The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgahov - 1967 - translated from Russisn by Richard Pevear and Lariosa Volohonsky -with a Forward by Boris Fishman - 2016 - 412 Pages
This post is in Observation of The 130th Birth anniversary of Mikhail Bulgahov
With a newly revised translation based on an uncensored Russian original, The 50th anniversary edition has lots of useful footnotes. Bulgahov composed if from 1928 to 1940 but did not publish it for concern of reaction of Stalinist authorities
May 15, 1891 Kyiv, Ukraine
March 10, 1940 - Moscow
I wish i had read this back in 1997 so I could have by now reread it numerous times. Maybe Bulgahov’s ability to take us away from the mundane World will make it a marvelous pandemic times read for many. Others maybe dealing with their own darkness now and feel similarities in modern societies to Stalist Era Moscow as portrayed by Bulgahov. Others may see in The News from India The Devil having great fun or in contemporary politicians vain greedy sycophants to match those in The Master and Margarita.
‘Beautiful, strange, tender, scarifying, and incandescent . . . One of those novels that, even in translation, makes one feel that not one word could have been written differently . . Master and Margarita has too many achievements to list—for one thing, a plot scudding with action and suspense, not exactly a hallmark of Russian literature. . . . This luminous translation [is] distinguished by not only the stylistic elegance that has become a hallmark of Pevear and Volokhonsky translations but also a supreme ear for the sound and meaning of Soviet life. . . . It’s time for The Master and Margarita to rise to its rightful place in the canon of great world literature. . . . As literature, it will live forever.’ —Boris Fishman, from the Foreword
I have had The Master and Margarita on my to be read list for years. I can enthusiastically agree with those who see it as a great work of art, a remarkable combination of styles and a very funny satire of Russian Society under Stalin.
The plot has two settings. One turns on the Devil’s visit to the Soviet Union where he causes immense havoc aming Moscow literary elite. The other setting is in the time of Jesus, centering on his order of execution by Pontius Pilate.
As part one open Woland, the Devil has a confrontation with Berlioz, head of an important trade Union. Woland tells him he will die that day. In vivid scene Berlioz gets his head cut off in a bizzare accident. A Young poet witnesses the event and attempts to capture Woland and his Entourage. His attempts to convince the authorities Woland is the Devil, in an officially athesitic Society whose officials must repudiate such Ideas get him placed in a mental hospital. There he meets The Master very bitter because no one will publish his novel about Pontius Pilate and Jesus. He has from his dispair abandoned his mistress Margarita. Along The way Woland puts on an incredible magic show and trashes The luxury apartment of Berlioz. Of course on his official income he could not afford such a place.
Part Two things get even stranger. Margarita learns to fly and control her unleashed passions.
We meet a magic cat, encounter Vampires, theatrical personalities and figures from Russian history.
Natasha, her maid, accompanies her as they fly over Russia’s forests and rivers. Margarita bathes and returns to Moscow with Azazello as the hostess of Satan's spring ball. At Azazello's side, she welcomes dark historical figures as they arrive from Hell. The Devil grants her one wish. She asks for The Master to be returned to her. At The Spring Ball numerous characters from Hell return for The party. There are echoes of Dante, Faust, and Gogol. There are helpful footnotes
We read more of The Master’s novel. Does he seem to vinducate Judas? Does he see Jesus as Christians do or as amythical figure?
The plot is open to numerous interpretations. Much turns on How you think The novel about Pontius Pilate illuminates Life in the Soviet Union in the 1930s.
There are lots of historical references and literary allusions. Faust is a source of inspiration as is the work of Gogol.
It is very funny. For sure it is Russia’s contribution to magic realism at a very high level.
The Master and Margarita is really as powerful as these famous writers have said
“My favorite novel—it’s just the greatest explosion of imagination, craziness, satire, humor, and heart.” —Daniel Radcliffe
“From the first page I was immediately beguiled, leading me to my year of reading Bulgakov, drawing me to venture to Moscow to seek out the landmarks in the book, and the author’s grave, which is steps away from the grave of Gogol.” —Patti Smith, The New York Times Book Review
“Nude vampires, gun-toting talking black cat, and devil as ultimate party starter aside, the miracle of this novel is that every time you read it, it’s a different book.” —Marlon James, “My 10 Favorite Books,” in T: The New York Times Style Magazine