“Notes On a Cuff”, Chapter IV – Weekly Reads

Dear friends!

We continue our weekly readings. Bulgakov uses words as paints, drawing interesting pictures of excerpts from his life. As an example, see Chapter IV of the Notes on a Cuff. Enjoy reading!



Sun. Clouds of dust behind carriage wheels. People walking in and out of an echoing building. A room on the fourth floor. Two cupboards with broken doors, some rickety tables. Three young ladies with violet lips bang away loudly at typewriters, stopping now and then to have a smoke.

In the very centre a writer snatched from death’s jaws fashions a sub-section out of the chaos. Fine. Dram. Actors’ bluish faces keep pestering him. Asking for money.

After the typhus a rocking swell. Dizziness and nausea. But I’m in charge. ASS Lit. head. Getting to know the ropes.

“ASS head. Sec. of Ed. Lit. Coll.”

A man walks between the tables. In a grey army jacket and monstrous riding-breeches. He plunges into groups that fall apart. Like a torpedo boat ploughing the waves. Everyone quails under his glance. Except the young ladies. They’re not afraid of anything.

He comes up. Eyes boring into me, he plucks out my heart, places it in his palm and scrutinises it carefully. But it is as clear as crystal.

He puts it back and smiles graciously.

“ASS Lit. head?”

“That’s it.”

He goes on his way. Seems a good chap. Only what’s he doing here? Doesn’t look like Dram. And certainly not like Lit.

A poetess arrives. Black beret. Skirt buttoned down the side and stockings falling down. She’s brought a poem.

Dee, dee, deep down,

In my heart

Beats a dynamo-machine.

Dee, dee, deep down.

Not a bad poem. We’ll have it … you know … what do they call it … recited at a concert.

The poetess looks pleased. Not a bad young lassy. But why doesn’t she hitch up her stockings?

Source: “Notes On the Cuff – And Other Stories”, Mikhail Bulgakov, translated by Alison Rise, Published December 31st 1991 by Ardis Publishers, 0875010571