The Master and Margarita
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The Master and Margarita

4.33 of 5 stars 4.33  ·  rating details  ·  82,553 ratings  ·  4,452 reviews
Mikhail Bulgakov's devastating satire of Soviet life was written during the darkest period of Stalin's regime. Combining two distinct yet interwoven parts-one set in ancient Jerusalem, one in contemporary Moscow-the novel veers from moods of wild theatricality with violent storms, vampire attacks, and a Satanic ball; to such somber scenes as the meeting of Pilate and Yeshu...more
Paperback, 360 pages
Published March 19th 1996 by Vintage (first published 1966)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kris
This review is dedicated to Mary, the very model of a perfect co-moderator and GR friend.

Unlocking the Meaning of The Master and Margarita


Mikhail Bulgakov

In the decades following the publication of The Master and Margarita, myriad critics have attempted to find a key to unlock the meaning of Bulgakov’s unfinished masterwork. Some viewed the novel as a political roman à clef, laboriously substituting historical figures from Stalinist Moscow for Bulgakov’s characters. Others posited a religious fo...more
Nataliya

EXTRA! EXTRA! This review has now been immortalized in audio format. Authentic Russian accent and Russian quotes are provided free of charge :) http://soundcloud.com/nataliyac/the-m...
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I'm staying home from work today, sick to the extreme, and it's only in that unique feverish clarity that comes with illness that I dare to even try to write about this book.

This is THE book. The one that all the other books are measured against. The one that I've read more times since I was twe...more
Jason
The Chicago Tribune wrote: “The book is by turns hilarious, mysterious, contemplative and poignant, and everywhere full of rich descriptive passages.”

Hilarious and contemplative my ass, CT. This book is an interminable slog.

Look, here’s the deal. I get that this book satirizes 1930s Stalinist Russia, and I get that—for some—this earns The Master and Margarita a place on their “works-of-historical-importance” shelves. But for me, it earns nothing. I mean, let’s just call a spade a spade, shall we...more
s.penkevich
Dec 26, 2013 s.penkevich rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: You, Citizen!
Recommended to s.penkevich by: The Devil knows who!
Manuscripts don’t burn…
Mikhail Bulgakov, who is no stranger to the pale fire of a burning manuscript, has created a masterpiece of fiction that truly cannot be burned. Having been completed, but not fully edited, by the time of Bulgakov’s demise, this novel survived Soviet censorship and the test of time to remain one of the foremost Russian novels of the 20th century, and still holds relevance in today’s world. From political intrigue and scathing social satire to religious commentary and witch...more
Mike Puma
Dec 04, 2013 Mike Puma rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: masochists

This is not a review. This is my reaction to reading TM&M. Nothing more, and certainly less.

From time to time, and always when I receive a Friend Request, I check other people’s Read list via the Compare Books function—constantly cringing at the five titles that always show up as huge scars—the titles on their Read list and my To Read list. The indignity. It doesn’t end. There are five, five which constantly haunt me, flood me with shame. This is (was) one of them (had I chosen to read the c

...more
B0nnie
The first time I read The Master and Margarita many years ago I saw it as a diamond in the rough. Rereading it now, I can see how brilliant that diamond really is.
description
Jubilee edition
It's difficult to explain the effect of this book. There is such a wild oscillation in it that swings us back and forth between two worlds: the world of Moscow - a wild circus with the devil Woland as ringmaster - and the world of Yershalaim (Jerusalem). These are fictional reinventions that retain a basic truth.

But...more
Ian [Paganus de] Graye
Swimming Against the Stream

This was my second reading of “The Master and Margarita”, although the first must have been in the mid-70’s.

I had vivid memories of the first reading, although if you had asked me to describe them, I wouldn’t have been able to. All I can recall is something fluid and magical.

I hesitate to use the term “Magical Realism”, because I wasn’t aware of it at the time and, besides, I dispute whether the term applies to Bulgakov’s work.

My experience this time was quite differen...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
I love this book, but I won't assume you're an idiotic bigot if you think it sucks.
Steve
There once was a book praised as boff
That caused others to pan it and scoff
So who wrote this thing
Whence sentiments swing?
T’was a Russian they called Bulgakov.

The culture was smothered by Stalin
He purged those he felt failed to fall in.
So how to respond
Sans magical wand?
With satire, to show it’s appallin’.

The book has been said to have layers
With multiple plotlines and players.
There’s good and there’s bad
And witches unclad.
Can naked truth sate the naysayers?

The Devil’s own minions had power.
Blin...more
Megan Baxter
I am not quite sure what I think about this book. I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it. The sudden twists and turns in tone didn't throw me off, but they did leave me a bit discombobulated. I wonder if I was trying to read it too closely, if I should have just let it wash over me the first time, and then gone back to think about it some more.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here...more
Chloe
Apr 21, 2009 Chloe rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: The bizarrely mad
I knew that this was going to be a book that I loved the moment I learned that Satan was the main character. This is not due to any particular affinity for devil worship on my part, but because I love Tricksters in literature and in Western civilization you don't get a better trickster than the devil. Watching him turn Stalinist Moscow on its head proved to be one of the most amusing and engrossing things I've read all year.

From the moment he first materializes as the black magician Woland at a...more
Robert
It is difficult to read the Master and Margarita without an uncomfortable awareness of one’s lack of understanding and ability to viscerally relate to the 1920’s Soviet Russia Bulgakov was enthusiastically eviscerating, and therefore easy (and maybe more enjoyable) to read it from a purely acontextual, Formalistic point of view. That being said, it is precisely those times where Bulgakov allows himself to overtly attack his enemies and speechify slightly on the stultifying nature of bureaucratic...more
Nate D
Dec 04, 2013 Nate D rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: cowardice is the worst of sins
Recommended to Nate D by: manuscripts don't burn
Re-reading can be a terribly useful practice. I enjoyed the book enough before I suppose, but not nearly so much as this time. Part of it is that I'm reading a better translation, funnier and more poetic, by Mirra Ginsberg, whose impeccable Zamyatin translations greatly impressed me back in June. Unfortunately, her 1967 translation was of the censored original Russian publication from which editors omitted some 60 typescript pages (!) from the final version prepared by Bulgakov's wife Elena Serg...more
Mary
I'm just going to let the sparrow take the wheel of this humble attempt to review a book that I cannot find the words to adequately define! The fox trotting sparrow that is. Haven't read this book yet? If you haven't, that isn't a spoiler, it's just a fantastical little paragraph and image that has stuck with me. Imagine...a sparrow dancing the foxtrot...and then pooping. Are you doing it? OK, now you're ready for this book.

I sure wasn't ready for what was in store for me. I struggled at first....more
Libby
Jun 18, 2008 Libby rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Folklore fans, Lit buffs
Recommended to Libby by: My lovely sister
Very little can prepare you for the wild ride that is Mikhail Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita," especially if you've read other literature or folklore that have the devil as a character. What will be helpful, I suspect, is knowing a bit about the time and setting of the novel. Bulgakov wrote this book between 1930 and 1940 while living in Moscow under Stalin. The book is set in 1920, when everything was being taken under government control, from the distribution of food and beverages to cit...more
Terry
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jim
Sep 09, 2011 Jim rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jim by: Nicole, Umberto
Absolutely mesmerizing. I took a long time to read it, partly because of other things that were going on, but mostly because I insisted on savoring every sentence. I never would have found this book if not for GR friends. Come to think of it, almost every book that I read now came from a favorites list of a friend or someone I follow.

This book is a lights-out masterpiece, one of the greatest novels I have ever read. Without getting into the plot details, I will just say that the story is complex...more
Madeleine
(ETA, 9 October 2013: This is another one of those books that stuck with me long after I finished it. I needed a little bit of hindsight to realize how deeply this book resonated with my religious beliefs, or lack thereof, and echoed my preexisting opinions regarding the interplay between humanity's better angels and lesser qualities. The more I think about this novel, the more I realize how madly I love it and how badly I want to find time to revisit it.)



The Devil went down to Georgia
He was loo
...more
William
This is a romp. While reading it I saw somewhere that Salman Rushdie said it was a major influence for him in the writing of The Satanic Verses. I have an inkling, unconfirmed at this point, that Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Italo Calvino were also influenced by it. Several things about it surprise me. No doubt it's loaded with political subtext about Stalin's Russia; it was written during the years of the worst crimes of Stalin's regime. I speak here of "dekulakization," in which some 20 to 50 mi...more
David
At the hour of the brisk fall sunrise, two citizens appeared at the Boston Commons. One of them, a man of about forty, with hunched shoulders under an astrakhan coat, was short, black-haired, and moony-eyed beneath tortoise-shell spectacles. The other, much younger, maybe early-twenties, tall and thin, in a red tartan and blue-jeans, tousled chestnut-hair, and sleepy lashes, was looking out over the greying gardens. For some reason this younger citizen was fingering something in his pocket, devi...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
The Master and Margarita is required reading for students of Soviet era fiction, required also for students of Russian literature. I believe in books which, in the words of Frank Zappa, may be "good for you in the long run."

I will chalk myself up as the rare reader carrying a middling opinion of this novel of the fantastic. It is a good novel, well constructed, meaningful. I submit to its required status, happily. It did, however, bore the heebee-geebees out of me. For its noveling of the fantas...more
Aubrey
This book was so much fun. Really, it's been too long since I've been able to say that. And of course it would be Russian. That combination of comical absurdity and grave circumstances is unmatched by any other culture of literature. And what character fits the setting better than Satan himself? Devilishly good fun, no pun intended. Yes, there were people who died, and an even larger number who survived but suffered needlessly due to the activities. Lots of psychological repercussions there. But...more
Jason Koivu
It's one part Dostoevsky, one part Kafka and that equals a whole hell of a lot of "what huh?"

Explaining the story would kill the magic for those who haven't read it. It's for you to discover...besides, I'm not sure I could explain the bloody thing.

Upon finishing The Master and Margarita I was left with images that flickered like an earlier black and white film. Some dazzled, some disturbed, and some of the best passages pushed the story along workmanlike. The Biblical historical fiction scenes...more
mai ahmd

إن قراءة رواية مثل المعلم ومارغريتا مثل الدخول في حفلة صاخبة فيها أنشطة مختلفة وأنت تقف في المنتصف حائرا ولاتعرف ماذا تفعل بالضبط هذا كان حالي في وأنا أقرأ صفحات الرواية إلا إن المرحلة الهامة هي تلك التي تأتي بعد أن تغلق آخر صفحة وتفكر ماذا حدث بالضبط وأين كنت وأين ذهب كل هؤلاء المجانين !
بولغاكوف لديه مخيلة واسعة ولا أشك أن كتابته في المسرح ساعدته على أن يكتب بهذا الأسلوب الصاخب حتى إنك تشعر إن هناك ممرات سرية في مخيلة هذا الكاتب ليس سهلا أن تجدها ، إن رواية الشيطان يزور موسكو ممكن أن تقرأ برؤى...more
Lori (Hellian)
A wild ride of a book! The devil comes to Stalin Moscow and wreaks utter havoc, most of which is extremely amusing. Yet this is not the evil Satan we normally encounter. He's actually a necessary aspect of what is necessary in our universe. What is Light if there is no Shadow? In more Christian terms (which you definitely don't need to be in order to get the point here) if you don't believe in the devil, then Christ also does not exist. So, in a roundabout way, the devil does good. And this Sata...more
Mohamed Al Marzouqi
عندما انضممت إلى صالون الأدب الروسي هنا في القودريدس، كان من ضمن أهدافي المضمرة هو التتلمذ على أيدي أساتذة الأدب الروسي (أعظم آداب العالم في رأيي) مثل غوغول ودوستويفسكي وبوشكين وتولستوي وغيرهم استعدادًا لكتابة روايتي الأولى.

مشكلة كتاب الرواية العرب المعاصرين أنهم يقتحمون هذا هذا العالم دون اطلاع على إنتاج الأمم الأخرى، وفي هذا الصدد، أذكر أنني حضرت ندوة لـ"روائي" خليجي متواضع، والتواضع صفة لأعماله لا لشخصه، فقد كان الرجل منتفخا كبالون وهو يستمع إلى إطراءات الجمهور، وحدث أن كان بين هذا الجمهور شا...more
oriana
My birthday is always right next to Thanksgiving. Growing up, this pissed the shit out of me, because a) my special day always got overshadowed by turkey and I had to sleep on the floor because a visiting grandma or aunt or someone got my bed, and b) all my friends were always either out of town or busy with family and couldn't come out and play with me.

My parents always "consoled" me by saying that someday I'd be older and would appreciate that I'd always be spending my birthday with my family...more
Ian [Paganus de] Graye
Review

My review following a re-reading is here:

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

I originally rated the novel as four stars on the basis of my first reading.

Earlier Place Holder

This novel inspired Mick Jagger to write "Sympathy for the Devil" from the album "Beggars Banquet".

Jagger's lyrics adopt the character of the Satanic Professor Woland.

My recollection of the novel is that its tone is much more diverse, almost magic realist in parts.

October 24, 2011
Meri
Satan goes to Moscow during Stalin's purges. Muscovites are relatively unimpressed, as Satan has nothing on Stalin. Brilliantly written, intricately designed, I could read this book ten times and still find subtle implications I had missed.
Jonathan

3.5 Stars

There's no denying that The Master and Margarita is a classic and one of the several Russian (and particularly Soviet) novels that must be read. However, it is difficult to become enamoured with a novel that throws so many different and conflicting ideas into one plot line.

The Master and Margarita is widely considered Mikhail Bulgakov's Magnum Opus and since few have heard of his other books it seems a fair statement for the literary critic to make. As a lasting legacy of Bulgakov's wo...more
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Mikhaíl Afanasyevich Bulgakov (Russian: Михаил Булгаков) was the first of six children in the family of a theology professor. His family belonged to the intellectual elite of Kiev. Bulgakov and his brothers took part in the demonstration commemorating the death of Leo Tolstoy. Bulgakov later graduated with honors from the Medical School of Kiev University in 1915. He married his classmate Tatiana...more
More about Mikhail Bulgakov...
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“But would you kindly ponder this question: What would your good do if
evil didn't exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows
disappeared? After all, shadows are cast by things and people. Here is the
shadow of my sword. But shadows also come from trees and living beings.
Do you want to strip the earth of all trees and living things just because
of your fantasy of enjoying naked light? You're stupid.”
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“Everything will turn out right, the world is built on that.” 278 likes
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