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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Diaboliad (Vintage Classics)
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 August 2017
***Actual Rating:  3.5/5***

This slim volume is bursting with four tall tales that are simply a rhapsody of random.

The characters' often confusing psychological metamorphosis throughout is either a result of a mind of high intelligence, or someone that’s completely off their trolley. The jury’s still out on that one, I’m afraid!

The absurdities presented by strained Russian political situations in the early 20th century allow the plots to run riot, blitzing bureaucratic streets, oppressive workplaces, and the biting cold of uninviting apartment complexes.

A quick rundown of the stories include: a dismissed office clerk’s sulphur induced hallucinogenic doppelganger effect, the abrupt end to a tough regime that thrives courtesy of an insufferable building supervisor, an immigrant’s unintentional progression within the Russian army, and a surreal dream in which a man cons an entire province out of billions.

I can’t remotely fathom the whys and wherefores of the individual plots, other than Diaboliad and other Stories grips an 'arrogant' regime with both hands and attacks it with shrewd rebellion and an undiluted irony.

While Diaboliad (first published in 1924) was by far my favourite story from this odd collection, each tale was colossally chaotic enough to compel me to keep reading. After this taster I'd be intrigued to try this author’s further work, as the flash of ideas that rebound off the page are strangely engaging and utterly unique - ‘quirky’ doesn’t quite do it justice!

(I received this copy from Alma Books in a Twitter competition they ran earlier in 2016. Yep, it's been on the TBR a while!)
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on 14 July 2008
This collection of five stories is a great introduction to the work of Mikhail Bulgakov. The volume comprises 'Diaboliad', the novella 'The Fatal Eggs', 'No. 13, the Elpit-Workers Commune', 'A Chinese Tale' and 'The Adventures of Chichikov'. The book has a useful and informative short introduction by Julie Curtis. In these tales, Bulgakov's satire and particularly his sense of the absurd are much to the fore. Foreshadowing Bulgakov's masterpiece 'The Master and Margharita', satire, critique of Soviet life, absurdity and magical (if diabolical) events are intermingled. These stories alone would surely establish Bulgakov as one of Russia's more noteworthy satirists, placing him in that great tradition extending back to Gogol. It is perhaps not surpising that Bulgakov in 'The Adventures of Chichikov' resurrects Gogol's hero/anti-hero of 'Dead Souls' and transplants him from serf-bound early nineteenth century Russia into the equally perplexing world of early Soviet Russia.
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on 19 March 2010
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.
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on 30 December 2015
This edition contains the following stories:
1) Diaboliad (the main story in this collection)
2) No.13 the Elpit Workers’ Commune
3) A Chinese Tale
4) The Adventures of Chicikov

Diaboliad is a dark story incorporating elements of the kafkaesque with mundane bureaucracy transformed into an anonymous bewildering, crushing nightmarish force and elements of Dostoyevsky’s The Double; and like Dostoyevsky’s story, the double is a source of chaos, confusion, anxiety and distress. The result of these two elements is a nightmarish story which continually picks up pace to the extent that divisions into chapters towards the end seems pretty irrelevant as there is no pause in the unfolding chaos. The story is also rich in apparent signs and symbols. For example there is a brief reference to a billiard ball in the initial chapters, and then billiard balls are everywhere in the final chapters. Likewise the fowl smell of sulphur appears when Korotkov is testing the quality of his matches in the initial chapters and later there is a reference to the smell of valerian drops. Colour is also a common theme, as are numbers. Korotkov uses up 3 boxes of matches whilst testing them, later her will three triangles of billiard balls and pick up handfuls of those billiard balls also in threes. There are also 2 sets of doubles running about. These references to billiard balls, colours, smells and threes increase with the action. I think there is much here for the carful and observant reader and I am inclined to believe that this sorry will offer up more with every rereading making it so much more than just a satire on a cruel and arbitrary totalitarian bureaucracy.

The other stories are bit of a nixed bag. They are much shorter than Diaboliad and as such there is much less space to place with. No.13 the Elpit Workers’ Commune is seems a straight forward little story but it just didn’t make much of an impression on me. A Chinese Tale was a bit more exciting and had more of a story. The Adventures of Chicikov was a lot more fun. Bulgakov is having a lot of fun with Gogol and in particular dead souls. I loved how the character Chicikov builds up his wealth and his empire which turns out to be house of cards. This story seems quite timely/current following the economic crisis

One thing I did notice whilst reading theses stories are that they are fast paced. It’s not necessarily a comment on the story itself so much as the stories are easier to read if you read them fast. All the stories have references within them that will make you stop and turn back a few pages to see what you missed, reading faster helps keeping the imagines in mind whilst reading reducing the need to turn back because you think you missed something.
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on 2 February 2015
Wonderful! Brilliant satire and such a comic yet real observation of life in Moscow in the early 20th Century. There is such a lot to learn and experience from reading literature of this quality.
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on 2 January 2015
Almost as good as his master piece the master and margarita ,great collection of short stories,wonderful characters in crazy situations
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on 4 November 2014
Fabulous. I loved every second of reading this. It should be more widely read. This translation is very good.
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on 1 June 2015
Fantastic thanks!
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on 15 December 2013
this was my husbands choice and he said it was good , he has read other books by this author and was not dissapointed by it
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