Chapter 22

By Candlelight

[Pri svechakh]

cemetery in the Dorogomilov district

three room apartment on Zemlanoy Embankment

ball of a hundred kings

16th century French Queen

Seven gold claws


Chess magazines would pay a tidy sum

accursed Gans

Sextus Empiricus

Martianus Capella


"The pain in my knee."

Brocken Mountains

"A war has broken out."

"My grandmother."


three room apartment on Zemlanoy Embankment--the machinations of this Muscovite were typical in a city where apartments were always at a premium. Long exchanges involving many people, combinations, and payoffs were arranged semi-legally.

ball of a hundred kings--Andrei Bely's Northern Symphony concludes with a feast in which Northern kings drink bloody wine from gold cups. The queen, like Margarita, kneels on one knee to receive the guests, who kiss her hand and knee.

16th century French Queen--Marguerite de Valois (1553-1615). Her marriage to Henri of Navarre, the future Henri IV, started the famous Saint-Bartholomew's Day massacre of Protestant Huguenots in Paris. Because she was childless, her marriage to the king of France was annulled. Marguerite de Navarre (1492-1549), another possible prototype who did have children, was the author of the Heptameron. Both historical Marguerites patronized writers. (Marguerite de Navarre was the sister of François I, grandfather of Marguerite de Valois. She was also herself the grandmother of Henry IV, whom the later Marguerite married. To add to the confusion, the University of Angers Library Site refers to Marguerite de Navarre as "Marguerite de Valois, reine de Navarre." No wonder Bulgakov conflated them!)

Seven gold claws -- a Jewish Menorah.

A finely carved scarab -- an Egyptian amulet which symbolized evil that led to good.

Chess magazines would pay a tidy sum --scholars have suggested several games of the 30s as the prototype (M. O. Chudakova, "Mikhail Bulgakov: ego partnery, ego sochineniia," '64. Shakhmatnoe obozrenie, 1985 No. 18; V. Pimonov, "Zagadka Margarity," '64. Shakhmatnoe obozrenie, 1985 No. 17; M. Jovanovich, "Eshche raz o shakhmatnoi stsene," '64. Shakhmatnoe obozrenie, 1986 No. 2).

accursed Gans--"Gans"="goose" in German, silly goose.

Sextus Empiricus--A Greek scholar and skeptic philosopher around 200 AD. He was one of the first historians of logic.

Martianus Capella --Roman writer and philosopher of the first half of the 5th century, author of the encyclopedic "On the Marriage of Philology and Mercury," in approximately 439 AD.

Aristotle--(384-322 BC) Greek philosopher and founder of formal logic.

"The pain in my knee." The devil is said to be lame from his fall from heaven.

Brocken Mountains --a Faustian reference: the mountains are located in Northern Germany. It is believed that every year on the night of May first (Walpurgisnacht) evil powers gather on the mountain top.

"A war has broken out." This is most likely the Spanish Civil War which began in 1936.

"My grandmother." "The Devil's grandmother" is used occasionally in Russian just as the Devil is: "Go to the Devil's Grandmother!"