15 December 08 | E.J. Van Lanen

The Ukrainians and the Russians both claim Bulgakov as one of their own:

The identity crisis arises it seems because although Bulgakov was born in what is now Ukraine’s capital, a city he immortalized in his first novel The White Guard, the playwright and novelist was ethnically Russian, wrote in Russian and moved to Moscow when he was 21. So, while in a recent poll of Russians, the author of The Master and the Margharita was named the country’s second greatest writer, in similar poll in Ukraine, he was claimed as Ukraine’s third best playwright. The mixed opinions on nationality aren’t any less muddy elsewhere in the world of letters. Take, for example, Bernard Shaw – described as an Irish dramatist despite living in England most of his life – or Polish-born Tom Stoppard, who is nearly always referred to as a British playwright.

I don’t know what occasioned this little article in the Guardian, but what occasioned my post about the article is Marian Schwartz’s excellent new translation of The White Guard, which one should definitely buy.


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