This portrait of Moliere, by Mikhail Bulgakov, goes far beyond mere biography. The Russian master brings a kindred spirit vividly to life in this novelistic story of art and the struggle it demands.
Mikhail Bulgakov’sThe Life of Monsieur de Moliereis 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 makesThe 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 novelThe Master and Margarita. HisThe 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.