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The Life of Monsieur de Molière by Mikhail…
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The Life of Monsieur de Molière (1933)

by Mikhail Afanasevich Bulgakov

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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196591,991 (3.85)2
Mikhail Bulgakov's The Life of Monsieur de Moliere is a fascinating portrait of the great French seventeenth-century satirist by one of the great Russian satirists of our own century. For Bulgakov, Moliere was an alter ego whose destiny seemed to parallel his own. As Bulgakov's translator, Mirra Ginsburg, informs us: There is much besides their craft that links these two men across the centuries. Both had a sharp satirical eye and an infinite capacity for capturing the absurd and the comic, the mean and the grotesque: both had to live and write under autocracies: both were fearless and uncompromising in speaking of what they saw, evoking storms with each new work: and shared what Bulgakov calls 'the incurable disease of passion for the theater.'"The life of Moliere, born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, is a story of struggle and dedication, and Bulgakov tells it with warmth and compassion. Indeed, for all Bulgakov's careful attention to historical detail, his vivid recreation of seventeenth-century France makes The Life of Monsieur de Moliereread more like a novel than a formal biography.Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1949) is best known in the West for his monumental novel The Master and Margarita. His The Life of Monsieur de Moliere, completed in 1933, was not published until 1962. Mirra Ginsburg's translation of this neglected masterpiece will find a welcome readership among devotees of the theater and of modern Russian literature. "… (more)

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» See also 2 mentions

English (4)  French (1)  All languages (5)
Showing 4 of 4
The weakest part of many biographies is the opening. After all, Shakespeare and Lincoln were not actually distinguished by their birth -- or even the first few years of their lives. But you know that this book will be different when it opens with Bulgakov addressing Moliere's midwife, across three centuries, warning her to be careful with the premature infant in her arms and explaining how well he will be remembered all around the world for centuries to come -- more so than Louis XIV even, according to Bulgakov.

The opening announces that this is a biography that will read like a novel. In fact, it is a hybrid with extensive imagined dialogue and scenes, but telling the story from birth to death with relatively little left out along the way -- like a conventional biography. In some places it was hilarious (although not quite up to Moliere's level), in other places moving, and everywhere interesting.

In some ways you see more kinship between Bulgakov and Moliere in Bulgakov's play of the same subject than you do in this biography, which tells of all the censorship that Moliere faced but also of all of his court-sanctioned successes as well. Which given that this book itself wasn't published for decades after Bulgakov's life suggests the analogy between them is an imperfect one.

Bottom line, very readable, enjoyable and highly recommended. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
The weakest part of many biographies is the opening. After all, Shakespeare and Lincoln were not actually distinguished by their birth -- or even the first few years of their lives. But you know that this book will be different when it opens with Bulgakov addressing Moliere's midwife, across three centuries, warning her to be careful with the premature infant in her arms and explaining how well he will be remembered all around the world for centuries to come -- more so than Louis XIV even, according to Bulgakov.

The opening announces that this is a biography that will read like a novel. In fact, it is a hybrid with extensive imagined dialogue and scenes, but telling the story from birth to death with relatively little left out along the way -- like a conventional biography. In some places it was hilarious (although not quite up to Moliere's level), in other places moving, and everywhere interesting.

In some ways you see more kinship between Bulgakov and Moliere in Bulgakov's play of the same subject than you do in this biography, which tells of all the censorship that Moliere faced but also of all of his court-sanctioned successes as well. Which given that this book itself wasn't published for decades after Bulgakov's life suggests the analogy between them is an imperfect one.

Bottom line, very readable, enjoyable and highly recommended. ( )
  jasonlf | Jul 31, 2011 |
a treat ( )
  experimentalis | Mar 19, 2008 |
Showing 4 of 4
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mikhail Afanasevich Bulgakovprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ginsburg, MirraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Mikhail Bulgakov's The Life of Monsieur de Moliere is a fascinating portrait of the great French seventeenth-century satirist by one of the great Russian satirists of our own century. For Bulgakov, Moliere was an alter ego whose destiny seemed to parallel his own. As Bulgakov's translator, Mirra Ginsburg, informs us: There is much besides their craft that links these two men across the centuries. Both had a sharp satirical eye and an infinite capacity for capturing the absurd and the comic, the mean and the grotesque: both had to live and write under autocracies: both were fearless and uncompromising in speaking of what they saw, evoking storms with each new work: and shared what Bulgakov calls 'the incurable disease of passion for the theater.'"The life of Moliere, born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, is a story of struggle and dedication, and Bulgakov tells it with warmth and compassion. Indeed, for all Bulgakov's careful attention to historical detail, his vivid recreation of seventeenth-century France makes The Life of Monsieur de Moliereread more like a novel than a formal biography.Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1949) is best known in the West for his monumental novel The Master and Margarita. His The Life of Monsieur de Moliere, completed in 1933, was not published until 1962. Mirra Ginsburg's translation of this neglected masterpiece will find a welcome readership among devotees of the theater and of modern Russian literature. "… (more)

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