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White Guard Paperback – May 5, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The White Guard is less famous than Mikhail Bulgakov's comic hit, The Master and Margarita, but it is a lovely book, though completely different in tone. It is set in Kiev during the Russian revolution and tells a story about the war's effect on a middle-class family (not workers). The story was not politically correct and thereby contributed to Bulgakov's lifelong troubles with the Soviet authorities. It was, however, well-loved, and the novel was turned into a successful play at the time of its publication in 1967. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"'With this edition of The White Guard, translator Marian Schwartz has done a handsome job of matching Bulgakov's rich Russian vocabulary and attention to meticulous detail. In a thoughtful introduction, the scholar Evgeny Dobrenko observes that, with the Russian Civil war, 'history intruded, suddenly and menacingly'. Bulgakov's novel evokes the suffering of the conflict and the still greater horrors that lay ahead.' Joshua Rubenstein, Wall Street Journal"
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (May 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300151454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300151459
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #657,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Jacques Barzun in "From Dawn to Decadence" says that those who live in the midst of a Revolution often do not perceive the tidal wave of historical forces sweeping by them. Nonetheless, they are acutely conscious of being caught up in a whirlwind. In "The White Guard", the characters do not expound in depth about the loss of the old order or imminent rise of the new one. But they are terribly aware of the pain and upheaval that marks their daily lives. Nikolka, Alexi, and Elena Turbin are members of a middle-class family in Kiev. The time is 1918 and the Socialist Petlyura's army is outside the city. Nikolka, Alexi, and their friends go out from the warmth of their apartment to do their part to thwart his advance. However, the Germans, who were their erstwhile protectors, leave the city and are accompanied by the military and political leaders of Kiev. The Turbins and their friends feel betrayed. After a brave but futile defense the `officers' (synonymous with upper middle class) rip off their identifying markings and attempt to blend in with the populous at large. Looming in the background are the dreaded Bolsheviks and one gets the strong sense that the present troubles are but a hint of what is to come. However, this imminence is not apparent to the Turbins. They can neither glean nor control the inexorable flow of history. However, they can "Go on living...and be kind to one another...". The White Guard is a challenging but rewarding novel that, like much of great literature, exhorts the human spirit to persevere through trials and suffering. It's exposition is simple but every incident is dense with meaning. A superior novel.
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Format: Paperback
The drama adaptation of this novel was a great success at the Moscow Arts Theatre in 1926, helping to launch the career of the great Stanivslasky. Why? Because Bulgakov dares to tell the story of the revolution from the point of view of the defeated White Guard - Bulgakov's side--, only within years of the victory of the Red Army.. Amazingly, it was played uncensored for a number of years and also a favorite play of Stalin's.
Yet even if Stalin allowed the performance, the press was unforgiving, allowing only three good reviews out of a total of 301 in six years, some of them bluntly calling the bourgeois hero Aleksei a "son of a b..." or the author a "senile dog"!!
-Yet Bulgakov continued to do exactly as he pleased, and he continued writing his "blasphemous" satires on Stalinism -in THE MASTER AND MARGARITA we see the Devil himself arrive in Stalinist Russia to try to "sort it out"-, while at the same time he kept sending agonic letters to Stalin in which he complained about not receiving the royalties due for his work... Indeed, when he eventually asked permission to migrate, Stalin offered him a job!
Hopefully.. knowing about the courageous spirit of the author and the peculiar friendship this story kindled between Stalin and his least disciplined subject will make people more interested to read it. ...
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Format: Paperback
I am also astounded that only three people reviewed this book. The novel centers on the Turbin family living in Kiev, Ukraine during the Civil War (1918 - 1921) that followed World War I and the Russian Revolution. After the Russian empire fell apart in 1917, the Ukraine declared an independent state in early 1918 led by a parliamentary leader called a Hetman. The Hetman Skoropadsky in The White Guard is the second such leader. Skoropadsky assumed power with German support and intervention. Having just lost World War I and being not all that interested in the Ukraine anyway, the Germans could not support Skoropadsky enough to quell the inevitable power struggle. In the Ukraine, there arose armies of Tsarists (led by Deniken, mentioned briefly in the book), Bolsheviks (who, of course, ultimately win but are not major players in the book), and Socialist nationalists led by Simon Petlyura. The Turbins enlist in a local guard unit supporting the Hetman against Petlyura's much larger army. It soon becomes clear that their loyalty to the Hetman is misplaced, but the Turbins' loyalty to each other, their city, their friends and neighbors, and their commanding officers is heart-warming. Besides "heart-warming" there are also running gun battles, sabre decapitations, machine gun ambushes, and enough action to please all but the most hard core testosterone addicts. Petlyura is regarded by many Ukrainians as a great general (no opinion from me), but many readers will enjoy despising Petlyura for the pogroms he instituted that killed 100,000 Ukrainian Jews. Petlyura is called a "dirty Yid" at a point in the book that might give insight into Bulgakov's view on these pogroms. This book is both a taut thriller and a beautiful story of loyalty and love. Brian says "Check it out" (Sorry, Joe Bob).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was an excellent Russian novel set in 1918 Kiev. It follows the Turbins, a Tsarist middle class family in hiding. It is the end of WWI, and the Bolshevik Revolution is taking hold in Moscow. As loyalists to the Russian crown, the Turbins and friends are on the run from not only the Bolsheviks, but also the fierce Ukranian nationalist movement which is equally threatening. In fact, the Bolsheviks are still far away at Moscow, while the nationalists are much closer to home, and thus more of a direct threat. It is the story of a proud and pious people whose era is coming to an end. There is treachery around every corner, as the Turbins despairingly watch their beloved city of Kiev fall to the enemy. The prose is excellent, and the story is at once sad, humorous, and tragic. It is a pleasure to read and although fictional, I would consider it a good snapshot of the Russian Revolution, told from the perspective of the losing side.
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