Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Date of this Version

May 1995


Published in International Fiction Review 22:1&2 (1995), pp. 37-46. Copyright 1995 International Fiction Association, Fredericton, N.B., Canada. Used by permission.


After more than a year of silence and hiding since the publication of The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie spoke out in a 1990 article appearing in Newsweek "The Master and Margarita and its author were persecuted by Soviet totalitarianism. It is extraordinary to find my novel's life echoing that of one of its greatest models." In this surprising claim, Rushdie not only links his novel with Bulgakov's masterpiece, but also joins his fate with that of the Russian author. For Rushdie, there is a clear parallel between Bulgakov's suffering under Stalinism and his own situation vis-a-vis the Muslim world.

Concretely, Bulgakov survived in the dark basement in his Moscow apartment while Rushdie hides out in London. Furthermore, both novels have been subject to banning and attempts were made to keep them out gf the hands of their intended readers. The Master and Margarita was not published for nearly thirty years after its writing in the former Soviet Union, The Satanic Verses has been banned in India because the Indian government does not want to risk hurting the sensibilities of its Muslim population and its neighbors. Although an explanation of these parallels could motivate an entire article, I intend to treat specifically Rushdie's enigmatic claim that Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita serves as one of the "greatest models" for The Satanic Verses.