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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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11,888268221 (4.27)5 / 758
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

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The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (1966)


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English (231)  Italian (10)  French (9)  Finnish (4)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (3)  Swedish (2)  German (2)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (1)  Czech (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (268)
Showing 1-5 of 231 (next | show all)
The first half of this book was a hard slog, I didn't really enjoy it all that much. Too much madness, too much Caprice. What kept me going was imagining that all this was a parallel of Stalinism, even though there is a lot of that going on in the novel as well. Whereas the overt references to Stalinisn were kept minimal and understated, the Satan/ Woland stuff could afford to be outrageous. The second half, roughly from around when Margarita flies away from Moscow, takes on an entirely different tone, all the dread slowly evaporates, and this happens the closer we get to Satan. And you find that other than some great mischief, very little lasting harm has been done. The Investigation absolves most of those punished and allows them to begin again (few can go back to the way things were). Which probably also means something, but really the whole era is too far out of my knowledge base, I'm just guessing.
As a story, the titular relationship takes a long time to come to the fore, and there is a lot of stuff that seems important but turns out not to be, which gets in the way in the beginning. Nothing is taken too seriously, many things are made to be farcical, and in the end burnt, so the book seems insubstantial.

So, I like many parts of it. Once I got the hang of it. But that arrives too late.
So, 3.5 stars oc. On a second read, most likely after someone convinces me to do so, I'll probably rate it higher. But not til then. ( )
  starcat | Aug 11, 2014 |
This is an amazing book about the Devil and his cohorts coming to Moscow in the 1930s and wreaking havoc. It was written in the 1930s, but because it was so subversive, it could not be published until the 1960s and even then was heavily censored. The book is packed with religious references, commentary on life under Stalin, and heavy metaphors. Yet on another level, it reads somewhere between fantasy and horror with terribly interesting characters and a fast-moving plot. This is a combination - intellectual, metaphorical, and readable - that I don't stumble upon as often a I'd like.

One of my favorite things about this book is how visual the language is. I'm not the kind of reader who typically paints a mental image of the words I'm reading, but it was unavoidable in this book - Satan's ball, the variety show with the emcee losing his head, and that cat!!! Unforgettable. ( )
  japaul22 | Jul 3, 2014 |
I think I enjoyed it but I also didn't really understand much of it. Near the end I started to catch a glimpse of what was happening but I felt like I needed a verision with far more extensive notes.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
Wow, simply amazing! It’s pretty accessible, not totally dense like "Dr. Zhivago", which I didn’t get past the first hour in the audiobook.

"The Master and Margarita" has so much going on, but it’s still easy to follow. Like David Eggers’ "The Circle", on the surface it’s simple and direct, but at a second glance you see the metaphors and symbolism.

Part of "The Master" is a satire on the Soviet system, and some of it deals with the New Testament.

Can’t recommend this book enough. I’ll probably buy it for family and friends and give it to ‘em over Christmas (oh, the irony!).

I heard the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky version is superior. Maybe I’ll get the latter for myself. There aren’t too many books worth rereading. This is one of them!!! ( )
  JohnnyOstentatious | Jun 23, 2014 |
I was compelled to read this novel after seeing it listed as one of the great works of the 20th century. My exposure to Russian literature has not been extensive--two novels by Dostoevsky and some shorter pieces by other authors--and I had not read any Russian literature of the Soviet era. A greater understanding of both Russian literature and a pretty deep understanding of Soviet politics will greatly aid the reader in appreciating the nuances and ironies of Bulgakov's work. This is made clear by reading the annotations and Afterword at the end of this translation (Vintage International).

Even without these deeper understandings, however, this is an enjoyable book. The translation, by Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O'Connor, reads smoothly. It is not a difficult book to read and to appreciate, at least on a surface level. It tells the story of Woland, the devil, who goes to Moscow to stir things up a bit. Although, as the reader will see, not all his acts are devilish, and by the end of the book the border between good and evil is quite blurred. The title characters, the Master (a writer) and Margarita (his devoted lover, married to someone else) don't appear until the middle of the book, which at that point turns from a satire on life in Moscow (e.g., the writers' union, trying to get an apartment) to a fantastical story of flying through the air, the devil's Grand Ball, and other weird happenings. Throughout the novel, Bulgakov intersperses chapters of the Master's book about Pontius Pilate. These are written in a much different style and tell an alternate version of the condemnation and crucifixion of Christ, with the focus being on Pilate's guilty conscience after the event. These chapters conjure up a very convincing picture of the uncomfortable juxtaposition of the occupying Roman troops and the Jewish community of Jerusalem, and of the extreme heat that pervades the narrative.

Connecting these disparate parts of the book together is something that for the most part eluded this reader, although the annotations and Afterword do help. One emerges after reading the whole package with an admiration for Bulgakov, who worked on this book almost until his death in 1940, knowing that it had no chance of being published until many years after he was dead, if at all. His style, at least in translation, is engaging and humorous, although I would not call the book "hilarious" as the blurb on the front cover does. The humor here, although it may verge on slapstick, is always played out against an atmosphere of paranoia that makes one afraid to laugh out loud!

Most reviews I have read say that this edition has the most complete and accurate translation. I'm in no position to judge, but as I said earlier, it reads very well. It does seem that the publisher was trying to save paper, however. The main text is printed in a font that is on the small side, with some pages having a line of text that is for some reason compressed (which seems to be a printing error). The annotations and Afterword are printed in text so small that some readers will probably require a magnifying glass! I'm happy to say that I didn't have to resort to that.

Overall, I'm quite happy to have read this book, and parts of it will stick in my memory. At some point, I might try another of Bulgakov's works--but given how much there is left to read in this world, and my lack of the specialist understanding to fully enjoy this book--maybe not. ( )
  datrappert | May 31, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 231 (next | show all)
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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.)
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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)

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141188286, 0140455469

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