The Master and Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov)

28 May 2014

The Master and Margarita

In Soviet Moscow, God is dead, but the devil - to say nothing of his retinue of demons, from a loudmouthed, gun-toting tomcat, to the fanged fallen angel Koroviev - is very much alive. As death and destruction spread through the city like wildfire, condemning Moscow's cultural elite to prison cells and body bags, only a madman, the Master, and Margarita, his beautiful, courageous lover, can hope to end the chaos. Written in secret during the darkest days of Stalin's reign and circulated in samizdat form for decades, when The Master and the Margarita was finally published it became an overnight literary phenomenon, signalling artistic freedom for Russians everywhere.

Average Rating:

Sean Aaron (30 June 2014 13:33)

Not as interminable as Metro 2033, but quite a slog nonetheless with no clear objective and no obvious satire.

Graham MacDonald (5 June 2014 18:37)

The consensus at the group was: "If we'd been living in 1940s Soviet Russia we would probably have got a lot more out of this". I enjoyed though, and my translation was quite witty at points but to be honest I didn't really "get" it. I could see hints of satire and did get a bit of a feel for its subversive nature.

Really enjoyed all the Pontius Pilate stuff though. I've always been a fan of the "Jesus wasn't really magic, he was just kindof a nice guy with a messiah complex" retelling of the Gospels... although not religious myself I've always thought there's a much more interesting message about humanity there than the "He was the son of god and could do magic" of the Bible's version.

Sinclair Manson (3 June 2014 19:21)

Yeah, it wasn't at all what I expected. I thought (largely based on the blurb above) that the devil was the villain of the whole piece, opposed by the titular duo of The Master and Margarita. That wasn't how it went at all. I'm not clear on what exactly the Soviet censors objected to, I suppose they were a fairly objectionable lot. There's the treatment of the Master by the literary authorities and various other incidental details but the main plot just seems to be a big, harmless, Satanic romp. All in all, quite good fun, wouldn't risk being sent to a gulag to read it.

Rebecca Ellen (2 June 2014 11:21)

I couldn't come to the meet-up for this book, but did at least read it! If I had come to the meeting, my contribution would pretty much have been "what the actual f...".

What a bonkers motorway pileup of increasingly insane scenarios.

The cat antics amused me, and I really enjoyed Margarita's episode as a witch. Plus, as an atheist, I always like a re-telling of "set in stone" biblical tales. However, overall, not my scene and I'm glad it only cost 49p (thanks for the e-book suggestion in the group email!). Whatever literary/societal comment Bulgakov was making, I appreciate that he did it in such a zany fashion but I miss my spaceships and star clusters.

P.S. Love the Penguin Classics cover.