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The White Guard [Paperback]

Mikhail Bulgakov
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Nov 1989
Drawing closely on Bulgakov's personal experiences of the horrors of civil war as a young doctor, The White Guard takes place in Kiev, 1918, a time of turmoil and suffocating uncertainty as the Bolsheviks, Socialists and Germans fight for control of the city. It tells the story of the Turbins, a once-wealthy Russian family, as they are forced to come to terms with revolution and a new regime.


Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: The Harvill Press; New edition (6 Nov 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860462189
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860462184
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 13.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,261,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A powerful reverie...the city is so vivid to the eye that it is the real hero of the book." (New Statesman)

"One of those few emancipated Soviet writers who firmly believe-and still believe-that to create is to choose" (Saturday Review)

"Worth reading in any language" (Library Journal)

"The White Guard captures the tumult, madness and confusion of revolution" (Independent)

Book Description

'The tumultuous atmospher of the Ukranian revolution and civil war is brilliantly evoked' Daily Telegraph

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I am one of those people who believe that the greatest novels have already been written. I also believe that they were written by Russians. Following on from the towering edifices of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky et al in the nineteenth century Mikhail Bulgakov (along with Mikhail Sholokov) was a worthy successor. This, his first work (originally recast into a play), tells the story of how the tumult of WWI/Revolution/Civil War impacted upon the unfortunate citizens of Kiev (then within the Russian Empire) as the city dissolves into a morass of confusion, turmoil and fear. White Guard royalists, Bolsheviks, Ukrainian nationalists, Cossacks, the rump German army, Poles, and even Senegalese troops, fight it out with nobody having the least notion of what is happening or even why. Commands and counter-commands, retreats, advances, rumours, counter-rumours, flight, corpses, chaos...
Whereas Tolstoy had sought to unravel the meaning and causes of war and Andreyev to describe graphically the horror, Bulgakov depicts the imbecility, the sheer monumental stupidity of it all, and its messy aftermath. He does this with a rare sensitivity through the experiences of the young Turbin family, a family of Tsarist patriots who live in an apartment in central Kiev. Following the death of their mother, twenty-eight year old Alex, a doctor, is left as the eldest, with his married (and abandoned) sister Elena, teenage brother Nikolai and their maid Anyuta.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Other than War and Peace, I can think of no better evocation of the random horror of war; like Tolstoy, Bulgakov doesn't allow us to draw easy conclusions in this, his first novel. The disjointed tapestry of a narrative is by turns anecdotal, fantastical (Satan swinging in the belfry is a wonderful image) and epic-heroic - and then just when you've settled in a comfortable reading pattern (as far as this is ever possible with Bulgakov) some terrible act of violence will shock you. It's not quite the finished article (see M&M), but the mixture of experimentation and classical realism is an engaging blend, making for a great read.
I would heartily recommend this to any fan of modern fiction, and anyone who's wondering where to go after Master and Margarita.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sub-Tolstoyan 31 May 2010
By Lost John TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This edition was translated by Michael Glenny, a seasoned and reliable translator of Russian novels and more. Mikhail Bulgakov's work came late to publication in English (from 1967) and is still not as well known as it should be. The Master And Margarita (Penguin Classics), begun in 1928 and completed sometime before his death in 1940, but not officially published until 1966, is his greatest work, but White Guard (1926) also merits attention as a novel, as a semi-autobiographical work, and as a document of the Civil War waged over Kiev, Ukraine and Russia following the October 1917 revolution.

Bulgakov asserted that Kiev changed hands 14 times during 1918-19 and that he personally witnessed 10 of those changes. This novel presents just a snapshot; the departure of the German Imperial Army and its puppet, the Hetman of Ukraine; their replacement by the opportunist peasant leader Petlyura; and his departure 47 days later as the Bolshevik Red Army advanced on the city. In the background are the Ukrainian nationalist movement that briefly held Ukraine as an independent sovereign state, and the White Guard, supporting Imperial Russia and reinstatement of the Tsar. Bulgakov's alter ego, Alexie Turbin, and his brother Nikolai are White Guard officers who, along with a number of friends also featured in the novel (and indeed much of the population of Kiev), are placed in danger of their lives as Petlyura takes over the city.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent story of ordinary people at war 8 April 2004
Format:Paperback
`The White Guard' follows the story of a few days in the lives of a Ukranian family (the Turbins) living in Kiev during the final days of Russia's participation in WWI and with the revolution impending. The city is braced for the attack of the communists, led by the infamous and demonic figure of Petlyuria , putting its faith in the German army and Ukranian Hetman Skoropodsky for protection. As the townsfolk organise themselves into resistance movements, it soon becomes clear that Skoropodsky and the Germans have decided to abandon the people of Kiev to their fate. The Turbins, along with many others, rush to the defence of Kiev, only to find that their resistance has crumbled into an embarrassing mess as the war is lost before a shot is fired in anger. The book focuses on the actions of the people of Kiev, and the Turbins in particular, as they resign themselves to losing the war.

This book was less fantastic than `The Master and Marguerita', though some wonderful demonic imagery creeps in every now and then. Its strength lies in the contrast it draws between the glorious ideals of war and its rather banal reality. When Petlyuria's men take Kiev the people pour onto the streets in celebration, despite the fact that they despise him, and despite the fact that many of the celebrating people have no idea who has won. In the midst of this surreality, a brutal execution takes place, a reminder of the horrors going on around them. The resistance is presented as being a righteous cause, but right is ultimately not enough as might prevails. The final scenes, in which the Turbins abandon their dreams of fighting for a free Ukraine and begin to resign themselves to life under the Soviets are heartbreaking, both for their sense of failure and their sense of futility.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars ukraine, a century ago. same old same old
the lack of clarity is annoying, until you realize that it exactly describes what people were thinking as events unfolded. Read more
Published 3 months ago by mart
4.0 out of 5 stars Historically illuminating novel
I found the book very informative about a time and place previously unknown to me but in many ways quite important. Read more
Published 7 months ago by J Bolton
5.0 out of 5 stars A fierce critic
In this novel about the civil war in Ukraine (we are in 1918), a white guard had to defend the city of Kiev against the Nationalist army of Symon Petliura. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Luc REYNAERT
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding literary work
I know Bulgakov is most well known for Master and Margarita; but that book requires an understanding of the Soviet system, which was not in place when White Guard was written. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Mr. K. H. Plunkett
5.0 out of 5 stars Pitch perfect
Bulgakov is best known for Master and Margarita, which appears on University syllabuses, yet that perfectly enjoyable book is, compared to this wonderful novel, too clever-clever... Read more
Published on 15 Nov 2011 by bookishman
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't fear Russian litrature!
I am no literati and cannot claim to be an avid reader of Russian novels but having stumbled upon Mistress and Margerita (which I confess I enjoyed although did not entirely... Read more
Published on 16 Aug 2011 by T. S. Burns
4.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Russian
Bulganov is a writer I know from The Master and Margarita. This book is ostensibly about his experiences in the 1918 revolution but is a criticism of authoritarianism in any form. Read more
Published on 5 Jun 2011 by Dr. Alan Green
3.0 out of 5 stars Chronicle of a disappearing world
No less than four sides vie for control of Kiev in 1918. White Guard follows the fortunes of the monarchist Turbin family during this fateful year. Read more
Published on 17 Jan 2010 by Dublin 4
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
Bulgakov portrays a wonderful depth of language in this exciting novel of one family in Kiev at the end of the First World War. Read more
Published on 2 Aug 2009 by G. Youngson
5.0 out of 5 stars A vivid and enthralling portrait of a civil war
Obviously, one can't know what it's like to be caught up in the tumult of civil war but if any book can give an inkling it is this, Mikhail Bulgakov's first novel. Read more
Published on 2 April 2009 by Melmoth
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