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The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (1966)

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    The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (ateolf)
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  4. 60
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    The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain (SCPeterson)
    SCPeterson: Another tale where the devil shows up as a device to reveal and transcend the normality of "imposed terror".
  10. 20
    Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (WSB7)
    WSB7: You will recognize many parallels as you read, and also consider that Bulgakov revised his work too over many years.
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  14. 00
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  15. 33
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  16. 00
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    aethercowboy: Woland and the gentleman with thistle-down hair are very similar.
  17. 22
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  18. 00
    Animal Farm by George Orwell (Avdotya_Raskolnikova)
    Avdotya_Raskolnikova: Animal Farm is another satire depicting the nature of the repressive communist regime under the Soviet Union.
  19. 11
    Nervous People, and Other Satires by Mikhail Zoshchenko (roby72)
  20. 01
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(see all 24 recommendations)


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English (237)  Italian (11)  French (9)  Finnish (4)  Dutch (3)  Swedish (2)  Spanish (2)  German (2)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  Czech (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (274)
Showing 1-5 of 237 (next | show all)
The novel is a story with one storyline set in Jerusalem and the other in Moscow. The devil visits Moscow, a country that is identifying itself as atheistic. The setting is the 1930s, Professor Woland visits Moscow with his retinue of the ex choirmaster Koroviev, Behemoth the cat (a kind of Puss in Boots) and a reference to a Biblical monster, Russian word for Hippopotamus and the fanged Azazello. There is also Abadonna (death) and Hella (witch and vampire). The visit is to the literary elite of the trade union MASSOLIT. Not a real trade union but may stand for the Moscow Association of Writers. The second setting is Jerusalem and the characters are Pontius Pilate, Yeshua Ha-Notsri, Matthu Levi and Yehudah (Judas). The first book sets up the Variety Show that has women running the streets in their underwear and money turning into worthless labels. The second book really introduces Margarita, the mistress of the Master. She is invited to the Devil’s midnight Ball where she will be Queen to Satan. She enjoys her supernatural powers, learning to fly and control her passions and to obtain some satisfaction by destroying the home of a literary bureaucrat that has ruined the Master’s life. This ball coincides with Good Friday and the spring full moon. It is very interesting to look up The Spring Festival Ball at Spaso House and the Master and Margarita. This was a historical event that the author attended. There was decorations that created a forest of birch trees in the chandelier room, dining room covered with tulips and lawn covered with chicory grown on felt. There were pheasants, parakeets and zebra finches from the Moscow Zoo. The festival lasted until early hours of morning.

Margarite and the Master then die but are brought back to spend time in peace but denied light. They will spend eternity in the shadow region. This is a section of the book with many great quotes;

“what would your good be doing if there were no evil, and what would the earth look like if shadows disappeared from it?...”

“But, then, those who love must share the fate of those they love.”

“Everything will turn out right. That’s what the world is built on.”

There are several characters in this book, there are characters of Moscow and the theater, there are the characters of Jerusalem and the characters of Satan. The novel deals with good and evil. courage and cowardice and innocence and guilt. This is also a romance, a love story of the Master and Margarita. There are; light and darkness, noise and silence, sun and moon, and storms. Music and literature strongly influence the book. Characters are named after musicians, there are references to Goethe’s Faust and opera, Nikolai Gogol, and Dostoyevsky and even a reference to Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. There are strong elements of magical realism.

I felt this was a very original work. Some have considered it one of the best novels of the 20th century. The characters were very interesting, the writing was good. The characters were odd and the names being long Russian names added some difficulty but the author was able to make these characters interesting and to the point you actually engaged positively with Satan’s retinue. It is not a hard read as some Russian writing can be perceived. I felt that the translated I read was good though I have heard there is a better one. I just happened to own this one so it is what I read and I didn’t find it lacking. ( )
  Kristelh | Mar 15, 2015 |
When I first read The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov back in 2012 I had no idea how to review it. Now that I have re-read the book, I am still at a loss. The Master and Margarita is often considered as one of the best novels of the 20th century by critics and cited as the top example of Soviet satire. Like most of Mikhail Bulgakov’s bibliography, this author never saw the effect that this novel had on the world; it was written between 1928 and 1940 but was first published in 1967, long after his death.

One of the things I love about Russian literature is the social commentary and satirical nature found in a lot of their books. During the Soviet era there was a lot written about the political state of the country but these were often heavily censored before publication. There was a distribution practise happening at the time call called samizdat, which is when individuals reproduced censored publications and passed them out to readers. The term samizdat comes from the Russian words, sam which roughly means “self” and izdat “publishing house”, so possibly the first use of self-publishing. If it wasn’t for this underground practice we may never have the uncensored editions of Russian classics like Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, the majority of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn books and of course The Master and Margarita.

The novel starts out with Berlioz and Bezdomny talking at the Patriarch ponds when a mysterious professor appears and strikes up a conversation. This professor is actually Satan and he was talking to them about the existence of God, the idea being if God doesn’t exist, can Satan?. Russia at the time was an atheist state, in fact communism and religion often do not go hand in hand. During the Stalinist era the Soviet government tried to suppress all forms of religious expression. Bulgakov’s commentary on religion and the government is an interesting one and while there are other interpretations of the novel this was what I took away from the novel this time round.

The ideas of censorship of religion continues with the Master’s book about Pontius Pilate, which was rejected and he was accused of pilatism. Though pilatism is found throughout the book The Master and Margarita as well, Pilate is not only in the Master’s novel but appears in Satan’s stories as well as dreams. The Master has poured his heart and soul into it his novel and having rejected sent him into a tailspin. This satirisation of censorship and religion plays though out the entire novel.

The idea of pilatism is an interesting one since in Christianity Pontius Pilate is the seen as the one that sentenced Jesus (referred to by his Hebrew name Yeshua Ha-Nozri in this novel) to die on the cross. Pilate becomes a symbol of humanity’s evil within religion and The Master and Margarita but you can argue that it is possible that he was a victim of society. Pilate’s ruling on Yeshua Ha-Nozri was due to pressure from the people and the high priests, he literally (and symbolically) washed his hands of the situation. I got the impression that Mikhail Bulgakov was comparing this idea of pilatism with the soviet government at the time. Human nature is apparently evil but it is also very influential of society, and what does that say about the atheist state?

There is so much going on within this novel and I would love to talk about the influences of Goethe’s tragic play Faust on the book. However I think I would need to re-read Faust to be able to compare it with The Master and Margarita. I would have also liked to explore the constant changes on narration, from an omniscient observer to the characters within the book but not sure what else to say about that. I re-read this book as part of a buddy read, my first buddy read in fact and I had a lot of fun doing this but I think I wasn’t a good reading partner. This time I read the Hugh Aplin translation of The Master and Margarita and I think I enjoyed it more than the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation I read last time. This may have been because I got more out of the book or maybe there is something about Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translations I didn’t like, I tend to avoid their translations.

I hope I have made a coherent review, I focused mainly on censorship and religion because this book is weird and all over the place so I needed to stick to one topic to make sense of what I have read. I do plan to re-read The Master and Margarita sometime in my life, I might even try a different translation again (any suggestions?). I got so much out of this book this time around and has really made me appreciate the value of re-reading. I ended my last review of this book telling people to ‘just read it’ and I think that sentiment still stands.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2015/03/10/the-master-and-margarita-by-mikhail-b... ( )
  knowledge_lost | Mar 10, 2015 |
Michael Glenny translation; Vintage Classics edition with introduction by Will Self

Bit underwhelmed. It was a good and original adventure, sometimes made me laugh, and I was always interested to find out what would happen. But, other than a few chapters, not wow. Not quite understanding what so many adore.

And this is one of the first books I remember. It was quite low down on family bookshelves when I was a child, and its spine (of the first UK hardback edition) is one of the very few things I can remember seeing without being able to read it, its colours and shape only, and then the words soon became words. I long thought of 'The master and margarita' as one person, that they were two titles held by one person, a margarita probably being some form of exotic aristocracy. (A sophy was one after all.) Kids read so much about royalty, so it's hardly surprising to overidentify it. The book always sounded a bit boring and I thought it would have been a chore to read. Hence taking several decades to get round to reading it.

In the same translation, naturally, as it would have been had I read that copy as a teenager, but not dusty and sneeze-prone. (And with a very good introduction by Will Self, which I already quoted elsewhere months ago. Its influence on his writing and, I think on Gaiman, is evident. In that respect reading The Master & Margarita is like finding a missing link.) I find it strange how few people seek out a particular translation for similar personal reasons. I also compared it with the preview of Pevear & Volokhonsky, the only other translation easily available in the UK, and needless to say much preferred this one. I find P&V's style ugly and am trying to confine my use of them to Tolstoy so other Russian writers have a different voice. And I infinitely prefer the Britishness of 'beer & minerals', 'lime trees' and ' the haunted flat' to Americanisms. Patriarch's Ponds, despite the thoroughly un British name, I kept imagining as an English park, such was Glenny's use of detail and atmosphere. But one of my reasons for reading this version is to read what British people read in the 60s and 70s, and many others still later - the book as part of our culture, more than for its historically displaced Russianness (written in the late 30s and not published there in full until Gorbachev). So glad that Michael Glenny is related to Misha Glenny - father and son, in fact - who's the first person I'd think of when seeing 'M. Glenny', never mind in the context of Russia.

Episodes I loved:
Most of all, Margarita's flight. There is such a lightness and abandon in the writing as soon as she has put on the (not named as such) flying ointment. It is all 'wheeee!' and Peter Pannish mischief and no quibbling. (She's Peter, not that tutting Wendy.) Utterly carried me along with her. Similarly, the party.
The master and his basement flat. Needless to say, this also reminds me deeply of someone - about whom I felt much as Margarita does about him. And it has stronger atmosphere than much of the rest. I used to have a basement flat too. Some people think they are depressing, but as long as they are not damp they are wonderful little burrow-refuges which have the sense of being sequestered from the world just as M&M and he and I both desired.

I think I've read enough iconoclastic retellings of the Bible. Wasn't all that interested in those chapters - I liked and appreciated the characterisations, but it was all so long.

The final sentence of the blurb, on the back of this Vintage Classics edition, is silly: Only the Master... and Margarita...can resist his onslaught. Makes them sound like superheroes, and gives an impression of the story's trajectory very different from the actual one.

What I want to read now are a few scholarly analyses. There is great ambiguity about the devil - he is a force which is both contrary to and in agreement with the Communist authorities; he is not harmful to everyone, although he is to many. 'Woland' vaguely suggests 'Woden' and the devil as merely one of the old gods - but otherwise this Satan exists in a Christian cosmology. Bulgakov seems to suggest another way between pure rationalist atheism (arguing against an atheist state and its enforcement... I can't imagine hardcore Dawkins fans loving this, those who still think even the moderately religious should be considered mad, and don't seemed to have pondered their similarity to the Soviets) and the traditional theocracy with its strict views and notions of heresy. As a general idea this is so familiar and acceptable to me there's no need to say it - but it's also done in an odd way I can't quite get my head round, so I may be missing something. Or maybe I just read it when I was too old, and had already met a lot of the ideas via other, later, sources; there's no doubt it would seem amazing and revolutionary in some contexts, historical or in a person's life. ( )
  antonomasia | Mar 1, 2015 |
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 |
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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, MarkoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fondse, MarkoAfterwordsecondary 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.)
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(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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