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The Master and Margarita (Vintage…

The Master and Margarita (Vintage International) (original 1966; edition 1996)

by Mikhail Bulgakov

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12,152272207 (4.26)5 / 762
Title:The Master and Margarita (Vintage International)
Authors:Mikhail Bulgakov
Info:Vintage (1996), Edition: Reprint, Paperback
Collections:Your library, Book Group Reads
Tags:Russia, 20thC classic, Satire, Fiction, Book group

Work details

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (1966)

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English (234)  Italian (11)  French (9)  Finnish (4)  Dutch (3)  Swedish (2)  Spanish (2)  German (2)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  Czech (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (271)
Showing 1-5 of 234 (next | show all)
A bit of a head trip that requires some background on the author's political situation in the USSR and the overall period, but certainly original, lyrical, visual and unforgettable. Worth reading a second time. ( )
  milocross | Jan 6, 2015 |
>26 >27 Thanks to you both!

#2 Finished last night-- [The Master and Margarita]. I can't find the right touchstone for this, but just looking at the list on offer gives me an inkling as to why I put off reading this for so long--there are commentaries, adaptations, keys to reading and so on that make this funny, playful book seem more intimidating than it really is. Yes, it's a satire of Stalinist Russia, but you can enjoy it without necessarily understanding the precise targets.

What happens when the Devil comes to town? Two intellectuals arguing about Pontius Pilate in a park in Moscow are the first to find out, with disastrous, and absurd, results. The chaos continues as the devil presents himself as a (black) magician at a theatre: his show involves offering to trade the women in the audience's normal clothing for expensive evening dresses--but these disappear, as do the fistfuls of money the Devil and his henchmen hand out.

This exposure of human greed and weakness is a continuous theme throughout the book. The main part of the story of the Devil, his victims, and the story of the lovers, the Master and Margarita, is threaded through with the tale of Pontius Pilate and his anguish at sentencing the Philosopher to death when he really just wants to talk to him; this tale begins as a novel by the Master but eventually becomes a part of the main plot. In both threads, human greed and weakness are offset by love which the Devil seems indifferent to, but which still works as a force in the world.

The tone of the book moves from silly slapstick and absurd excess at the beginning to a dreamlike and spare beauty at the end. A wonderful book! ( )
  ipsoivan | Jan 5, 2015 |
I can't begin to do justice to this magnificently surreal modern fairy tale - a rare example of a book that more than matches up to the hype, and a candidate for my favourite book. I'll leave the detailed description to those with more perception and literary talent. ( )
  bodachliath | Nov 11, 2014 |
Now I know how the Krakow bookshop 'Massolit' got its name! Anyway, I knew so little about the plot of The Master and Margarita that I was able to let it wash over me, and even now, several months later, I can say that many of the most important events are as fresh as they were on first reading - the sign of a true classic. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Nov 8, 2014 |
(review originally written for bookslut)

I remain shocked that I had never heard of Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita before my sister sent it to me in the mail, insisting that I read it. Not that Margarita is the type of book I would expect to be popular in the small towns of Kansas where I had resided up until that point. However I had always been a collector of lists of books. If anyone anywhere published a list proclaiming to be the "Best Books of the Century!", "Best Books of All Time!", or even "Best Books About Belly Lint", I copied the list down and hoarded it away somewhere, religiously checking off the pathetic few that I had read from each list. I don't recall ever seeing Margarita on any list until we made our list. Which is a damn shame, because if they taught Margarita in high schools, I bet you the mortgage on my new house that suddenly teenagers across America would find a new interest in reading.

Not that Margarita could ever be taught in any public school in this country. If the fundamentalists worry about dear Harry Potter promoting witchcraft and sorcery -- well, then, they must have never laid eyes on this little gem. Witches riding their brooms naked over the streets of Moscow, people of all sorts being duped by the devil, a heretical account of the meeting between Jesus and Pontius Pilate, and (my personal favorite) a witch who in lieu of a broomstick turns her neighbor into a pig and rides him through the skies of Moscow.

But what could be gained by requiring our teenagers to read such filth, I can hear you asking. The simple joy of reading an interesting book, I would answer. Like Ethan Frome was such an important book with such an important message. Hardly. It was simply the most tedious book I have ever read. While Margarita may have some slow spots, you could hardly call the book tedious. Large sized talking cats confounding police officers and setting buildings on fire are not tedious.

Of course, not knowing anything about Moscow, its history, its politics, or otherwise, I surely missed a lot of things in this book. But it was never bewildering at any point. Knowledge of Russian history is not a requirement. I am curious, however, if there was actually once a literary club like MASSOLIT, and if writers in it really did have special amenities not available to the general public. Though if such a club did or did not exist, it would hardly take away from the story.

And what a story it is! The devil appears in Moscow to give his annual springtime ball of the full moon. While preparations are under way, the asylums start filling, and the phones at the police station start ringing off the hook. Authority figures tend not to do well in this book, whether they are the police, government officials, or landlords. The vanity of women and the greediness of all are taken advantage of and exposed. There are only three in the city who do not seem to lose all composure and sanity when in the presence of the devil and his assistants are The Master, his lover Margarita, and her maid, Natasha. In the meantime there is nudity, religious debate, magic, literary elitism, and a lot of foreign currency.

Many of what are regarded to be the classics are fairly heavy-handed and dismal, as if a book has to be depressing to be good. Margarita is well-paced and often hilarious, so much so that a reader might forget that they are learning about a different culture, or thinking about serious themes, like morality, religion, and greed. This book should be on everyone's "to read list." ( )
2 vote greeniezona | Sep 20, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (137 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
Dridso, VeraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dvořák, LiborTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Figes, OrlandoIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Flamant, FrançoiseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fondse, MarkoAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fondse, MarkoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ginsburg, MirraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Glenny, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goldstrom, RobertCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heino, Ulla-LiisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoppe, FelicitasAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Karpelson, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nitzberg, AlexanderTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Connor, Katherine TiernanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pevear, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Proffer, EllendeaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reschke, ThomasÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Skalaki, KrystynaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Volokhonsky, LarissaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
קריקסונוב, פטרTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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...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”
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.
Op een broeihete lentedag daagden omtrent zonsondergang twee burgers op in het park rond de Patriarchvijver.
...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.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (6)

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:29:02 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

The novel's vision of Soviet life in the 1930s is so ferociously accurate that it could not be published during its author's lifetime and appeared only in a censored edition in the 1960s. Its truths are so enduring that its language has become part of the common Russian speech. 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 for 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 Margarita, who loves the Master so deeply that she is willing literally to go to hell for him.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 12 descriptions

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2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141188286, 0140455469

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