The Master

Of course the primary prototype for the writer-hero of Bulgakov's novel is the author himself, while Margarita is based on his third wife, Elena Sergeevna Shilovskaia. In Chapter 13 we are introduced to the Master as a man of about 38, which was Bulgakov's age in 1929, when he began the novel. Criticism of the Master's novel reflects the press campaigns against Bulgakov's Fatal Eggs, White Guard, and plays, especially Flight. Bulgakov's archive contains quotations from the paper Rabochaia Moskva, from an article entitled "We will Strike a Blow against Bulgakovism!" [Udarim po bulgakovshchine!]. In the novel, Lavrovich writes a newspaper article in which he proposes "striking a blow against Pilatism" [udarit' po pilatchine]. Bulgakov, like the master, found himself in the position of being attacked in the press while most of his works were forbidden.

Bulgakov, like the Master, wore an embroidered cap to write.

The Master's basement apartment and exile point to Bulgakov's friend, Sergei Sergeevich Topleninov.

The first description of the Master also reflects a literary prototype, Nikolai Gogol. Like the Master and Bulgakov, Gogol burned the manuscript of his masterpiece: the Master burned his novel about Pilate, Bulgakov his novel about the Master, and Gogol Part II of Dead Souls.

In Bulgakov's earliest version of the novel, the role of the Master was played by Fesya, a scholar versed in demonology of the Middle Ages and the Italian Renaissance. An elite professional, Fesya avoided the rabble by holing up in his Moscow study or traveling abroad. Fesya was much more actively involved with demonic forces than the later Master, much closer to Goethe's Faust or Wagner, and Bulgakov also later softened the class differences between the Master and the people. One prototype for Fesya may have been the religious philosopher Pavel Florensky (1882-1937), who was arrested in 1928.

The Master also bears some resemblance to the philosopher Kant, especially in the description of his eternal refuge.