Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The White Guard by Mikhaíl Bulgakov.

The White Guard (Белая гвардия) is a novel by Mikhaíl Bulgakov (most famous for The Master and Margarita) who was born in 1891 in Kiev, then Russia, now Ukraine. The novel was first published in part in 1925, however the magazine publishing it, Rossiya, closed down so the novel didn't appear in complete form until 1966.

It's set in Kiev just after the Russian Revolution of 1917 during the ensuing civil war, and the Ukrainian War of Independence (1917 - 1921), and it follows the Turbin family as they are caught between the various fighting factions: the Whites (anti-communist), the Reds (the Bolsheviks), the Imperial German Army, and Ukrainian nationalists. The novel begins,
Great and terrible war the year of Our Lord 1918, of the Revolution the second. Its summer abundant with warmth and sun, its winter with snow, highest in its heaven stood two stars: the shepherds' star, eventide Venus; and Mars - quivering, red.
But in the days of blood as in days of peace the years fly like an arrow and the thick frost of a hoary white December, season of Christmas trees, Santa Claus, joy and glittering snow, overtook the young Turbins unawares. For the reigning head of the family, their adored mother, was no longer with them.
Bulgakov goes on to write about the revolution and Turbins: once a wealthy and powerful family, now depleted and trying to live and come to terms with their new way of life. We follow the lives of Elena, Nikolka, and Alexei: the politics and the social upheaval, as well as their private, family life. It is the everyday amid the chaos, and the attempts to navigate through life, which is hard enough, during a violent upheaval.

The White Guard is a great novel, a smaller Soviet War and Peace. It's not an easy novel, especially if, one the whole, you don't generally enjoy war novels (it does get a little detailed), but despite that I did like it very much and it was good to learn a little on Ukrainian history. Above all, though, I recommend it to those who do enjoy novels on war.

6 comments:

  1. This is on my list too! I finally have access to a copy, even. I do not love war novels but I really want to read more Bulgakov...

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    1. I'm hoping to read more Bulgakov too - so far only read this and The Master. War novels really aren't my thing but I did like this :)

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  2. I've always wanted to read this and once again you've gone first! Yay! I DO like war novels so I'll definitely pick it up at some point. Thanks for the review!

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    1. There's plenty of books you've read before me :) I hope you enjoy this when you get to it, I'll look forward to your thoughts on it :)

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    1. You sound like me when I read someone's review of something :) SO many books, so little time....

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