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Chapter Seventeen: A Day of Anxiety 
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Post Chapter Seventeen: A Day of Anxiety
In which the world goes completely crazy. We see here the aftermath of Satan’s Black Magic Performance at the Variety Theatre in Moscow. Firstly, the theatre staff are nonplussed by the disappearance without trace of all their leaders. It is almost as though they had been suddenly purged en masse. Hard to imagine where Bulgakov drew that image from.

The police arrive and cannot make head or tail of these strange events, including the stories of undressed women in the street. They are able to disperse the long queue that has naturally formed, as occurs at any notable event in a communist location. Few details emerge of the actual performance, although the committal of the master of ceremonies rates a mention. There are no records of the contract.

The accountant goes to bank the proceedings from the night, but finds no taxi will take him. It turns out that all the magic money that wafted from the rafters during Satan’s hypnotic exploits was magical. When spent, it turns into stinging bees, bottle labels and such nonsense. So the taxi drivers are understandably dubious, rather like kulaks who are told of the wonders of collectivisation.

On the accountant’s arrival at the bank, the sobbing receptionist explains that the devil’s associate and his cat have turned the manager into an invisible man, an empty suit sitting and writing and speaking at his desk as though all is normal. At the next bank, the monstrous devilish rogue has enchanted everyone with a magic spell that makes them sing compulsively in chorus, beautifully but against their will.

Once the accountant finally manages to unroll his cash, he finds no roubles, only foreign currency, and is naturally arrested.

This chapter of magical realism seems like an impressionistic and surreal emotional depiction of what it is like to live under communism. You imagined that you could trust money, but find you can’t. Prominent people suddenly disappear without trace or reason. Things happen that are impossible. The police try to follow up but find themselves stymied at every turn. Compulsive mass conformity is inescapable. People who lack deference toward the slimy communist apparatchiks go invisible.


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Post Re: Chapter Seventeen: A Day of Anxiety
Robert Tulip wrote:
In which the world goes completely crazy. We see here the aftermath of Satan’s Black Magic Performance at the Variety Theatre in Moscow.
Yes, though since I am on board with the magical realism approach, it is kind of fun to see the stuff they get up to in his bizarre little story.

Sorry I have neglected this thread, by the way. I let myself get quite busy with work at home, so when I was reading and posting it was mostly about Hillbillies and Ta-Nehisi Coates, if not the subjective nature of mattering.

Robert Tulip wrote:
It is almost as though they had been suddenly purged en masse. Hard to imagine where Bulgakov drew that image from.
Good! Typical of Bulgakov that it occurs to him to look at the reaction by the ordinary people. I sort of wonder what it must be like to be inside the U.S. government these days. The damage being done will take a long time to undo, if things ever get back to normal. I came into the US govt after 12 years of Reagan and Bush I, and the pathologies of Republican infighting and backbiting were firmly imprinted on my colleagues' expectations. They could not believe the collegiality of the Clinton administration.

Robert Tulip wrote:
They are able to disperse the long queue that has naturally formed, as occurs at any notable event in a communist location.
People famously would get in line just because people were lining up, and it might take a long time for people to find out what they were actually lined up for. The problem of missing out if some goods came in to be sold was more serious than the loss of time to queueing.

Robert Tulip wrote:
So the taxi drivers are understandably dubious, rather like kulaks who are told of the wonders of collectivisation.
Interesting comparison. I had thought that the monetary shenanigans were just about money and how it was abused in the USSR, but now that you mention it he does seem to be using it as image for even bigger issues.

Robert Tulip wrote:
On the accountant’s arrival at the bank, the sobbing receptionist explains that the devil’s associate and his cat have turned the manager into an invisible man, an empty suit sitting and writing and speaking at his desk as though all is normal. At the next bank, the monstrous devilish rogue has enchanted everyone with a magic spell that makes them sing compulsively in chorus, beautifully but against their will.
These were nice touches. Gabriel Garcia Marquez has nothing on Bulgakov.

Robert Tulip wrote:
This chapter of magical realism seems like an impressionistic and surreal emotional depiction of what it is like to live under communism.
Good observation. We are used to thinking of surrealist painting as a Western phenomenon of jaded intellectualism, but here the surrealism "adds up" so to speak.



Wed Feb 21, 2018 3:30 pm
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