Diaries and Selected Letters

By Mikhail Bulgakov

Translated by Roger Cockrell

ISBN: 9781847496058

288 pages

RRP: £7.99

The career of Mikhail Bulgakov, the author of The Master and Margarita – now regarded as one of the masterpieces of twentieth-century literature – was characterized by a constant and largely unsuccessful struggle against state censorship. This suppression did not only apply to his art: in 1926 his personal diaries were seized by the authorities. From then on he confined his thoughts to letters to his friends and family, as well as to public figures such as Stalin and his fellow Soviet writer Gorky.

This ample selection from the diaries and letters of Mikhail Bulgakov, mostly translated for the first time into English, provides an insightful glimpse into the author’s world and into a fascinating period of Russian history and literature, telling the tragic tale of the fate of an artist under a totalitarian regime.


  • Cockrell has overall done Bulgakov excellent service as his translator. His text reads extremely well … this is a fascinating insight into the many moods, many voices, the resilience and faint-heartedness, bravado and calculation, light and dark, great and small, that made up this marvellous writer.


  • Superbly well translated in this collection by Roger Cockrell, they give a revealing insight into the writer’s thoughts and feelings as he struggled to survive in the unforgiving proletarian culture of the Soviet Union.

    The Irish Times

  • A fine biographical addition to the new translations of Bulgakov's fiction that Alma Classics have published in recent years.

    Prospect Magazine

  • Bulgakov was not merely a brilliant observer of what was going on around him, but had an uncanny ability to pick out the particular manifestations of folly and discord which would set the tone of the era to follow.

    The Guardian

  • Bulgakov's letters tell the story … of the young writer’s journey to Moscow and the publication of The Master and Margarita.

    Gabriel Josipovici
    The New Statesman

  • Intriguing letters and diary entries that fill out our picture of the man … He remains one of the most original and witty writers in a great age of literature. Roger Cockrell's book helps us to know him better

    Elaine Feinstein
    The Times

  • Resolving Bulgakov's contradictions is somewhat easier when we read the letters and diaries … Cockrell's book has been beautifully produced and designed by Alma Books.

    The Literary Review

  • The diaries and selected letters are an important insight into this funny, accomplished, always humane writer.

    Philip Hensher
    The Telegraph

  • This volume, covering 1921 to his death in 1940, illuminates not only the writer's Moscow years, but also the historical era. The weather, politics and even the inflation are all detailed here along with Bulgakov's own difficult literary progress. His letters to officials make particularly fascinating reading.

    The Washington Post

Mikhail Bulgakov

Born in Kiev in 1891 to Russian parents, Mikhail Bulgakov trained as a doctor and volunteered for the Red Cross on the outbreak of the First World War. He later enlisted as a doctor for the anti-Bolshevik White Army, before eventually giving up medicine to concentrate on literature. The Master and Margarita is his most famous work, and has been hailed as one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century.