924-31. (Miagkov 152)


His Excellency
calls her his own
and even patronage
renders to her


His excellency
loved domestic fowl
and took under patronage
good-looking girls