Diaboliad is a collection of five short satirical tales penned by the celebrated Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov. At once dazzling and catastrophic these stories, published in 1925, poke fun at the failings of Soviet society.
Firstly there is the tale `Diaboliad', in which a bewildered clerk, comrade Korotkov, flounders in a mesh of idiotic bureaucracy. Next Professor Persikov, a Lenin look-a-like and hero of `The Fatal Eggs', falls foul of a bungling Kremlin, who misuse his discovery of a life-enhancing `red-ray' to tragicomic effect.
In `No.13 The Elpit - Rabkommun Building', Bulgakov teases the proletariat, whose stupidity threatens to bring a once glorious apartment block to its knees. `A Chinese Tale' about a stranded coolie who joins the Red Army is likewise flavoured with disillusionment. As is the final yarn `The Adventures of Chichikov' whose wheeler-dealing protagonist Bulgakov resurrected from Gogol's classic `Dead Souls.'
The laugh was definitely on the Soviet state, but was sadly on the author too, as much of Bulgakov's future work was brutally censored. For today's reader Diaboliad presents an inspired showcase of the breadth of Bulgakov's creative talent. At once mischievous and inventive these tales skilfully plunge the reader into a kaleidoscopic world flitting between nightmare and stark reality. In essence though Diaboliad is a comic work. The characters are light and fluffy, and their hapless antics are bound to raise a smile.
Bulgakov fans will no doubt enjoy such motifs as a morphing black cat and an underworld portal, which predate the author's classic `The Master and Margarita.' On the other hand Bulgakov virgins may find Diaboliad a little too frantic and cryptic. The more sedately paced `A Country Doctor's Notebook' published in 1926, would be a fine place to start.