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Bulgakov’s treatment of a hauntingly relevant subject – revolution in Kiev – is bound to provide food for thought at this month’s book club.

But to concentrate on the specifics of the setting would be to miss the main thrust of a novel that is huge in its philosophical scope.

For within the context of the novel, the conflict is as much between history and humanity as it is between the Whites and the Reds.   The perspective is constantly jumping between a cosy interior and chaos on the cold streets outside. The personal and the familiar are in stark juxtaposition - and yet also closely intertwined - with the grand march of history, the wild and unfathomable winds of change that sweep the city.

Delicious depictions of the haven of hearth and home - warm characters and well-loved objects made sweeter by the inimical madness being played out on the streets outside, form the main thread of the plot, as we follow the Turbin family through the harsh winter of 1918.

Join us for a guided tour of this most thought-provoking of Russian novels with Professor Julie Curtis and James Meek. Translations by Michael Glenny, Marion Schwartz and Roger Cockrell, all come highly recommended.   

Professor Julie Curtis has focussed a large part of her published work on subversive writers of the early Stalin Period (1920s and 1930s). She has spent a great deal of time working in archives in Russia and abroad, and this has enabled her to publish a range of analytical and biographical studies of the life and works of Mikhail Bulgakov, including the go-to study of the author, a translated chronicle of his life and work Manuscripts Don't Burn; A Life in Letters and Diaries. Professor Curtis lives and works in Oxford, where she regularly lectures on Bulgakov and Russian writers of the early 20th Century.

James Meek was born in London and grew up in Scotland. He lived in Russia and Ukraine in the 1990s and, since 1999, has lived in London.


He published his first short stories in the early 1980s, while a student at Edinburgh University. His first novel, McFarlane Boils The Sea, was published in 1989. Since then he has published six more works of fiction: Last Orders (stories, 1992) Drivetime (a novel, 1995) The Museum Of Doubt (stories, 2000) The People’s Act of Love (a novel, 2005) We Are Now Beginning Our Descent (a novel, 2008) and The Heart Broke In (2012). His books have won a number of prestigious awards and prizes and been published in over thirty different countries. He has also written for a number of newspapers and magazines, and is currently a contributing editor to the London Review of Books.