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The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov
Member Name: rclens
The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov
Date: 03/07/04, updated on 02/05/05 (571 review reads)
Mikhail Bulgakov was born in Kiev in May 1891, settling in Moscow in 1921. Originally training as a Doctor and working in the field for the White movement in the Caucasus, Bulgakov eventually became a journalist before settling down to writing.
Mikhail Bulgakov?s Master and Margarita has to rank as one of the greatest works of 20th Century literature. The book is expressive of Bulgakov?s feelings towards religious icons, politics through his eternal struggle to beat Soviet censorship, and is depictive of the great imagination Bulgakov was known to have in his writing.
It is difficult to describe the story behind Bulgakov?s most famous work. In short it is the devil wreaking havoc with everyday occurrences, punishing those who are greedy whilst tempting those who are in need. Within this, Bulgakov satirises Soviet life from its dull, ordinary routines, to the more colourful aspects of theatre, which Bulgakov was very much a part of.
One is simply spellbound by the way in which Bulgakov has conveyed this story; it is clever, without being incomprehensible; intellectual, without being too smart for its own good; it is sublime. Every little moment keeps the reader thinking, imagining themselves in the very positions of the characters, wonde
ring how they would feel if something extraordinary happened that would alter their life forever. This very magic is what stands out within The Master and Margarita. By giving people false hope and, in cases, the chance to make a small fortune, human frailty and voracity are exhibited, much as can be paralleled in modern times with the Charles Ingram ?Millionaire? malarkey. Unsuspecting citizens find foreign notes, which were illegal in Russia at the time, have replaced their roubles. Handing packages of what they deem to be legal currency to cashiers, the devil (here named Woland) has altered the state of the notes and the na´ve find themselves under lock and key for their sins. The very inclusion of this comedy within the seriousness of the Soviet regime adds to the excitement of reading this novel.
Woland?s introduction at the beginning of the novel indicates the trouble that he will undoubtedly cause along the way. His informal chat with Berlioz in Chapter 1 revolves around, as it turns out, more of a formal chat in which Berlioz indicates his more atheist beliefs, before Chapter 3 leads to his untimely death. It is interesting to find that no sooner than we had begun to acquaint ourselves with Berlioz, we find ourselves without him, left only with Ivan and the ever-emerging Woland. Ingeniously, Woland?s treatment of the characters within the novel is Bulgakov?s attempt to portray Stalin as satire, yet pursuing the obvious disdain felt due to Stalin?s heavy-handed treatment of those who stood against him.
The mischief continues, using the familiar Russian saying of ?Devil take me!? which leads to Prokhor Petrovich turning invisible. This level of comedy, in that figurative comments become literal comments, is evident throughout the book and is indicative of Bulgakov?s ability to combine a range of emotions and senses within his writing.
Noticeably, the novel is intertwined with an adaptation of Pontius Pilate and Yeshua?s (Jesus) meeti
ngs in the bible. Not just as reference, these adaptations indicate the eventual fate that beholds the master within the bulk of the story and recreate the feelings of ancient Jerusalem quite superbly.
Bulgakov?s writing is sharp, distinct and tells the story in a manner that only he can get close to. Even other Russian writers have failed to capture quite that realism of dreams, merging of worlds (fictional and real) as well as the excellent narrative aspects that lead us to the novel?s conclusion. I have never read a book so telling, so appealing before and I am sure I never will. As Bulgakov?s last work, published for the first time, only in part, over 25 years after his death in 1940, it is the culmination of his years of literary experience and thought. The Fatal Eggs, amongst other works are of a high standard but fail to get close to The Master and Margarita, which will forever stand as the pinnacle of Russian literature.
I have only begun to examine what Bulgakov has included within this novel and there will no doubt be much that I have missed. There is much that I also didn?t understand, needing a second reading to explain the relationship between Jerusalem, The Master, Margarita and Woland. One really has to keep an open eye and a focussed mind in order to read into the author?s thoughts. Regardless of this, The Master and Margarita makes for a wonderfully powerful and mystical story that can be enjoyed by everyone, whether they want to analyse or not.
Publisher: Penguin Classics (www.penguinclassics.com)
PriceÓ RRP: ú7.99