A character in Mikhail Bulgakov's Master and Margarita

Editing copyright © 2004 by Hugo S. Cunningham
Picture copyright © 1967 by Harper & Row

First posted 20040326
Latest minor change 20080909

Mikhail Bulgakov's Master and Margarita, a classic of Russia's literary "Silver Age," is a delightful satire of Moscow life in the early 1920s. The title characters, an impoverished writer and his girlfriend, are secondary. The principal action is driven by Mephistopheles, d.b.a. "Professor Woland." Ostensibly a visiting foreign entertainer, he is actually, together with three companion demons, a trouble-maker. But the trouble is not necessarily harmful; Bulgakov prefaced the story with a quote from Goethe's Faust (also the source of the name "Woland"):
"Say at last -- who art thou?"
"That power I serve which wills forever evil yet does forever good."

The most distinctive and popular of the three companion demons is Begemot ("Behemoth"), an overgrown cat. (Later note [2008/0909] I agree with the Wikipedia article on Master and Margarita that "Begemot" was inspired in part by "Puss in Boots".) My favorite image of Begemot appeared on the cover of a Signet Classics paperback edition of the Master and Margarita (1967). Below the "Signet" image, I reproduce Bulgakov's descriptions of Begemot's appearance.

Picture copyright © 1967 by Harper & Row

Istochnik teksta na russkom yazyke:
Mixail Bulgakov, Belaya Gvardiya -- Teatral'nyj Roman -- Master i Margarita, Xudozhestvennaya Literatura, Moskva, 1973.

In English, I have worked off of:
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita translated by Michael Glenny, Signet Modern Classic/New American Library, New York, 1967.

Ob"yasnenie latinskoj azbuki vospolzuemoj zdes'
Explanation of Russian transcription used here

glavatekstchapter referencetext
No e^to eshche ne vse: tret'im v e^toj kompanii okazalsya neizvestno otkuda vzyavshijsya kot, gromadnyj, kak borov, chernyj, kak sazha ili grach, i s otchayannymi kavalerjskimi usami. 4
But that wasn't all: as a third in that company appeared a cat, from who knows where, huge like a pig, black like soot or a raven, and with outrageous cavalryman's whiskers.
(«Bespokojnyj Den'»)
CHernyj, zdorovyj, kak begemot. 17
("A Restless Day")
Black, sturdy, like a hippopotamus.
(«Pri Svechax»)
Stoyashchij na zadnix lapax i vypachkannyj pyl'yu kot tem vremenem rasklanivalsya pered Margaritoj. Teper' na shee u kota okazalsya belyj frachnyj galstuk bantikom, a na grudi perlamutrovyj damskij binokl' na remeshke. Krome togo, usy kota byli vyzolocheny. 22
("By Candlelight")
The cat, standing on his back paws and powdered, bowed before Margarita. Now on the cat's neck appeared a white dress tie, and on his chest a mother-of-pearl lady's binoculars on a thin strap. In addition, the cat's whiskers were gilded.
(«Konec Kvartiry No. 50»)
Tut on, otstaviv v storonu primus, vyxvatil iz-za spiny brauning. 27
("The End of Apartment 50")
Putting aside the primus, he then grabbed a Browning [hand gun] from behind his back.

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