Mikhail Bulgakov called 1929 his "year of catastrophe." Truly, things were not going well for the Russian novelist and playwright. In his introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of Bulgakov's, "A Dead Man's Memoir (A Theatrical Novel)," Keith Gessen describes the writer's misfortunes: A long and brutal campaign against him by Party critics had culminated in the removal of all his plays from the Moscow stage; his prose works had stopped passing the censorship years earlier. "Everything is banned," he wrote to Maksim Gorky that summer, "and I am ruined, slandered, all alone." A theatre to which he'd sold a play, since pulled from the repertoire because of the censorship, asked for the advance back. Not long after, visitors to a leading avant-garde Moscow theatre could watch a play that included "Bulgakov" in its "dictionary of dead words" -- alongside "bureaucracy," "bohemia" and "bagels."