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

Dear friends!

Bulgakov had to make many difficult decisions in his life. You can find out about one of these in Chapter XIII of Notes on a Cuff below. Enjoy reading!


Chapter XIII. 

The town at the foot of the mountains has vanished. Curse it… Tsikhidziri. Makhindzhauri . GreenCape! Magnolias in bloom. White flowers the size of plates. Bananas. Palm trees! I saw them myself, I swear it, palm trees growing out of the ground. And the sea singing endlessly by granite cliffs. The books were right. The sun sinks into the water. The beauty of the sea. The high vault of the heavens. The steep cliff, with creeping plants on it. Chakva. Tsikhidziri . Green Cape.

Where am I going? Where? I’m wearing my last shirt. With crooked letters on my cuffs. And heavy hieroglyphs in my heart. I have deciphered only one of these mysterious signs. It says: woe is me! Who will interpret the others for me?


I lie like a corpse on pebbles washed by salt water. I am weak with hunger. My head aches from morning to midnight. Now it is night. I cannot see the sea, only hear it rolling. Surging to and fro. A tardy wave hisses. Suddenly three tiers of lights emerge from behind a dark promontory.

The Polatsky is sailing to the Golden Horn.


Tears salty as sea water.

Saw a poet, one of the unknown. He was walking round Nuri Bazaar trying to sell his hat. The peasants laughed at him.

He smiled shamefacedly and explained he wasn’t joking. He was selling his hat because his money had been stolen. That was a lie. He’d been broke for ages. Hadn’t eaten for three days. He confessed later, when we were sharing a pound of cheese. Told me he was on his way from Penza to Yalta. I nearly burst out laughing. But then I remembered: what about me?


My cup is full to overflowing. The “new head” arrived at twelve o’clock.

He walked in and said:

“Ve vill take a different path! No more of ziss pornographia: Vit Vorks Voe and The Government Inspector by Goggle. Boggle. Ve vill write our own plays.”

Then he got into his car and drove off.

His face imprinted itself on my memory forever.


An hour later I sold my overcoat at the bazaar. There was an evening boat. But he wouldn’t let me go. Understand? Wouldn’t let me go!..


I’ve had enough! Let the Golden Horn shine. I’ll never reach it. There’s a limit to a man’s strength. Mine’s finished. I’m starving, broken! There’s no blood in my brain. I’m weak and scared. But I won’t stay here any longer. So … that means … that means …

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