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The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
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The Master and Margarita (1966)

by Mikhail Bulgakov

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
13,543323157 (4.25)7 / 889
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English (281)  Italian (12)  French (11)  Finnish (4)  Dutch (4)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (2)  German (2)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (1)  All (1)  Czech (1)  Hebrew (1)  All (323)
Showing 1-5 of 281 (next | show all)
Translated with notes by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Introduction by Richard Pevear.

The Master and Margarita teases the reader in many ways: improbable people and the supernatural activities they engage in confound you a little at the outset. But as with any consistent narrative we learn to expect traits and characteristics; outcomes begin to gratify us, and treat us to a series of accelerating surprises.

Bulgakov composed and revised Master between 1928 and 1940. (He died in 1940, a short time after dictating the last revisions.) It contains multiple narrative threads, each with its own style and level of speech. There is a prominent story featuring Pontius Pilate, a close and almost sympathetic portrait that includes forgiveness for the Procurator. Moscow’s ordinary citizens populate another strand, and they exhibit pomposity, cynicism, greed, and jealousy. The main players, the writer called the Master, his lover Margarita, and a poet named Homeless emerge with deeper coloring, and a lot more sympathy. The third distinct thread folds in the eerie and omnipotent Satan and his retinue, slumming in Moscow for a time.

These three skeins have something in common: they each prominently display themes and scenes forbidden from Soviet literature under Stalin. Master and Margarita first saw light when it was serialized in the Soviet Union in 1966 and it caused an immediate sensation. We encounter many scenes which satirize and vilify the Soviet police state, sometimes through the use of a code word, like “sitting,” a term for incarceration in a work camp or prison. Or when citizens disappear, Bulgakov’s narrator says no one knows where, such a mysterious thing! The book almost certainly would have made Bulgakov disappear had it appeared in his lifetime.

The mix of fanciful, almost fairy tale aspects, with the everyday drabness and shiftiness of Moscow life, sharpens both into crystal focus. This juxtaposition proves Bulgakov’s brilliance. It makes several points clearly, unmistakably: there is a desperation and dreariness to life when it contains no freedom; the devil is all-powerful and you may need his services to achieve a happy ending; certain citizens live a life of luxury and work assiduously to keep others from it. Lay over the top of these observations a vivid, remarkable picture of Pontius Pilate in his moment of cowardice and doubt, and the whole sparks and trembles and shifts in our consciousness. It’s a product of its time and place, but that doesn’t stop it from being brilliant, a masterwork.

I don’t usually read introductions to books, preferring to let the work settle on me with my own set of views and experience. But after finishing Master and Margarita I took up Richard Pevear’s introduction, and if more were like his, I would definitely read more. He impresses with his knowledge of the book’s compositional history, and makes a number of compelling observations about the historical and political milieu in which it was written and then published. His observations on the text are astute and helpful, and the end notes eminently useful. This introduction definitely adds something to the reading, which a good introduction should.

Take up Bulgakov’s parable. See what all the fuss is about. ( )
  LukeS | Apr 5, 2017 |
I'd been disappointed lately by some "classic" novels (I'm especially looking at you, [b:Love in the Time of Cholera|9712|Love in the Time of Cholera|Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327124987s/9712.jpg|3285349]) and as such felt hesitant to start this one, afraid I'd be dreadfully bored again. But another of Bulgakov's books showed up at the book swap I had attended, and I recognised the author and said I actually owned two copies of The Master and Margarita but had read neither. Everyone gasped. The Master and Margarita is one of the most coveted books at the swap, turning up every now and again and often disappearing before it can hit the table. This put me in more of a mind for reading it, and really I'd wanted to ever since finding out about it after hearing Franz Ferdinand's song "Love and Destroy" back when I was fifteen. The Devil, midnight balls, and a giant vodka-drinking cat? Like, those are great in theory. I think I was afraid that my imagined version of the book would be better than the real and didn't want to face that disappointment.

But packing for Cuba I decided to read this book, because airport time would mean I'd have to get into it, especially as I'd be conservative about how much tablet power I use reading e-books when you're not certain of where the next power source will be. And I start reading it in the airport lounge and it is so good. It is so much better than I thought it could be. It is so much more. The Pilate chapters gave such a wonderful dimension to the book. We barely know the Master, who is introduced a third in, and whom we never suffer by knowing too much about. Margarita introduced halfway through. The Devil wonderfully portrayed. Margarita's dedication to the Master is, yes, a kind of grating subservience, but at the same time she's got a whole lot more character than your average woman-as-object-of-inspiration, and I love, so much, how gleefully she throws herself into the decision to become a witch. Thank you, Bulgakov, for this book. ( )
1 vote likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
I don't know where to start, to be honest. This book was the one that got me properly hooked on 20th Century fiction, and my copy of it bears visible witness to how many times I've read it so far. I was given it as a birthday present about 10 years ago, and did not really know what to expect from it.

But as soon as I picked it up, I could not put it down again. Bulgakov's vivid language and portrayals of both 1930's Moscow and Jerusalem in the days of Pontius Pilate are so vivid that you feel like a bystander watching the action. And when you add bizarre and entertaining events like Behemoth on the tram, it makes for something quite unique.

I've recommended this book to dozens of people over the years, and the ones who take me up on it seldom regret it. ( )
  jakadk | Jan 31, 2017 |
It took a long time for this book to click for me. I thought the devil's antics in Moscow were funny, but that the plot was bizarre and confused. Margarita's transformation into a witch somehow clarified things for me, and I read the final 200 pages or so in a couple of sittings, transfixed by Bulgakov's searing denunciation of conformism and cowardice and his beautiful compassion for humanity. I read Pevear's introduction after completing the novel and appreciated the historical context about Bulgakov's marginalization within official Soviet literary circles and the story of the novel's belated publication in the 1960s. I can tell that this book will stick with me for a long time. "Manuscripts don't burn." ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
manca sopraccoperta
  vecchiopoggi | Jan 5, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 281 (next | show all)
Hostigado y perseguido, como tantos otros creadores e intelectuales rusos, por sus críticas al sistema soviético, MIJAIL BULGÁKOV (1891-1940) no pudo llegar a ver publicada "El maestro y margarita", que, escrita entre 1929 y su fallecimiento, sólo pudo ver la luz en 1966. Novela de culto, la obra trasciende la mera sátira, si bien genial, de la sociedad soviética de entonces -con su población hambrienta, sus burócratas estúpidos, sus aterrados funcionarios y sus corruptos artistas, cuya sórdida existencia viene a interrumpir la llegada a Moscú del diablo, acompañado de una extravagante corte-, para erigirse en metáfora de la complejidad de la naturaleza humana, así como del eterno combate entre el bien y el mal.
added by pacocillero | editcontraportada de la edición
 

» Add other authors (39 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bulgakov, Mikhailprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aplin, HughTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Arcella, SalvatoreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Blomqvist, Lars ErikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burgin, DianaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Crepax, MargheritaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dridso, VeraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dvořák, LiborTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Figes, OrlandoIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Flamant, FrançoiseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fondse, MarkoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fondse, MarkoAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Franklin, SimonIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ginsburg, MirraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Glenny, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goldstrom, RobertCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gradišnik, JanezTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guercetti, EmanuelaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harrit, JørgenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heino, Ulla-LiisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoppe, FelicitasAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Καραγεώργη… ΤίναTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Karpelson, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Klimowski, AndrzejIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kocić, ZlataTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lacasa Sancha, AmayaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ligny, ClaudeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mäkelä, MarttiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morávková, AlenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nitzberg, AlexanderTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Connor, Katherine TiernanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ojamaa, JüriTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Orlov, VappuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pescada, AntónioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pevear, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pos, Gert JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prestes, ZoiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prina, Maria SerenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prins, AaiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Proffer, EllendeaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rea, PriitIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reschke, ThomasÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rhind-Tutt, JulianNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schejbal, DanusiaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seabra, Manuel deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Silva, Mario SalvianoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Skalaki, KrystynaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strada, VittorioForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stuart, PeterIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Szőllősy, KláraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ulla-Liisa HeinoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vācietis, OjārsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Volokhonsky, LarissaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
קריקסונוב, פטרTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
...and so who are
you, after all?

—I am part of the power
which forever wills evil
and forever works good.

Goethe's Faust
‘Say at last — who art thou?’

‘That Power I serve
Which wills forever evil
Yet does forever good.’

Goethe, Faust
...Так кто ж ты, наконец?

— Я — часть той силы,
что вечно хочет
зла и вечно совершает благо.

Гете. “Фауст”
Dedication
First words
One hot spring evening, just as the sun was going down, two men appeared at Patriarch’s Ponds.
At the sunset hour of one warm spring day two men were to be seen at Patriarch’s Ponds.
Однажды весною, в час небывало жаркого заката, в Москве, на Патриарших
прудах, появились два гражданина.
Quotations
...manuscripts don’t burn.
Рукописи не горят.
Les manuscrits ne brûlent pas.
what would your good do if evil didn't exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared?
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
In this book, the devil and his entourage, which includes two demons, a naked girl and a huge cigar-smoking black cat who talks, walks upright and is a crack shot with a Mauser automatic, appear in Moscow. They wreak anarchy & havoc on the people.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679760806, Paperback)

Surely no stranger work exists in the annals of protest literature than The Master and Margarita. Written during the Soviet crackdown of the 1930s, when Mikhail Bulgakov's works were effectively banned, it wraps its anti-Stalinist message in a complex allegory of good and evil. Or would that be the other way around? The book's chief character is Satan, who appears in the guise of a foreigner and self-proclaimed black magician named Woland. Accompanied by a talking black tomcat and a "translator" wearing a jockey's cap and cracked pince-nez, Woland wreaks havoc throughout literary Moscow. First he predicts that the head of noted editor Berlioz will be cut off; when it is, he appropriates Berlioz's apartment. (A puzzled relative receives the following telegram: "Have just been run over by streetcar at Patriarch's Ponds funeral Friday three afternoon come Berlioz.") Woland and his minions transport one bureaucrat to Yalta, make another one disappear entirely except for his suit, and frighten several others so badly that they end up in a psychiatric hospital. In fact, it seems half of Moscow shows up in the bin, demanding to be placed in a locked cell for protection.

Meanwhile, a few doors down in the hospital lives the true object of Woland's visit: the author of an unpublished novel about Pontius Pilate. This Master--as he calls himself--has been driven mad by rejection, broken not only by editors' harsh criticism of his novel but, Bulgakov suggests, by political persecution as well. Yet Pilate's story becomes a kind of parallel narrative, appearing in different forms throughout Bulgakov's novel: as a manuscript read by the Master's indefatigable love, Margarita, as a scene dreamed by the poet--and fellow lunatic--Ivan Homeless, and even as a story told by Woland himself. Since we see this narrative from so many different points of view, who is truly its author? Given that the Master's novel and this one end the same way, are they in fact the same book? These are only a few of the many questions Bulgakov provokes, in a novel that reads like a set of infinitely nested Russian dolls: inside one narrative there is another, and then another, and yet another. His devil is not only entertaining, he is necessary: "What would your good be doing if there were no evil, and what would the earth look like if shadows disappeared from it?"

Unsurprisingly--in view of its frequent, scarcely disguised references to interrogation and terror--Bulgakov's masterwork was not published until 1967, almost three decades after his death. Yet one wonders if the world was really ready for this 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 may reattach heads or produce 10-ruble notes from the air, but Bulgakov proves the true magician here. The Master and Margarita is a different book each time it is opened. --Mary Park

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:39 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

One hot spring, the devil arrives in Moscow, Accompanied by a retinue that includes a beautiful naked witch and an immense talking black cat with a fondness of chess and vodka. The visitors quickly wreak havoc in a city that refuses to believe in either God or Satan. But they also bring peace to two unhappy Muscovites: one is the master, a writer pilloried for daring to write a novel about Christ and Pontius Pilate; the other is Margairta, who loves the Master so deeply that she is willing to go to hell for him. What ensues is a novel of inexhaustible energy, humor, and philisophical depth, a work whose nuances emerge for the first time in Diana Burgin's and Katherine Tiernan O'Connor's splendid English version.… (more)

» see all 12 descriptions

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