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From miracle-play to carnival: Chinese New Year holidays in Bulgakov’s M.A. novella “The Fatal Eggs”

Annotation

Chinese allusions of New Year and the Lantern Festival used by M.A. Bulgakov in the 6th chapter of the novella “The Fatal Eggs” are studied. White and black ritual magic, mythological images of Chinese agricultural calendar are considered from the perspective of Chinese festive culture and its carnivalization: Peach tree, “Fire judge”, “White inconstancy” and “Black inconstancy”, “Purple girl”. The mythopoetic analysis of the novella involves a “fantastic and satirical” novel by a medieval Chinese writer Wu Cheng’en “Journey to the West” (1590). It is shown how M.A. Bulgakov inscribes this unusual, exotic, religious work that captures the basics of Chinese culture in his text. In addition to the mythological content, the allusions analysis sphere on the Chinese text involves the image of a medieval Chinese official, Chinese etiquette, a celebratory feast, street and areal decorations of the spectacle and jollification. The miracle-play character of the novella is researched. Not only the rituals of summoning the gods, demons, and spirits of the dead are described, but also the traditional for all the miracle-plays initiation of the “neophyte”, one of the main stages of which is the catabasis (descent into hell), called by C.G. Jung as the archetype of “the knight's departure into the dark”. The main character’s path to the Chinese tartarus of the novella by Professor V.I. Persikov turns out to be such a catabasis, shown in a parody key. Close attention is paid to such a modernist method of depicting Russian reality as the method of collision/interference of times. Chinese carnival “madness” is becoming a real Russian madness associated with the reforms of the national economy. Therefore, a special place in the study is given to the satirical means analysis of influencing the viewer: elements of eccentricity, comedy play, parody and grotesque. In this field of Bulgakov’s caustic satire lies, we think, the image of the “the world’s first socialist state” founder V.I. Lenin and the internal policy of the leaders who replaced him, announced the beginning of the Russian peasantry destruction era and the beginning of the collectivization and agriculture mechanization era. The phantasmagoria genre, manifested in the mass hysteria of Muscovites and blazing fires from burning mountains of dead chickens, also strengthens the satirical character of the story.

Keywords

miracle-play; carnival; myth; ritual; parody; Chinese text; “Journey to the West”; “Lantern Festival”; “fire demon”; “White inconstancy” and “Black inconstancy”; “Purple girl”

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DOI

10.20310/2587-6953-2021-7-25-71-81

UDC

82-1/-9

Pages

71-81

References

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Received

2020-01-11

Section of issue

Russian literature

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