Diaboliad in detail
This exhibition focuses on the mysterious and scandalous affair which surrounded the publication of Diaboliad, Bulgakov’s first separately published work. The book was approved by «Glavlit» (the «Main Administration for Safeguarding State Secrets in the Press» in the USSR) and was officially published, but it was confiscated soon afterwards by the Joint State Political Directorate and subsequently destroyed.
Two years prior to those events, at a literary evening held in the summer of 1923, Mikhail Bulgakov happened to meet the secretary of the publishing house «Nedra», Petr Nikanorovich Zaytsev (1889-1970). The Senior Editor and manager of «Nedra», Nikolai Semenovich Angarskiy (whose real surname was Krestov, 1873-1941), was in Berlin at the time, but nevertheless kept close track of the company’s business and managed all their affairs. On returning to Moscow, he made Bulgakov’s acquaintance in 1923 and went on to publish all Bulgakov’s prose pieces during the first half of the 1920s. Indeed it was he who published «Diaboliad» and the short story «The Fatal Eggs», which was highly praised by Maxim Gorky. It was he, also, who battled the censor and tried to publish Notes on the Cuff and Heart of a Dog, neither of which saw the light of day, despite several years of persistent effort. An old Bolshevik and friend of the prominent politician Lev Kamenev, Nikolai Semenovich Angarskiy had a passionate love of literature and had been a talented publisher and editor even before the Revolution. In the years after the Revolution, he chaired the Press Department of Moscow Soviet of People’s Deputies, and in 1919, while still working there, he published the magazine Tvorchestvo. In 1922 he started to publish the literary miscellany «Nedra» along with individual books by writers who were close to him. Angarskiy rejected both overtly politically charged works (he refused to publish Bulgakov’s novel The White Guard on these grounds), and «literary trash», however proletarian the author may have been. Equally alien to him were the poets Sergei Yesenin and Nikolai Klyuev with their, as he termed it, «gold leaf». Angarskiy set his hopes on the realists. Vikenty Veresaev, Maximilian Voloshin, Mikhail Kozyrev, Nikolai Lyashko, Nikolai Tikhonov were, among others, published in Angarskiy’s collections. He needed literature with lively action, strong plots, with material rooted in modern, everyday life. He found all of this in Bulgakov – phantasy, contemporary life, rapid changes of scene, none of the old-fashioned heroes who were engaged in perpetual self-reflection. For this very reason, once he received the text of «Diaboliad» in autumn 1923, Angarskiy immediately inserted the short story into the upcoming fourth volume, and «The Fatal Eggs» was later included in the hurried selection of works for the sixth volume. He printed the first book containing works exclusively by Bulgakov, Diaboliad. It was this very book that the writer later took pleasure in giving to his friends and acquaintances. It was in this Diaboliad (1925) that he write one of his most famous inscriptions: «To a covert friend, now overt – my wife Elena. You will make my final voyage with me. Your M. Moscow, 21st May 1933.» But it was still eight years before this, and meanwhile in the autumn of 1925, just two months after the publication of the book Diaboliad, the Joint State Political Directorate decided – quite unexpectedly for both author and publisher – to confiscate the whole edition. In the directorate’s terminology, a confiscation could be either «total» or «private». In the case of a «total» confiscation, the edition was seized from everywhere except «state libraries of Russia-wide significance» and was completely destroyed. It seems that this was the fate which befell the first edition of Bulgakov’s book: only a few copies remain. This was then followed by events which were quite unheard of in Moscow: in March 1926, the indefatigable Angarskiy managed to secure approval from the «Glavlit» for a second edition of that very same confiscated and destroyed book. And shortly afterwards, the book once again went to press, the same as before, just with a different publication date (1926).
There were plans to publish another book by Bulgakov in «Nedra» — The Fatal Eggs. But this never happened. In 1926, Bulgakov ended his collaboration with the publishing house «Nedra», although he continued to show respect and gratitude in his relationship with Angarskiy.