Re: Chapter Eleven: The Two Ivans
I have been working with the notion that Bulgakov's true genius is in observing and analyzing the reactions of people caught up in the matter. So this section struck me with the narrator's being pulled in a number of directions. As you say, he struggled with the unbelievability of parts of it. But these were the parts he considered most significant. So he was caught up in many false starts and self-doubts.
I doubt if the deaths of the "revered family" represents any kind of comparison to the severed head of the magazine editor in the first chapters. Turning matters upside down was familiar by then - the French Revolution had practically institutionalized it - so unbelievability and inexplicability doesn't correspond well to it.
I think the process which Bulgakov himself probably struggled with was more the betrayal of the intellectuals and the idealistic ones by the "power guys" who came to run Russia. Woland is able to predict the future because he controls it, and so the Party brings its vague guiding prophecies to life with fierce imposition of its version of reality. Thus Lenin's lies are probably a better starting point than the execution of the tsar.
Yes, wasn't that interesting? Before anybody had a term for this fawning admiration for the "masters" who terrorize, Bulgakov observed it. The general process of rationalization and "adjustment" seems to be his point, but he manages to include in that the process of coming to find points to admire in those who take our freedom. Of course the same thing went on in feudalism and, to some extent, goes on still in capitalism.
Also very interesting. Most Russians must have experienced some of this inner dissonance, these two voices, and even moreso the intellectuals. Don't we all experience some of it ourselves, in trying to make sense of political events and systems? A strange inner dialogue between the me that wants things to make sense and the me that suspects it is all a cover story for naked aggression and manipulative exploitation? How those welfare queens are ripping me off? How the 47 percent are taking over to suck dry the energies of the creators (like Bain Capital!)? How Bain Capitial and KKR are trashing people's lives for an extra few million in "shareholder value"?
Just as "mind" is always rewriting its own history. Psychologists have learned how manipulative the whole process of narrative creation is. Eye-witnesses cannot be trusted. Fox News doesn't have to lie - just emphasize the scary bits all the time.