The master and margarita by mikhail bulgakov masterpiece of soviet era literatureDocument Transcript
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov Masterpiece Of Soviet Era LiteratureSurely no stranger work exists in the annals of protest literature than TheMaster and Margarita. Written during the Soviet crackdown of the 1930s,when Mikhail Bulgakovs works were effectively banned, it wraps its anti -Stalinist message in a complex allegory of good and evil. Or would that bethe other way around? The books chief character is Satan, who appearsin the guise of a foreigner and self-proclaimed black magician namedWoland. Accompanied by a talking black tomcat and a translator wearinga jockeys cap and cracked pince-nez, Woland wreaks havoc throughoutliterary Moscow. First he predicts that the head of noted editor Berlioz willbe cut off; when it is, he appropriates Berliozs apartment. (A puzzledrelative receives the following telegram: Have just been run over bystreetcar at Patriarchs Ponds funeral Friday three afternoon comeBerlioz.) Woland and his minions transport one bureaucrat to Yalta, makeanother one disappear entirely except for his suit, a nd frighten severalothers so badly that they end up in a psychiatric hospital. In fact, it seemshalf of Moscow shows up in the bin, demanding to be placed in a lockedcell for protection. Meanwhile, a few doors down in the hospital lives thetrue object of Wolands visit: the author of an unpublished novel aboutPontius Pilate. This Master--as he calls himself--has been driven mad byrejection, broken not only by editors harsh criticism of his novel but,Bulgakov suggests, by political persecuti on as well. Yet Pilates storybecomes a kind of parallel narrative, appearing in different formsthroughout Bulgakovs novel: as a manuscript read by the Mastersindefatigable love, Margarita, as a scene dreamed by the poet--and fellowlunatic--Ivan Homeless, and even as a story told by Woland himself. Sincewe see this narrative from so many different points of view, who is truly itsauthor? Given that the Masters novel and this one end the same way, arethey in fact the same book? These are only a few of the many questionsBulgakov provokes, in a novel that reads like a set of infinitely nestedRussian dolls: inside one narrative there is another, and then another, andyet another. His devil is not only entertaining, he is necessary: What wouldyour good be doing if there were no evil, and what would the earth look
like if shadows disappeared from it? Unsurprisingly --in view of itsfrequent, scarcely disguised references to interrogation and terror --Bulgakovs masterwork was not published unti l 1967, almost threedecades after his death. Yet one wonders if the world was really ready forthis book in the late 1930s, if, indeed, we are ready for it now. Shocking,touching, and scathingly funny, it is a novel like no other. Woland mayreattach heads or produce 10-ruble notes from the air, but Bulgakovproves the true magician here. The Master and Margarita is a differentbook each time it is opened. --Mary ParkOne hot spring evening two men sit on a bench at Patriarchs Ponds:Berlioz, editor of a literary magazine and Ivan Nikolayevich, a poet. Theeditor is lecturing his poet friend on the err of his ways in portraying thefictional Jesus in his recent poetic endeavour as a man, albeit a flawedman, but nonetheless a man who did in fact exist in the most mortal senseof the word. During their heated conversation, a tall foreign stranger, whogoes by the name Woland and professes to be a professor and an expertin black magic, approaches them as he is very interested in their debate onthe existence of Jesus and claims to have been on the balcony the dayPontius Pilate condemned the prophet to death. After a lengthy discussion,Woland prophesizes Berlioz eminent demise, and then all hell breaksloose.I have wanted to read this book for many years, and it just kept slipping outof my head until a few months ago when I stumbled upon it while browsingat a small Indie book store. I am a huge fan of Russian Literature, so I ama little embarrassed to admit that I kept forgetting about it all these years,but there was no time like the present to read it. Banned Book week wasupon us, and Bulgakovs masterwork was banned in Russia and notreleased in English until the 1960s in a censored version. We dont haveto worry about this anymore and can now read one of many wonderfultranslations. I do suggest that if you are hunting down a copy, make sureyou get a decent translation. The one I purchased, this edition, had alengthy commentary section that goes over some of the finer points ofRussian Politics during the 1930s, and so it made the read moreenjoyable.The story is a complex allegory: part social satire, part contemporaryhistorical, part romance, part farce, part political irony, part theologicalpontification, yes, this book, written in the theatrical style of a playwright, ismagical realism at its finest. The book moves back and forth between threeconverging storylines: Woland, or rather Satan, and his re tinues descentupon the unsuspecting citizens of Moscow; the heartbreakingunconventional love story between the Master and Margarita; and TheMasters own novel, which explores Pontius Pilates great guilt. However,Woland is not your conventional Satan, often appearing very sympatheticand thoughtful; Yeshua is not the Jesus we are accustomed to; and Pilatemanages to redeem himself. I wont say how, because that will ruin it. NowWoland doesnt come to Moscow to reek havoc, nor does he come to
whisper in the collective Muscovite ear in order to bring out the worst inpeople, he merely allows Moscows disingenuous to come face to face withtheir own hypocrisy. Where Yeshua teaches, Woland provokes, but in theend, their goal is the same, and thats the religious rub of the story: the twoare equal and share the same hope for humanity in the end. There is a lotof allusion to the New Testament as well as folklore representations ofPilate and other Biblical characters as Heresy in all its many forms is themain theme running throughout all three plotlines. Each Moscowmiscreant, much like in Dantes Inferno, receives the punishment fitting fortheir crime. Even The Masters punishment fits his crime. In this Faustianpart of the tale, the Master is condemned to an insane asylum because ofhis cowardice. Cowardice, Yeshua says, is the greatest of all sins. TheMaster, having received negative commentary in a review of hisunpublished novel, broke under the weight of the criticism and lost faith, inhimself and his work, and only through Margaritas sacrifice, would hefinish the novel and achieve peace, which Yeshua, as requested byWoland, grants him in the end: Peace not Light, or rather not salvation.This story explores a lot of odd and awkward existential angles and does itwith finesse and a black humour blacker than the fur on the pickle-eating,vodka-drinking, gun-toting Behemoth, Satans Black Cat. The story has afull on narrator who interjects with a vengeance, and the narrative style isoperatic and slapstick all at the same time. Besides the main characters:Woland, The Master, and Margarita, there is a litany of other minorcharacters within the main narrative and also within the Masters innernovel, and all the characters reflect nicely the main themes of the story:Good and Evil, Heresy, Cowardice, Faith, Death, Freedom, Guilt, andSacrifice or devotional love among others. And so the characters aredeliberately grotesque and superficial, ordinary and archetypal. Satansretinue is particularly diverse: the grotesquely dressed valet Koroviev(Fagotto); a fast-talking black cat who walks on his hind legs and is big asa hog, Behemoth; the fanged little wall-eyed hitman Azazello; the demonAbaddon; and the naked red-headed witch Hella. There is a lot of anti-religious propaganda of the day weaved into the narrative, and so there isa lot of parody: Margaritas stations of the cross as she welcomes theguests at Satans spring ball, and The Massolit writers last supper of a sortas they argue over who will go to the summer retreat being two of them. Towrite a proper review of this book is an exercise in futility because there isjust so much going on thematically, philosophically, and theologically, itwould take extensive study of the text and essay s of great length tocapture all its nuances. But you dont have to do all that to just plain oldenjoy the story. Its heartbreaking, horrific, action packed, confusing,hilarious, and if you didnt have faith in the cosmos before you read it, youjust might afterwards. You dont even need to know much about Russianpolitics of the time to enjoy the satire, and the language is sublime:"Gods, my Gods! How sad the earth is at eventide! How mysterious are themists over the swamps. Anyone who has wandered i n these mists, whohas suffered a great deal before death, or flown above the earth, bearing a
burden beyond his strength knows this. Someone who is exhausted knowsthis. And without regret he forsakes the mists of the earth, its swamps andrivers, and sinks into the arms of death with a light heart ..."I highly recommend that all writers read this book: the lessons in structure,language, characterization, and theme are well beyond what one will get ina style guide. Bulgakovs articulation of his thesis is flawless, even if theoriginal manuscript has been butchered over the years by clumsy editorsand translators. For More 5 Star Customer Reviews and Lowest Price:The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov - 5 Star Customer Reviews and Lowest Price!