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The Master and Margarita - Group Read

75 Books Challenge for 2017

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1EBT1002
Edited: Jul 29, 2017, 5:03pm Top



We're doing an August 2017 Group Read of The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgavkov.
No rules, just good discussion and support for a challenging read!
Readers, lurkers, and fans of the book (of which there are many) all welcome.

2EBT1002
Edited: Jul 29, 2017, 5:22pm Top

Club Read did a Group Read of The Master and Margarita in 2012. The thread for their discussion can be found here!

An early post in that thread references a few other group reads or discussions that have occurred in these parts. I have bumped (and starred) the thread and will peruse it later but I'll likely save it until I'm well into the novel to avoid inadvertent spoilers.

3amanda4242
Edited: Jul 29, 2017, 5:37pm Top

And last year's 75 Books Challenge group read of it is here:
http://www.librarything.com/topic/219712

I have a translation I haven't read yet so I'll join in if I can find it.

5PawsforThought
Jul 29, 2017, 5:35pm Top

really looking forward to reading what you all think of it. I'm going to be really tempted to re-read - wish I had the time.

6luvamystery65
Jul 29, 2017, 11:40pm Top

Got my copy ready to go. I'll start when I finish Moby Dick.

7benitastrnad
Jul 30, 2017, 12:07pm Top

I plan on joining in, but it will be later in the month. I have a couple of other titles I have to read for other groups first.

8SandDune
Jul 30, 2017, 2:44pm Top

I'd like to join in with this as well. I read it ages ago and really enjoyed enjoyed this, and would like to reread.

9EBT1002
Jul 30, 2017, 10:44pm Top

>3 amanda4242: Thank you, Amanda. I thought there was one from just last year and I could not find it.

>4 amanda4242: Excellent. Thanks for posting. And I'm glad you'll be joining in!

>5 PawsforThought: You can lurk and chime in when you want, Paws, and whet your appetite for a reread somewhere further out in the future. :-)

>6 luvamystery65: and >7 benitastrnad: and >8 SandDune: Happy to have you along, Ro and Benita and Rhian.

I myself won't start it until near the halfway mark of the month of August.

10LovingLit
Jul 31, 2017, 3:20am Top

Ooooh, I have wanted to read this ever since I spotted it on David Bowie's top 100 books list. And, I love the coincidence, as it was mentioned in my current book Secondhand Time- a collection of recollections of people who lived through Soviet times in Russia.

I will see if I can track down a copy!

11EBT1002
Aug 6, 2017, 8:17pm Top

>10 LovingLit: I hope you can find a copy and join us, Megan!

12EBT1002
Aug 14, 2017, 2:14pm Top

I finally finished my other group/shared read and I'll be starting The Master and Margarita tomorrow.

13EBT1002
Aug 15, 2017, 11:12pm Top

I've started reading this novel. It's an interesting one to read right on the heels of Murakami's Kafka on the Shore.

14Berly
Edited: Aug 15, 2017, 11:14pm Top

Still #5 on 2 copies at the library. : (

15jnwelch
Aug 16, 2017, 9:05am Top

>14 Berly: Someone wrote that The Master and Margarita was the weirdest book they'd ever read, and my first thought was: have you read Kafka on the Shore?

16BLBera
Aug 16, 2017, 10:06am Top

I hope to start on Friday.

17EBT1002
Aug 18, 2017, 11:05am Top

Hi everyone. I'm slowly making my way through the first part of The Master and Margarita. It is indeed weird (although I would agree with you, Joe, that it doesn't quite match the weirdness of Kafka on the Shore. RL has kicked my butt this week but I will be back to say more this weekend.

Kim, tell that library to hurry up!

Beth, today is Friday and I hope you're able to start. Even though I started a few days ago, I'm not that far into it so we'll probably end up on a relatively even pace.

More soon. Happy Friday, friends!

18EBT1002
Aug 18, 2017, 11:23am Top

I'll just say this.....

"The devil knows..." :-)

19luvamystery65
Aug 18, 2017, 11:40am Top

I read chapter one last night. I think this will be very, very interesting.

My copy is the Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O'Conner translation. Brazos Bookstore is huge on works in translation so I usually refer to them on translated works. They recommended this version. I read the notes on the first chapter. They were fairly extensive. I think this will help me understand the book much better.

20BLBera
Aug 20, 2017, 11:36am Top

I've started it, and while it is hard to judge from the first fifty pages, I think this is leading to a commentary on how what is written becomes real. It is definitely original. I love the cat.

21EBT1002
Aug 20, 2017, 2:55pm Top

I'm on chapter XVIII.

I am finding it to be an engaging read although I frequently think "where is this going?" and "what am I missing?" It has that meandering and almost circular quality I tend to expect in Russian novels but the narrative spiral is definitely headed somewhere.... I'm just not sure where!

22EBT1002
Aug 20, 2017, 2:56pm Top

>20 BLBera: I have the same translation, Ro, and at first I was ignoring the commentary at the end. A couple of chapters ago I started paying attention and it's worth the extra time and effort. I'm now skimming the commentary for each chapter before I start reading the chapter. Then I can refer back for refreshing. It's adding to my enjoyment of the novel.

23BLBera
Aug 20, 2017, 3:43pm Top

>22 EBT1002: You are way ahead of me. My copy doesn't have notes, but I can look up stuff when I'm done if I'm still at sea. I'd better get reading.

24EBT1002
Edited: Aug 21, 2017, 10:49pm Top

So I started Part Two this morning and it's an interesting turn in the road. I won't say more than that since I'm ahead of most people but the focus and rhythm just changed. Not much but intriguingly. I'm still loving it!

25Berly
Edited: Aug 22, 2017, 8:52pm Top

Screw the library!! I bought a copy while back-to-school shopping (for my son, not me!) at the mall. Amazon bookstore and I got my Prime discount. Score!! I read the Intro and I am already confused. LOL : )

I have this cover

26Berly
Aug 22, 2017, 8:58pm Top

Did you know this was the 50th anniversary of the book's publication? It should be the 75th because he finished writing it in 1940, but it was a rough time in Russia and his wife just put it away for years.

27luvamystery65
Aug 22, 2017, 10:29pm Top

>26 Berly: That's a gorgeous edition Kim!

28BLBera
Aug 22, 2017, 10:33pm Top

>26 Berly: Way to go, Twinnie. I bet you still finish it before I do.

29luvamystery65
Aug 23, 2017, 5:31pm Top

I just finished Part One. So far this is very interesting and I'm extremely grateful for my notes.

30Berly
Aug 24, 2017, 1:28am Top

A very colorful cast of characters so far!!

Drawing by Assaf

31jnwelch
Aug 24, 2017, 10:15am Top

Here's another one, Kim:

32Berly
Aug 24, 2017, 11:08am Top

: ) Love it! Creepy.

33jnwelch
Aug 24, 2017, 12:38pm Top

34BLBera
Aug 24, 2017, 4:26pm Top

Love the visuals!

35msf59
Edited: Aug 24, 2017, 7:01pm Top



"We do not know what other marvels happened in Moscow that night and we shall not, of course, try to find out- specially as the time is approaching to move into the second half of this true story. Follow me, reader. "

Enter Margarita...I have been chomping at the bit to finally meet this enchanting woman.

Yes, I am finally posting over here but I wanted to get in deep before I visited. This is nothing like I imagined in would be. Crazy weird but the creativity and ambition are truly remarkable. I am sure there is plenty that is sailing over my head. Both, with Russian history and on a biblical level. It still has a modern feel to it. Not always a smooth read but rewards, are around every corner.

36msf59
Edited: Aug 24, 2017, 7:06pm Top

While reading M & M (especially in the early going), I was reminded of the Stones song, Sympathy For the Devil and wondered if Jagger was influenced by the novel. I found this:

"In the 2012 documentary Crossfire Hurricane, Jagger stated that his influence for the song came from Baudelaire and from the Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita (which had just appeared in English translation in 1967). The book was given to him by Marianne Faithfull."

"Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul and faith
And I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate"

37EBT1002
Aug 25, 2017, 12:50pm Top

I'm so glad you all are here! I love the research you're all willing to do, finding related art and, um, tidbits from the life and work of Mick Jagger. I have to admit that I'm impressed that Jagger read and was influenced by this novel.

>26 Berly: "I read the Intro and I am already confused." LOL. I'm guessing that you're less confused by now, Kim, but I will say that there were times as I read that I just, well, I just read. It's a romp of a novel and I know I missed all kinds of things. And sometimes I felt like the characters were swirling around me.

38BLBera
Aug 25, 2017, 3:55pm Top

I could identify with Rimsky, the financial manager of the theater when he said, "What does it all mean?" I laughed.

39msf59
Aug 25, 2017, 8:43pm Top



^A bare-assed Margarita on her broomstick, along with Natalie and her piggish transportation. Yes, M & M, continues to be trippy as hell but the pages keep on turning...

40msf59
Aug 25, 2017, 8:43pm Top

41PawsforThought
Aug 26, 2017, 4:38am Top

>40 msf59: M & M continues to be trippy as hell

I've never tried any kind of illegal substances but I'm pretty sure The Master and Margarita is the book equivalent of an acid trip.

42msf59
Aug 26, 2017, 6:31am Top

>42 msf59: Well, I have Paws and you are spot-on. Grins...

To be honest, I am not sure Stalin & Co. would have made heads or tails, over this one.

43jnwelch
Aug 26, 2017, 9:10am Top



You-know-who

44Berly
Aug 26, 2017, 2:41pm Top

So, interested in people's take on Woland. Why the two different color eyes? Why do the first characters who meet him think he is a foreigner and yet can't place where he is from? Does he actually make evil things happen or is he just prescient? Other thoughts on the Devil?

45EBT1002
Aug 27, 2017, 1:31pm Top

>45 EBT1002: I think the two different color eyes is a neat trick. I know, for me, it's the kind of visual that can be jarring. It fits that he would have that idiosyncratic feature. And I totally think he makes evil things happen. And delights in doing so!

>44 Berly: That is a cool image of Behemoth. And, btw, I love that name for him.

46LovingLit
Aug 28, 2017, 12:45am Top


Accidentally on purpose bought a copy. Going to start tonight!!

47Berly
Aug 28, 2017, 1:30am Top

Love that cover!! I am still only on page 80 or so...

48LovingLit
Aug 28, 2017, 2:23am Top

I better get going then, 8:30 pm and I'm on it!

49LovingLit
Aug 29, 2017, 12:37am Top

Update: Thanks to being *wide awake* last night from 1:45am until the birds were chirping at 5am, I was able to get in some wee-small-hours reading. Not ideal, but kind of cool nonetheless. I have read the first two - very distinct - chapters.
Today I bought myself a small reading light for my book, in case I should need it in future as I don't like to disturb the lovely other in the night.....he was OK with me reading in the wee-small-hours last night when I asked him if he minded, but dreamily stated that it was "highly irregular".
We both cracked up this morning remembering that he had said that!!

50Berly
Aug 29, 2017, 2:05am Top

That is definitely going to be one of those phrases the two of you will toss back and forth at each other now. Love it. Highly irregular!

51benitastrnad
Aug 30, 2017, 6:20pm Top

I kept thinking I would get to this book in August, but I didn't. I do have it on my TBR list, so will get to it sometime in the future.

It sounds like all of you guys had great fun with it.

52luvamystery65
Edited: Sep 3, 2017, 1:05pm Top

I really did enjoy this book! I finished it on the last day of August despite Harvey's attempts to derail my reading. Loved it! 5 stars from me.

ETA: I think I need to get this copy Kim >26 Berly:

53Berly
Sep 3, 2017, 6:23pm Top

: )

54LovingLit
Sep 4, 2017, 4:31am Top

Ooooh, >26 Berly: really is a lovely cover!

55amanda4242
Sep 9, 2017, 9:05pm Top

>45 EBT1002: I think Woland came to Moscow because evil was there already and his presence is making everything that's been simmering under the surface boil over. This is Russia under Joseph Stalin and Bulgakov does make a number of references to its unsavory aspects in the text: everyone is viewed with suspicion, corruption runs rampant, people are denounced to the secret police, and "disappearances" are common.

56PawsforThought
Sep 10, 2017, 4:31am Top

>56 PawsforThought: That a really good theory - I hadn't thought about that (I didn't think about *why* when I read it) but it makes sense. I'll try to keep it in mind when I re-read it.

57darryldenicola
Sep 18, 2017, 5:12pm Top

This user has been removed as spam.

58LovingLit
Oct 7, 2017, 3:47am Top

I am still pressing on with M&M...is anyone else?

Hello?
:)

I just need to stick to it, as it isn't exactly easy reading. But, I am liking it when I do...just tricky at present finding the time etc.

59EBT1002
Oct 8, 2017, 7:39pm Top

>59 EBT1002: I think most folks either finished it or bailed on the whole thing, Megan. I'm glad you're still making your way through it! I agree that it wasn't easy reading and I found that I did best when I had a chunk of time to dedicate and concentrate. It wasn't (for me) something to read in 15-minute bits. But I ended up quite liking it!

60luvamystery65
Oct 8, 2017, 9:02pm Top

>59 EBT1002: I really liked it. Plan to read a different translation next year. Post your thoughts as they come or when you're done.

61PawsforThought
Oct 9, 2017, 2:07am Top

I think >60 luvamystery65: is right that you really do need a longer chunk of time to sit and read it - it's not the kind of book you can pick up when you have a few minutes over while waiting for the bus, etc. I've enjoyed reading what you all thought of the book and I'm hoping I'll be able to squeeze in a re-read sometime next year.

62Berly
Oct 9, 2017, 2:35am Top

I am "paused" in my reading of it. As soon as I get my next RL book read, I may start it back up. I am on Chapter 12.

63benitastrnad
Oct 10, 2017, 7:13pm Top

I started it but paused as well. I will get back to it someday. I just have too many other titles to read right now.

64LovingLit
Oct 17, 2017, 10:34pm Top

Yes, yes. Short bursts feel good to me. I read a chapter at a time if I can, and am getting through it slowly, surely, and with breaks.

65Guanhumara
Jan 13, 7:26am Top

>45 EBT1002: Replying very late, having only just found this thread - and having just finished reading M&M last year!

I remember one blue eye and one brown being one of the ways of recognising Aonghas, the Celtic god, in Irish mythology, so I instinctively took it as the identifier of a supernatural being. A little googling shows that many cultures see it as a sign of witchcraft. Some Native American cultures apparently see it as indicating that a person can see in both Heaven and Earth at the same time, which would seem particularly relevant here. I wonder if Bulgakov was aware of that belief?

66Berly
Jan 15, 10:35am Top

>66 Berly: Thanks for that very cool insight. I also particularly like the Native American understanding. Glad you found the thread!

67Guanhumara
Feb 21, 7:06pm Top

>67 Guanhumara: Thanks.

Also re Woland: Weland is the name of a smith figure from English pagan mythology - well one of the variant spellings.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayland_the_Smith
Since NOTHING in this book is named or chosen by chance, I have wondered about the significance of this choice.

Apparently it is also (in the Germanic form) the name of a demon in Goethe's Faust.
Is this just an example of mediaeval Christianity taking pagan gods to be (real) demons? Or does Bulgakov mean more by the reference to this particular mythic figure?

As to why Woland is thought, by the first two people who meet him, to be a "foreigner" - I think that is a play on words in Russian.

немец (nemets) is the Russian term for a German.
But in older usage, it can also be the word for any foreigner. (It derives from the verb неметь "to strike dumb", meaning literally "someone who can't speak (because they don't know Russian)".)
So Ivan's question could mean either "Are you a stranger?" or "Are you German?"

The title of the chapter is "Never talk to strangers".
And talking to strangers in the Stalinist era WAS extremely dangerous.
Foreigners were often suspected of being spies. And if you talk to spies, then you must be a traitor, mustn't you...?

But in the other hand, the Woland/Voland (same spelling in Russian) in Goethe's play is, of course, a German character.
So this ambiguity is another hint.

There are passages later on (such as the room full of people sitting down in the dream), that ONLY make sense when you recognise the pun that they are relying on.

I am resigned to the fact that there must be a lot of puns in there of which I remain completely unaware.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2017

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