The Master and Margarita

The Master and Margarita

1967

The Master and Margarita is a darkly comedic takedown of Soviet society, an audacious revision of the stories of Faust and Pontius Pilate, and a thrilling love story. The novel begins with the Devil's arrival in 1930's Moscow disguised as the...

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448 Pages
4.5

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The Master and Margarita is a darkly comedic takedown of Soviet society, an audacious revision of the stories of Faust and Pontius Pilate, and a thrilling love story. The novel begins with the Devil's arrival in 1930's Moscow disguised as the distinguished Professor Woland.

The Master and Margarita (Russian: ?????? ? ?????????) is a novel by Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, written in the Soviet Union between 1928 and 1940 during Stalin's regime. A censored version was published in Moscow magazine in 1966–1967, after the writer's death. The manuscript was not published as a book until 1967, in Paris. A samizdat version circulated that included parts cut out by official censors, and these were incorporated in a 1969 version published in Frankfurt. The novel has since been published in several languages and editions.

 

Mikhail Afanasyevich Bulgakov (5 May 1891 – 10 March 1940) was a Russian writer, medical doctor and playwright active in the first half of the 20th century He is best known for his novel The Master and Margarita, published posthumously, which has been called one of the masterpieces of the 20th century.

The Master and Margarita is a darkly comedic takedown of Soviet society, an audacious revision of the stories of Faust and Pontius Pilate, and a thrilling love story. The novel begins with the Devil's arrival in 1930's Moscow disguised as the distinguished Professor Woland.

 

Review:

 

Michelle Herbert

fantasybookreview.co.uk

Moscow, 1929: a city that has lost its way amid corruption and fear, inhabited by people who have abandoned their morals and forsaken spirituality. But when a mysterious stranger arrives in town with a bizarre entourage that includes a giant talking cat and a fanged assassin, all hell breaks loose. Among those caught up in the strange and inexplicable events that transpire in the capital are the Master, a writer whose life has been destroyed by Soviet repression, and his beloved Margarita. Their adventures reveal a story that began two thousand years ago in ancient Jerusalem - and its resolution will decide their fate.

 

Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita is set during the 1930’s and was not published until after his death in the 1960’s. The 30's was a time of turmoil in Russia, when it was becoming bureaucratic and people were starting to watch their neighbours. At the time of the book it was common for people to ‘disappear’ for unexplained reasons, and the author has satirised this and based his story on these disappearances. But in this case it is not because the government is taking its citizens, instead it is because the Devil has turned up in Moscow to judge the souls of this atheist nation.

 

The book starts with what seems like a chance meeting in a park between the Devil and two members of the Moscow literary society, who are debating the fact that Jesus could not exist, by discussing the story of Pontius Pilate and Jesus. As the Devil exists then so must God is his contention.

 

The story itself is very well written, there are a lot of twists and characters coming and going. Like a lot of Russian novels there can sometimes be confusion while keeping track of people's names as they will use different forms depending on how formal the situation is.

 

The characters the Devil keeps around him are a motley crew of anarchists; his spokesman, who introduces himself as an ex-choir master, Koroviev, constantly makes people question themselves; Azazello; who is described as vampire-fanged and wall-eyed; Hella; a succubus and behemoth who is a large black cat that acts and talks like a human (who can be very infuriating). There is a feeling of menace throughout the novel as characters are swept up in events and sent out of the way on the whim of the Devil’s entourage.

 

The title characters, the Master and Margarita, although appearing in the first part of the book only become central to the story in the second half. We find out that amidst all of the chaos there is also a love story, about how, when the Master disappeared Margarita stayed true to him and is resolved not to give up… Which is how she becomes central to the Devils plans.

 

Overall I think that the book shows you how easy it is to become greedy and cynical, to not be able to see what is happening around you, and if you see it not being able to believe it. The citizens of Moscow are a contrast between what they see and what they want, with Margarita, who in her own way, is a pure soul.

 

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The Master and Margarita was included in The World Book Night Top 100 books to read, give and share.

 

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Considered one of the finest creations of Russian literature in the 20th century, The Master and Margarita is an amazing work of fantasy, a love story, a biting satire on Soviet life, and a lot more. Mikhail Bulgakov's last book and crowning achievement, it has been written in secrecy, burned and restored, and banned for decades. Its author, who worked on it until his final days, never saw it in print. English-speaking audiences may fully enjoy Bulgakov's masterpiece.

 

 

 

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