Nostromo's Reviews > The Master and Margarita

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
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's review
Sep 12, 2009

really liked it
Read in September, 2009

How can I possibly describe Bulgakov’s, Master and Margarita? The book is a lot of things, most obviously a critique of Soviet life in the 1930s. But it made me question all that I know about good and evil and turned the concept not on its head, but on its side. Is Woland really Satan, and if he is, is he the same Satan we think we know? Is Pilate and Jesus the same Pilate and Jesus of the New Testament? I think the epigraph by Goethe’s Faust perfectly captures the essence of this book, “and so who are you, after all? I am part of the power which forever wills evil and forever works good.” Bend your mind around that for a moment.

The book appears to be three disconnected stories, Satan and his motley crew wreaking havoc in Moscow, Pontius Pilate during the execution of Christ and the writer and his lover, Master and Margarita. The story about Pilate was superb. It reminded me of the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoyevsky’s, Karamazov Brothers. This was my favorite part of the book. Some of the antics wreaked by Satan’s henchmen are hilarious, which exploit the crimes and indiscretions of its victims. Innocent people do not suffer. The Master and the Margarita appear late in the book, but become the epicenter of all that has proceeded. Bulgakov masterfully ties these seemingly disparate threads into a brilliant conclusion.

The afterword in the Burgin/O’Connor translation is worth reading. This is a terrific book to enjoy and ponder. The best I’ve read in a long time. My favorite passage is Woland’s statement near the end to Jesus’ emissary: “What would your good do if evil didn’t exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared?” Enjoy.

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Reading Progress

07/28/2009 page 37
07/31/2009 page 60
14.74% "This book is awesome...loving it!"
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