Monday, July 19, 2010

The Master and Margarita

The Master and Margarita (Everyman's Library classics)Title: The Master and Margarita
Author: Mikhail Bulgakov
Pages: 446
Published: Everyman's Library Classics, 1992
Originally written in the 1930's
Originally published in 1967
My Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940) wrote this book as something of a statement against Stalin's regime, which is why it was published posthumously, so many years after it was written.  It is, from what I've heard, very different from Bulgakov's earlier work.  (If you are interested in why I read this book, as well as some of my first impressions, check out my previous post about it.)

This is a story in which anything can (and probably will) happen.  Woland (the devil) and his cohorts descend on Moscow and proceed to make quite a stir. Filled with historical references and allusions to the political climate, irony and irreverence abound.  While it is not necessary to be familiar with the facts the story is alluding to (I wasn't) in order to enjoy the story and be amazed by the prose, I feel that it would make the book that much more engrossing and meaningful.

So, then, to convince yourself that Dostoevsky was a writer, do you have to ask for his identification card?  Just take any five pages from any one of his novels and you'll be convinced, without any identification card, that you're dealing with a writer. [...]
"Dostoevsky's dead," said the citizeness, but somehow not very confidently.
"I protest!" Behemoth exclaimed hotly.  "Dostoevsky is immortal!"

In this story, men commit themselves to the asylum, women sell themselves to the devil and become witches, men are decapitated, women run around the city without being fully clothed, papers and money appear and disappear right before your eyes.  Pontius Pilate is brought to life through the story the Master writes, and an interesting perspective on Jesus and his disciple Matthew unfolds.  It's a crazy, wild, romping adventure.  If you enjoyed Alice in Wonderland, I think you will enjoy The Master and Margarita.
At a huge writing desk with a massive inkstand an empty suit sat and with a dry pen, not dipped in ink, traced on a piece of paper.  The suit was wearing a necktie, a fountain pen stuck from its pocket, but above the collar there was neither neck nor head, just as there were no hands sticking out of the sleeves.  The suit was immersed in work and completely ignored the turmoil that reigned around it.  Hearing someone come in, the suit leaned back and from above the collar came the voice, quite familiar to the bookkeeper, of Prokhor Petrovich:
"What is this? Isn't it written on the door that I'm not receiving?"
The beautiful secretary shrieked and, wringing her hands, cried out:
"You see?  You see?! He's not there! He's not! Bring him back, bring him back!"

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