Our Notes & References
First appearance in print of this short story and an early publication of one of Russia’s best novelists, before he was banned. Originally intended to be included in the “Diaboliad”.
The story, for all its apparent uniqueness, represents a variation on the constant theme of Bulgakov’s Civil War prose: revolution as loss of home. Here, however, the concept of home gains immensely in significance. If earlier the dwelling was usually sketchily portrayed, the palace in “The Khan’s Fire” [or Flame] is described in meticulous detail. One might even say that the estate, not its former master, is the main hero of the story. The house is no longer simply the dwelling place of an individual or family; it is also a repository of history. Time passes, entire eras disappear, but in the house the artefacts of the past are left behind, variegated and complex human tradition made visible and concrete.
In her discussion of “Khanskii ogon”, Haber detects a distinct pessimism in Bulgakov’s account of Prince Tugai-Beg, who returns to his ancestral estate only to find this once-living storehouse of five generations of family history has become a museum–as Haber says, “the common property of the new Soviet man” (Haber). Enraged by what Haber calls the “perversion of the original significance of the house,” the prince sets fire to the structure.
Some critics assumed that Bulgakov portrayed here the Prince Yusupov’s palace in Arkhangelskoe, which he visited in 1922.
Apart from Bulgakov’s story, the issue features numerous stories and articles dedicated to Lenin who died one month before the publication.
Very rarely found outside Russia.
Robert Eden Martin (b. 1940; American lawyer and noted collector of Russian, British and American literature works).
Edythe C. Haber, Mikhail Bulgakov: The Early Years, Harvard University Press, 1998.