The Master & Margarita

The Master & Margarita

Book - 1996
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The underground masterpiece of twentieth-century Russian fiction, this classic novel was written during Stalin's regime and could not be published until many years after its author's death.

When the devil arrives in 1930s Moscow, consorting with a retinue of odd associates--including a talking black cat, an assassin, and a beautiful naked witch--his antics wreak havoc among the literary elite of the world capital of atheism. Meanwhile, the Master, author of an unpublished novel about Jesus and Pontius Pilate, languishes in despair in a pyschiatric hospital, while his devoted lover, Margarita, decides to sell her soul to save him. As Bulgakov's dazzlingly exuberant narrative weaves back and forth between Moscow and ancient Jerusalem, studded with scenes ranging from a giddy Satanic ball to the murder of Judas in Gethsemane, Margarita's enduring love for the Master joins the strands of plot across space and time.

Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 1996
Edition: First Vintage international edition
ISBN: 9780679760801
0679760806
Branch Call Number: FIC BULGAKO
Characteristics: 372 pages
Alternative Title: Master and Margarita

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Shelf_Talk Feb 08, 2018

The Rolling Stones - Sympathy for the Devil

"Satan visits 1930s Russia. Talking cat." -- Brennen


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w
wblakelives
Oct 16, 2019

My favourite book and you need it in your life.

j
just2ishy
Dec 18, 2018

Honestly, I chose this book by the cover. The sureal cat/person Looked really cool. I’m also a big fan of Russian literature just like its cover this book is so real and a bit thought provoking literary wise however it kind of fell apart at the end

w
wyenotgo
Dec 15, 2018

It strikes me that this would have been ideal as a "graphic novel" (a.k.a comic book) since it contains neither a real hero nor a real villain, all the players being caricatures -- with the exception of Pontius Pilate (who probably deserved a better fate and a better book). There are problems right from the get-go: neither of the title characters M&M appear until very late in the novel (pages 130 and 215 respectively). The "master" never even merits a name! Hero? Hardly.
By far the most interesting character is the devil, who turns out to be a pretty decent chap, bails M&M out of a jam -- although it's never made clear why he does so. In fact, the entire book suffers from a lack of motivation on the part of each character. The entire walpurgisnacht was entirely lost on me -- more comic book stuff. So what can we learn in the course of reading this allegory?
1. The devil (if he exists) is a trickster (reminiscent of Nanabush) but not especially evil
2. The existence of both God and the devil remains unproven
3. Pontius Pilate hated his job
4. Russia in the 1920s was a shitty place
5. Many writers, like much of humanity are back-stabbing egotists
6. When reading a Russian novel, it's prudent to make a list of all the characters, including their patronymics and their familiar nicknames to keep track of them (but it doesn't help much)
7. Russian satire (if that's what this is) will be lost on most non-Russian readers
Come to think about it, we already knew most of that before reading the book.
Any attempt to equate this book with Goethe's masterpiece Faust? I think not. Far too cluttered with self-indulgent nonsense, the book would have benefited from a good deal of judicious editing to shorten it by about 100 pages.

s
SunsetBranch
Feb 03, 2018

Whoa!!

Whaaa??

j
jmthornberry
Jan 24, 2018

A wonderful novel. One of my favorites.

j
justysia84
Jul 20, 2017

I loved this book. It was a captivating read. Additionally, it gives great footnotes for those unfamiliar with Soviet history.

l
lukasevansherman
Feb 25, 2017

For many, the great Russian novel "The Master and Margarita" is a rock and roll footnote: Supposedly, it was the inspiration for the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil." Well, it's much more than that. It's also Daniel Radcliffe's favorite novel! (According to the blurb in my Penguin edition). Bulgakov worked on it for over a decade, but died before it was published in the mid-60s. If you've read (or toiled through) classic Russian novelists like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, you'll recognize a similar darkness of tone and philosophical strain, but Bulgakov takes these elements in a comical, phantasmagoric, and outright bizarre direction. There's a talking cat for example. And chapters set during the time of Christ. I don't know how to describe it, but it's a novel bursting with life, ideas, and invention. It recalls other un-classifiable novels like "Tristram Shandy," "Don Quixote," and "Gargantua and Pantagruel." That Radcliffe really knows his Russian lit! The most recent translation is by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, who have done acclaimed versions of Dostoevsky, Gogol, and Tolstoy.

n
niceeven
Dec 07, 2016

This novel is cleverly conceived and skilfully written. I am infinitely grateful there is universal truth is the aphorism : 'Manuscripts don't burn', thankfully, he was able to finish it. I would recommend this book to anyone, but if you do appreciate Russian literature this is an absolute must.

e
Ethan_Annis
Jul 13, 2016

When I first read Bulgakov’s satirical masterpiece, it made me question how much we can know of good and evil. The novel begins when the devil arrives with his entourage in Moscow. The devil and his minions begin making all kinds of fantastic mischief. Meanwhile, from his psychiatric hospital bed, the Master is writing a retelling of the last days of Jesus. The Master’s lover, Margarita, decides to sell her soul to save him.

The book is fun, funny, engaging and deep. There are scenes unlike any I’ve encountered elsewhere, like a ball thrown by Satan that has accordion playing polar bears providing the music for the fascinating, evil guests.

r
rpavlacic
Apr 09, 2016

Well may this book be a classic in Russian literature. Written during the days of Stalin, it was banned in the Soviet Union until the 1960s (due to its satire of Communist propaganda) and still managed to twist noses upon its serialization in 1967. Unfortunately, the plot lines were difficult to follow, especially the segues to the confrontation between Pontius Pilate and Jesus of Nazareth and the execution of the latter. Perhaps something was lost in translation, but this book just didn't jump at me.

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