May 01, 2017

The Bad Flat

Where is the best place to begin a literary pilgrimage in Moscow? Some believe it is the cozy courtyard of 10 Bolshaya Sadovaya. In 1921, a completely unknown doctor named Mikhail Bulgakov moved into a communal apartment, No. 50, in this building, with neither money nor possessions. And it was here that he broke with medicine and devoted himself to writing.

“This is the darkest period of my life. My wife and I are starving.” Bulgakov wrote in one of his letters at the time.

From this “bad flat,” as from many others, people disappeared from the late 1920s on. And even though Bulgakov left here before that period, this is part of the reason why the writer later called it “bad.” But that was not why he did not invite anyone to visit; that was because he was embarrassed by the squalor of his communal apartment. He did not get along with his neighbors. They reproached him for keeping the lights on late into the night and threatened to petition for his eviction (meanwhile they were busy making moonshine). Out of revenge, perhaps, he populated his stories and sketches with them.

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