Literary roundup: Bulgakov, Faust and Yiddish in Japan

A Japanese expert on German-Jewish intellectual history refers to Kafka’s obsession with Yiddish theater in a lecture and the end result is a 28,000 word Japanese-Yiddish dictionary that you can own for the bargain basement price of $770. A fascinating article on Yiddish in Japan, from early Russian-Jewish emigrants to WWII refugees saved by Japanese consul-general in Lithuania Chiune Sugihara to Japanese devotees of Ashkenazi culture.

And if the $770 price tag doesn’t scare you then think about gathering together $42 million to buy the house in Moscow that Bulgakov apparently used as a model for Margarita’s house. Built in 1903 the house is up for sale though I’m not sure if even the most fanatical Bulgakov reader would want to buy it since Margarita was overjoyed to leave that house (on a broomstick and at the prompting of Satan).

And speaking of Bulgakov, an adaptation of The Master and Margarita was listed among the 11 best Russian films of the year in Russia Beyond the Headlines. Directed by Yuri Kara the film was actually filmed in 1994 but due to the impenetrable mysteries of the Russian soul (or the impenetrable stupidity of the film’s producers) was held from release for 17 years. You can read a lukewarm review and fuller account of the film on this exhaustive Master and Margarita website. I’ve already written about filming the book and the potential Tim Burton version (Just say no!) and might be content to stick to the book. Other literature-related films on the list include an adaptation of Victor Pelevin’s Generation P, Faust directed by Alexander Sokurov, which was shot in the Faustian Czech Republic and the top-grossing Russian film of the year, Vysotsky: Thanks For Being Alive, a film about Vladimir Vysotsky written by his son Nikita.

(Note – Pelevin’s novel Generation P is titled Homo Zapiens in its US release and Babylon in the UK, presumably to avoid dealing with the untranslatable word “generation” that Pelevin used in English. Only kidding, I’m sure there is a good reason, probably having to do with the “P”)

Photo – The cover of a Russian comic version of The Master and Margarita by Rodion Tanaev

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2 Comments on “Literary roundup: Bulgakov, Faust and Yiddish in Japan”

  1. 20/01/2012 at 4:10 pm #

    Now I’m curious about the film version of Master and Margarita, although it’s one of those books where it would be so easy to get the film wrong…

  2. 20/01/2012 at 4:36 pm #

    And believe me they have – the worst is the 1972 Yugoslav version by Aleksander Petrovic, but I think it is a hopeless goal to put it on screen.

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