No, no. By no means do I worship the devil-- I don't sacrifice chickens on my spare time, nor do I run arI've always had a fascination with the Devil.
No, no. By no means do I worship the devil-- I don't sacrifice chickens on my spare time, nor do I run around naked in pastures to howl at the moonlight. However, I was raised with a strict Catholic upbringing by a very superstitious Grandmother. So at a young age, I had a very black and white concept of good vs evil, and heaven and hell. Movies like The Omen (Gregory Peck version, if you please), and The Exorcist use to scare the living daylights out of me.
As I grew up, my Grandmother's version of the Devil started to melt away, and I developed a fond appreciation for different interpretations of "Lucifer", "Satan", "Beelzebub", whatever you'd like to call him. I've come across some interesting portrayals of the Devil, but Bulgakov really takes the cake.
In "The Master and Margarita", the black magician Woland is Satan incarnate. He comes to pay a vist in Stalanist Moscow with a very intriguing posse which includes a talking, gun-slinging, vodka-loving cat, Behemoth . If there ever was the perfect time and place for Satan to vist the world, it would be Stalanist Moscow; citizens are petrified of the Police, the art world is censored and controlled by the government, and, as portrayed in the novel, people are willing to oust each other to the police if it meant some sort of personal gain. The Devil uses this to his advantage and wreaks havoc in Moscow by exposing the follies of mankind.Yet, I can't really see the Devil as "the bad guy" in this book. He's merely just doing his job-- punishing the wicked, and rewarding the good.
"The Good" in this book are of course the title characters-- The Master (a nameless writer in an asylum, whose book about Pontious Pilate is interwoven with the plot) and Margarita, his beautiful, devoted lover. Over the course of the book, I've really come to love both of these characters. Bulgakov is great at manipulating feelings. Even though there aren't any erotic scenes in the book, you feel the sexual passion between the couple. You feel the despair they when they're separated from each other. You feel pathos for the Master when he suffers a mental breakdown, and you squeal in delight as Margarita races naked through the sky. I couldn't help but feel a sense of elation when the two are rewarded in the end.
The Master and Margarita is one of the most profound, and entertaining books I have ever read. It celebrates sensuality, yet it's critical against instant gratification. It deals with good vs. evil, and the gray area in between. there's so much allusion to so many great works of art, that I can only look forward to rereading this book only after I can fully understand all of these allusions. And in the midst of this depth, Bulgakov still manages to throw in the most imaginative twists to his story: Satan's ball for sinners, a talking cat, a flying pig, and naked women flying through the air.
It's a lengthy, but quick read, and I recommend it to everybody!...more
It's one of my greatest frustrations that Canadian Literature has become almost synonymous with the name "Margaret Atwood." Every reading list that I'It's one of my greatest frustrations that Canadian Literature has become almost synonymous with the name "Margaret Atwood." Every reading list that I've ever seen about Canadian Lit has been dominated by Atwood: "The Handmaid's Tale", "Alias Grace", "Oryx and Crake", etc. It's not that there's anything wrong with enjoying Atwood, (although I can't name many people that do), it's just that her work offers a very limited scope on what Canadian literature is all about.
What about Aboriginal authors like Thomas King? Or Mordecai Richler, who writes about growing up Jewish in Montreal? We have best-selling authors like Michael Ondaatje, and then there's my all-time favourite, where-have-you-been-all-my-life Timothy Findley. (End Margaret Atwood rant).
Not Wanted on the Voyage is a retelling of Noah's Ark. Except calling it a retelling wouldn't be fair to the author. Findley takes the story about Noah's Ark that was spoon-fed to us when we were kids and he completely reinvents it.
In the beginning, we are introduced to Yaweh (a.k.a. God). However, in Findley's version, he isn't the almighty powerful God portrayed in the Bible. Instead, he is tired, lonely, and depressed about his relationship with mankind. So he asks his devoted follower, Noah Noyes, to build an ark. At the heart of the novel, we have our two protagonists: kind-hearted, compassionate, Mrs. Noah Noyes, and Mottyl, her blind cat. The name of the book refers to Mottyl, who becomes a stowaway on the ship. Most of the story is told through her perspective. The ark is boarded by Noah and his family, and the animals enter the ark in pairs. From here, the shit show begins.
There's something very bizarre and beautiful about this book, even by Findley's standards. Findley takes the biblical world of Noah and mixes it in with fantasy. In this world, animals can talk, and unicorns are no bigger than dogs. In this world, a man's skin is marinated until it turns blue, and Lucifer is a cross-dressing angel. Aside from the whimsical aspects of this book, there's also a really dark, sombre side.
Noah is depicted as a sadistic, power-hungry man. He is unwavering in his faith in Yaweh, but obsessed with his quest for knowledge. Usually, religion and science are pitted against each other. In this case, Noah commits atrocities in because of them. Findley writes about men's destructive tendencies in pursuit of religion, power, science, etc. Noah dehumanizes his shipmates, and you can see how later on in the novel, some of the humans digress into animalistic habits. There is also an environmentalist message that highlights men’s relationship with animals, and how humans are always exploiting their resources.
Not Wanted on the Voyage is not for the faint of heart. There are several scenes in the novel that are really disturbing. But, if you want a good thought- provoking novel, or even just a good adventure, this book makes a very good, very hard-to-put-down kind of read. ...more