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El maestro y Margarita

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Moscú, 1930. Sobre la ciudad desciende Satán bajo la forma de un profesor de ciencias ocultas. A partir de entonces, se suceden fenómenos prodigiosos que trastornan la vida de los moscovitas. Entre los afectados está Margarita, a la que Satán ofrece, a cambio de su compañía en una fiesta, la liberación de su amante, el Maestro, que se encuentra en un psiquiátrico después de la mala acogida de su obra sobre Poncio Pilato (que esconde a la figura de Stalin) y Yehosua. Margarita accede y Satán, conmovido por el amor de ambos, los lleva al más allá, donde disfrutarán de la plenitud de su amor.
El Maestro y Margarita, escrita entre 1928 y 1940 y publicada en 1966, son tres novelas en una: la crónica del Moscú enloquecido por Satán, la historia de los protagonistas, relacionada con el mito de Fausto, y el desarrollo de la propia novela del Maestro. Por su gran aliento poético e intención crítica es sin duda una de las obras maestras de la literatura del siglo XX.

480 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1967

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About the author

Mikhail Bulgakov

618 books6,501 followers
Mikhail Bulgakov was born in Kyiv, Russian Empire (today part of modern Ukraine) on 3/15 May 1891. He studied and briefly practised medicine and, after indigent wanderings through revolutionary Russia and the Caucasus, he settled in Moscow in 1921. His sympathetic portrayal of White characters in his stories, in the plays The Days of the Turbins (The White Guard), which enjoyed great success at the Moscow Art Theatre in 1926, and Flight (1927), and his satirical treatment of the officials of the New Economic Plan, led to growing criticism, which became violent after the play, The Purple Island. His later works treat the subject of the artist and the tyrant under the guise of historical characters, with plays such as Molière, staged in 1936, Don Quixote, staged in 1940, and Pushkin, staged in 1943. He also wrote a brilliant biography, highly original in form, of his literary hero, Molière, but The Master and Margarita, a fantasy novel about the devil and his henchmen set in modern Moscow, is generally considered his masterpiece. Fame, at home and abroad, was not to come until a quarter of a century after his death in Moscow in 1940.

Detailed Version

Mikhaíl Afanasyevich Bulgakov (Russian: Михаил Афанасьевич Булгаков) was the first of six children in the family of a theology professor. His family belonged to the intellectual elite of Kyiv. 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 Kyiv University in 1915. He married his classmate Tatiana Lappa, who became his assistant at surgeries and in his doctor's office. He practiced medicine, specializing in venereal and other infectious diseases, from 1915 to 1919 (he later wrote about the experience in "Notes of a Young Doctor.")

He joined the anti-communist White Army during the Russian Civil War. After the Civil War, he tried (unsuccesfully) to emigrate from Russia to reunite with his brother in Paris. Several times he was almost killed by opposing forces on both sides of the Russian Civil War, but soldiers needed doctors, so Bulgakov was left alive. He provided medical help to the Chehchens, Caucasians, Cossacs, Russians, the Whites, and the Reds.

In 1921, Bulgakov moved to Moscow. There he became a writer and became friends with Valentin Katayev, Yuri Olesha, Ilya Ilf, Yevgeni Petrov, and Konstantin Paustovsky. Later, he met Mikhail Zoschenko, Anna Akhmatova, Viktor Ardov, Sergei Mikhalkov, and Kornei Chukovsky. Bulgakov's plays at the Moscow Art Theatre were directed by Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko.

Bugakov's own way of life and his witty criticism of the ugly realities of life in the Soviet Union caused him much trouble. His story "Heart of a Dog" (1925) is a bitter satire about the loss of civilized values in Russia under the Soviet system. Soon after, Bulgakov was interrogated by the Soviet secret service, OGPU. After interrogations, his personal diary and several unfinished works were confiscated by the secret service. His plays were banned in all theaters, which terminated his income. Destitute, he wrote to his brother in Paris about his terrible life and poverty in Moscow. Bulgakov distanced himself from the Proletariat Writer's Union because he refused to write about the peasants and proletariat. He adapted "Dead Souls" by Nikolai Gogol for the stage; it became a success but was soon banned.

He took a risk and wrote a letter to Joseph Stalin with an ultimatum: "Let me out of the Soviet Union, or restore my work at the theaters." On the 18th of April of 1930, Bulgakov received a telephone call from Joseph Stalin. The dictator told the writer to fill an employment application at the Moscow Art Theater. Gradually, Bulgakov's plays were back in the repertoire of the Moscow Art Theatre. But most other theatres were in fear and did not stage any of th

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Profile Image for Kris.
175 reviews1,468 followers
December 4, 2013
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 formula to understand the relationships between good and evil in the novel.

After giving myself time to think, I believe that any attempts to reduce the novel to a formula reflect some readers’ desire for neat, safe boxes to contain the world. This approach is at odds with the fear-ridden, desperate, and yet transcendent reality of Bulgakov’s experience in writing, revising, destroying, reconstructing, and then revising the novel, up to his death in Moscow on March 10, 1940. The Master and Margarita shows evidence of Bulgakov’s struggles to complete it, especially in part two, which illness prevented him from revising. I believe that the novel’s profound humanity stems from these imperfections, these facets not quite fitting neatly together, these jarring movements from scene to scene. In the end, The Master and Margarita is, by virtue of its own existence, a testament to the necessity of art in times of repression, and to the urgent need for artists to veer from cowardice and hold firmly to their commitment to living a true human life, with fantasy and reality combined, with history and invention feeding into each other, with good and evil providing the shadows and depth that make life meaningful and real.

The Master and Margarita as Fairy Tale

One approach to The Master and Margarita that appeals to me is understanding it, in part, as a fairy tale. In the novel, Bulgakov threads together three different storylines, which intertwine, especially at the novel’s conclusion: the often slapstick depiction of life in Stalinist Moscow, seen in part through the antics of the devil Woland and his demonic helpers; the story of Pilate, with names and details transformed from the familiar Biblical versions; and the story of the Master and Margarita. The action takes place in a compressed time frame, so readers looking for character development will be disappointed. Instead, Bulgakov develops an extended allegory where flight equals freedom, where greed and small-mindedness are punished, and where weary artists are afforded some mercy and peace.

The Master and Margarita provided Bulgakov with a lifeline to the imagination in the midst of the stultifying culture of Stalinist Russia. There are healthy doses of wish fulfillment in the novel, especially in those sections in which Woland’s minions, Azazello, Behemoth, and Koroviev, wreak retribution for the petty-mindedness and greed inherent in this political and social system. There also is a desperate attempt to resist the Stalinist bent towards monotony and flatness, and instead to weave dizzying strands of magic, fantasy, and power into life in Moscow.


These attempts to use a story as wish fulfillment, criticizing a social order by turning it upside down in fiction, and recognizing how to use an audience’s sense of wonder as a fulcrum for change, resonate with the historical and cultural functions of fairy tales as described by scholars including Jack Zipes in The Great Fairy Tale Tradition and Marina Warner in From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and their Tellers. Magic and wonder force the reader to acknowledge other possibilities outside of a reality of political repression, poverty, and war. When fairy tales reveal challenges to misplaced authority, whether in the guise of an evil queen or a greedy government official, they may take on one of two roles: a subversive threat to authority, or a valve to release the pressure of living under severe constraints. Perhaps most important, fairy tales remind their readers that life is miraculous, and that certain freedoms, such as the freedom to imagine and dream, can be nurtured and honored even under the most restrictive regimes.

For Bulgakov, the blend of the fantastical and the everyday in The Master and Margarita serves as his manifesto. Throughout his life, he fought to preserve the full human experience, not the two-dimensional totalitarianism in the Stalinist USSR, where human life was flattened of any sense of wonder, creativity, exuberance. Instead, he advocated for human life with all its shadows and colors, with a foundation in imagination and wonder. The freedom he sought was not simply freedom from communal housing or repressive government policies. Instead, he sought the freedom to imagine, to dream, to infuse his life with wonder, and to share his vision. For this reason, any attempt to read The Master and Margarita as a simple satire of Stalinist totalitarianism is misguided. Instead, Bulgakov sought to fly free along with his characters, and in doing so to tap into the universal human need for imagination, wonder, and freedom of the intellect and spirit.

“For me the inability to write is as good as being buried alive”

Bulgakov and his wife Yelena, c. 1939

Although Bulgakov universalized his quest for artistic freedom in The Master and Margarita, he drew inspiration and a sense of urgency from his experiences. A playwright, he faced censorship as his plays were banned and productions cancelled. He saw his fellow writers imprisoned for following their calling. (In response to one of these cases, Bulgakov destroyed one version of The Master and Margarita, which he later reconstructed.)

In desperation, between 1929 and 1930 Bulgakov wrote three letters to Soviet government officials, including Stalin, to protest his censorship and beg for a chance to practice his art, if not within Russia, outside it. In the final letter, dated March 28, 1930, Bulgakov movingly describes his ordeal, arguing that his duty as a writer is to defend artistic freedom, and pleading that being silenced is tantamount to death.

Although the letters provided Bulgakov with employment after receiving a favorable response, and saved him from arrest or execution, he still faced his works’ being banned and suppressed. He devoted the last years of his life to revising The Master and Margarita, knowing he would not live to see it published, and sometimes despairing it would ever be read outside of his family circle. His widow, Yelena Shilovskaya, worked tirelessly after his death for decades, preserving his manuscript and finally seeing it published, in a censored version, in 1966 and 1967.

Planes of Reality: The Fantastic, The Historical, and the Totalitarian

Azazello, Behemoth, and Koroviev

Some criticism of The Master and Margarita comes from the abrupt transitions and changes in mood among the three storylines: the actions of Woland and his minions in Moscow; the transformed story of Pontius Pilate, with some striking changes to the names of characters and the sequence of events which simultaneously make the narrative seem more historical and keep readers off-balance; and the story of the Master and Margarita, which includes Bulgakov’s central concerns about cowardice, artistry, duty, loyalty and love. I believe that Bulgakov purposefully constructed his novel so that the reader would be pulled from dimension to dimension. The effect, although jarring, is one of constant instability and surprise. The reader is immersed in a world where a Biblical past seems more historically based and less fantastic than 20th-century Moscow, where characters who are petty and greedy are meted out fantastic public punishments, at times literally on a stage, and where in the end characters with the most substance and loyalty have their lives transformed through magic.

By carefully building this multifaceted world, with all the seams showing, Bulgakov forces us as readers to consider the intersections among these worlds. Bulgakov reveals how we cut ourselves off from the wellsprings of magic and wonder, and invites us to join him in mounting a broomstick and riding off into the night sky, free from the constraints of our everyday lives.

The Necessity of Shadows: Woland


Just as Bulgakov confounds his readers’ expectations of a unified and seamless world, so he also makes us question our assumptions about good and evil. A key character is Woland, the devil at the center of the magical action. From his appearance in the first chapter, Woland presents an arresting and disconcerting figure. Woland immediately inserts himself into a conversation with Berlioz, the editor of a literary magazine and chair of MASSOLIT, a prestigious literary association, and Ivan, a poet also known by his pen name Bezdomny, engaging in a debate with them about the existence of God. Berlioz parrots many of the current arguments against the existence of God, but Woland deftly counters his arguments in a manner that veers between the charming and the sinister.

This debate introduces a theme that runs throughout The Master and Margarita: a cosmos in which good and evil each have their jurisdiction, but work together to ensure that people get the rewards or punishments that they deserve. In a famous passage later in the novel, Woland provides the following cogent description:

“You pronounced your words as if you refuse to acknowledge the existence of either shadows or evil. 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 from 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."

Throughout The Master and Margarita, Woland metes out justice to wrongdoers. However, he does not simply punish -- instead, he also rewards Margarita for her devotion, intelligence, loyalty, and bravery. He rescues the Master from his exile in the asylum and ultimately grants him and Margarita a destiny of peace and rest together. In doing so, Woland overturns our expectations. Bulgakov describes a world where good and evil powers work together to provide some justice and balance in our lives, in spite of the thoughtless and cruel ways that humans behave. As Woland tells Margarita at one point, “Everything will be made right, that is what the world is built on.” The true evil in The Master and Margarita does not rise from Hell, but instead comes from the pettiness and greed of flawed, small-minded humans.

The Master and Margarita: Responsibility to Art

The Master makes his appearance relatively late in the novel, in chapter 13, “Enter the Hero.” However, he is not the traditional hero. He is a broken man, living in an asylum, remembering his love for Margarita, while at the same time turning his back on the art that Margarita loved, protected, and honored: his novel about Pontius Pilate.

In a lengthy conversation with Ivan, the Master paints an idyllic portrait of his life with Margarita, who creates a cozy sanctuary full of roses and love, in which the written word is treasured and respected:

“Running her slender fingers and pointed nails through her hair, she endlessly reread what he had written, and then she sewed the very cap he had shown Ivan. Sometimes she would squat down next to the lower shelves or stand up on a chair next to the upper ones and dust the hundreds of books. She predicted fame, urged him on, and started calling him Master. She waited eagerly for the promised final words about the fifth procurator of Judea, recited the parts she especially liked in a loud sing-song voice, and said that the novel was her life.”

However this idyll comes to a crashing end when the Master completes the manuscript and looks for a publisher. He provides harrowing descriptions of his brutal treatment by the literary world in Moscow, as editors, publishers, and fellow writers publicly criticized him for his novel. These descriptions bear the pain of Bulgakov’s personal experience with censorship and rejection, culminating in the Master’s paralyzing fear of everything around him.

Finally, in a scene inspired by events in Bulgakov’s life, the Master attempts to destroy his manuscript. Although Margarita salvages some pages, this scene marks the end of her life with the Master, who turns his back on Margarita and his art. He describes himself as a man without a name or a future, marking time in the asylum. Bulgakov depicts the Master as a broken man, whose loss of spirit and cowardice in the face of adversity led him to lose everything of value in his life.


Margarita poses a stark contrast to the Master. When we finally meet her in part two, she is grieving over losing the Master, but she also shows herself to be intelligent, energetic, and fearless in her determination to find him and rebuild their life together. In doing so, Margarita is not taking an easy path. She is married to a successful husband who adores her. The two live in a large apartment with a great deal of privacy, a true luxury in Stalinist Moscow. She is beautiful, but she cannot put behind her deep dissatisfaction with her life, apparently perfect on the surface, but with no depth. She is living a lie. Her despair starts to break when she has a dream about the Master, which she views as a portent that her torment will soon come to an end. After rushing from her home, she has a fateful conversation with Azazello, whom Woland has tasked with inviting her to officiate as his queen at his ball. Margarita handles the interaction with spirit and courage, agreeing to follow Azazello’s mysterious instructions in hopes of learning the Master’s fate.

Margarita’s Night Ride

Margarita is transformed and embarks on a night ride, flying naked on a broomstick over Moscow. After wreaking havoc at the apartment of a publisher who had tormented the Master, and comforting a small boy who awakened, terrified by the destruction, she participates in a moonlight gathering of other magical creatures. Afterwards, she returns to Moscow in a magical car, “After all that evening's marvels and enchantments, she had already guessed who they were taking her to visit, but that didn't frighten her. The hope that there she would succeed in regaining her happiness made her fearless.” The night ride is a symbol of Margarita’s freedom and power.

Her fearlessness propels Margarita through her meeting with Woland and his minions, and a surreal evening as the queen of Woland’s midnight ball. Her devotion is rewarded by Woland, in scenes full of magic and moonlight. Although the Master crumbles in the face of adversity, Margarita becomes the ultimate hero and savior through her courage and commitment to the Master and his art.

The Moon

Throughout The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov uses key symbols to tie together the different chapters and storylines. Perhaps the most important symbol is the moon, which appears frequently in practically every chapter. The moon conveys a kind of otherworldly truth. Characters are bathed in moonlight at critical points in the novel, especially when making entrances, as when the Master first appears in Ivan’s hospital room. Moonlight imparts insight and truth even to the most delusional of characters. The moon lights the night rides of Woland, his companions, Margarita and the Master.

Woland and company: Night Ride

The moonlight also features prominently in the Pilate chapters, serving as a lynchpin between them and the rest of the novel. Pilate looks up at the moon for solace in the face of his agony from his migraines and his cowardice, with his faithful dog Banga as his sole companion. Bulgakov uses the moon to illuminate Pilate’s torment and his final peace, granted to him by the Master, his creator:

"[Pilate] has been sitting here for about two thousand years, sleeping, but, when the moon is full, he is tormented, as you see, by insomnia. And it torments not only him, but his faithful guardian, the dog. If it is true that cowardice is the most grave vice, then the dog, at least, is not guilty of it. The only thing that brave creature ever feared was thunderstorms. But what can be done, the one who loves must share the fate of the one he loves."

In response to Woland’s prompting, the Master stands and shouts the words that complete his novel, and end Pilate’s torture:

“The path of moonlight long awaited by the procurator led right up to the garden, and the dog with the pointed ears was the first to rush out on it. The man in the white cloak with the blood-red lining got up from his chair and shouted something in a hoarse, broken voice. It was impossible to make out whether he was laughing or crying, or what he was shouting, but he could be seen running down the path of moonlight, after his faithful guardian.”

Pilate, Banga and the moon

Bulgakov follows this transformative scene with Woland’s gift of peace to the Master. As she did throughout the novel, Margarita remains by the Master’s side, his loyal companion through eternity. Bulgakov cannot give salvation to the Master, perhaps because of the enormity of his cowardice against art, perhaps because he has been so damaged by a hostile society. In these final passages, Margarita gives the Master, and the reader, a soothing picture of a peaceful life, perhaps one Bulgakov himself longed for:

"Listen to the silence," Margarita was saying to the Master, the sand crunching under her bare feet. "Listen and take pleasure in what you were not given in life—quiet. Look, there up ahead is your eternal home, which you've been given as a reward. I can see the Venetian window and the grape-vine curling up to the roof. There is your home, your eternal home. I know that in the evenings people you like will come to see you, people who interest you and who will not upset you. They will play for you, sing for you, and you will see how the room looks in candlelight. You will fall asleep with your grimy eternal cap on your head, you will fall asleep with a smile on your lips. Sleep will strengthen you, you will begin to reason wisely. And you will never be able to chase me away. I will guard your sleep."

Profile Image for Nataliya.
784 reviews12.5k followers
April 4, 2023
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 twelve than the number of books some people I know have read in their entire lives. The one from which I've memorized entire passages. This is it, the golden standard, the masterpiece, the unattainable perfection of literature. I'm not even being sarcastic; I mean every single word of this praise.
"What would your good be doing if there were no evil, and what would the earth look like if shadows disappeared from it? After all, shadows are cast by objects and people. There is the shadow of my sword. But there are also shadows of trees and living creatures. Would you like to denude the earth of all the trees and all the living beings in order to satisfy your fantasy of rejoicing in the naked light? You are a fool."
What is this book about? I wish it were easy to tell in one smartly constructed sentence, but luckily it's not. It is a story of Woland, the Satan, coming to Moscow with his retinue and wrecking absolute havoc over three long and oppressively hot summer days. It is a story of Pontius Pilate (the equestrian, the son of the astrologist-king, the last fifth Procurator of Judea) who has achieved the dreaded immortality due to a single action (or rather INaction) and wishes nothing more than for it to not have happened. It is a story of love between two very lonely people. It is a scaldingly witty story about the oppressive nature of early Stalin days and the rampant Soviet bureaucracy. It is a phantasmagorical story of the supernatural and the mythical. It has elements of humorous realism, romanticism, and mysticism. It is all of the above and much more. As doctors (the same profession that Bulgakov belonged to, by the way!), we are taught to look for the bigger picture, the synthesis of facts, the overall impression, the so-called 'gestalt'. Well, the gestalt here is - it's a true masterpiece.
"Manuscripts do not burn.""

Bulgakov wrote this book over a period of 11-12 years, frequently abandoning it, coming back to it, destroying the manuscripts, rewriting it, abandoning it, and coming back to it again. He wrote it during the times when the reaction to such novels would have been the same as Woland has when hearing Master say he wrote a novel about Pontius Pilate:
"About what, about what? About whom?" - said Woland, having stopped laughing. - "In these times? It's amazing! And you couldn't find a different subject?"
In these times... The 1930s were the time of Stalin's rule, the waves of Purges, the paranoia of one powerful man sweeping the country, the denunciations, the lies, the terror, the fear, the accusations, the senseless arrests, the nondescript black cars pulling up to the apartment buildings in the middle of the night and leaving with people who would not be heard from ever again. This was a suffocating atmosphere, and the only way Bulgakov survived it was that he for reasons unknown enjoyed the whimsical favor of the tyrant. This fear is everywhere, on every single page. From the poor unfortunate Berlioz in the early chapters, who without much hesitation is about to contact the authorities to report about a suspicious 'foreigner' to the unnamed people conducting the investigation of the strange Moscow events and puling the victims in for questioning to Rimskiy sending Varenukha with a packet of information for the 'right people' to Master's terrifying and unheard story starting with 'them' knocking on his window and ending with him broken in the mental institution... The fear is everywhere, thinly veiled. And yet it is never named, even once - the name of those causing the fear, never alluded to - no need for it, it's obvious anyway, and besides there's that age-long superstition about not naming the name of evil, which, funnily, in this novel is definitely NOT the Devil. Only Margarita has the guts to ultimately ask, "Do you want to arrest me?"
"You're not Dostoevsky,' said the citizeness, who was getting muddled by Koroviev.
'Well, who knows, who knows,' he replied.
'Dostoevsky's dead,' said the citizeness, but somehow not very confidently.
'I protest!' Behemoth exclaimed hotly. 'Dostoevsky is immortal!
The sharp satire of the contemporary to Bulgakov Soviet life of the 1930s is wonderful, ranging from deadpan observations to witty remarks to absolute and utter slapstick (that, of course, involving the pair of Korovyev and Behemoth). It can be sidesplittingly funny one second, and in the next moment become painfully sad and very depressing. Not surprisingly - in the Russian tradition humor and sadness have always walked hand in hand; therefore, for instance, Russian clowns are the saddest clowns in the entire universe, trust me. This funny sadness manages to evoke the widest spectrum of emotional responses from me every single time I read this book, never ever failing at this.
"The only thing that he said was that he considers cowardice to be among the worst human vices."
This book is not only the hilariously sad commentary on the realities of Bulgakov's contemporary society; it is also a shrewd commentary on the never-changing nature of humanity itself. The humanity that Woland wanted to observe in the Variety theatre, until he came to the sad but true conclusion that not much changed in them. The cowardice - the vice that Pilate feels Yeshua Ha-Nozri was implicitly accusing him of. The greed and love of money, leading to heinous crimes like treason and deceit and treachery. The egoism and vanity and self-absorption (just think of the talentless poet Ryukhin's anger at the seemingly lucky circumstances of Pushkin's fame!), the close-mindedness and complacency, the hate and bickering. This is all there, sadly exposed and gently (or sometimes not that gently) condemned. The consequences of this humanity shown in their extreme - think of Ryukhin's craving for immortality and Pilate's terror at facing it.

And yet we see one bright light of a redeeming quality in the mankind, the one that makes even Woland cringe - mercy. Just think of people's reactions in the scene with George Bengalsky's head, Master freeing Pilate from centuries of doom, and - most touchingly of all - Margarita's unforgettable and selfless act of mercy towards Frieda. All that makes us not ashamed of being human. All that makes us worthy not of the light, the naked light that Woland so derisively talked about, but of peace. Just peace.
"The one who loves must share the fate of the one he loves."
I love this book, love it more than I could ever hope to express in words. I can write endless essays about each chapter, approach it from each imaginable angle, analyze each one precisely and masterfully crafted phrase. I could do it for days - and yet still not pay due respect to this incredible work of art. Because it has the best kind of immortality. Because its depth is unrivaled. Because it is the work of an incredible genius. And so I will stop my feeble attempts to do it justice and instead will remain behind, like the needled memory of poor Professor Ponyrev, formerly Ivanushka Bezdomny, Master's last and only pupil, left to remember the unbelievable that he once witnessed and that broke his heart and soul.

And I will finish with the lines from this novel that I had memorized back when I was twelve, just as awed by this book as I am now (the words that seem to pale when translated from their native Russian into English, alas!):
"...And master's memory, the restless, needled memory, began to fade. Someone was setting master free, just like he himself set free the hero he created. This hero left into the abyss, left irrevocably, forgiven on the eve of Sunday son of astrologer-king, the cruel fifth Procurator of Judea, equestrian Pontius Pilate."

Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews33 followers
December 10, 2021
The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov

In this work, reality and fantasy, "Real" and "Surreal" are intertwined, it can be said that it is a kind of "Russian magical realism". The novel has philosophical and social themes, with a political background, which is subtly and indirectly reminiscent of the "Stalin" era, with a very delicate and artistic expression, and sometimes poetically, the problems of the society of the "Soviet" days. And at the philosophical level, reminds the reader of his book of the troubles and crises of contemporary man. "Murshid and Margarita" is a modern novel, which, according to Abbas Milani, "is considered by many critics to be a classic novel."

The Master and Margarita is a novel, by Russian writer, Mikhail Bulgakov, written in the Soviet Union between 1928 and 1940 during Stalin's regime.

The story concerns a visit by the devil to the officially atheistic Soviet Union. Many critics consider it to be one of the best novels of the 20th century, as well as the foremost of Soviet satires.

The novel alternates between two settings.

The first is 1930's Moscow, where Satan appears at the Patriarch Ponds in the guise of "Professor" Woland, a mysterious gentleman "magician" of uncertain origin. He arrives with a retinue that includes the grotesquely dressed valet Koroviev; the mischievous, gun-happy, fast-talking black cat Behemoth; the fanged hitman Azazello and the witch Hella.

They wreak havoc targeting the literary elite and its trade union MASSOLIT. Its privileged HQ is Griboyedov's house. The association is made up of corrupt social climbers and their women (wives and mistresses alike), bureaucrats, profiteers, and, more generally, skeptics of the human spirit.

The second setting is the Jerusalem of Pontius Pilate, described by Woland in his conversations with Berlioz and later reflected in the Master's novel. This part of the novel concerns Pontius Pilate's trial of Yeshua Ha-Notsri, his recognition of an affinity with, and spiritual need for, Yeshua, and his reluctant but resigned submission to Yeshua's execution.

Part one of the novel opens with a direct confrontation between Berlioz, the atheistic head of the literary bureaucracy, and an urbane foreign gentleman (Woland), who defends belief and reveals his prophetic powers. Berlioz brushes off the prophecy of his death, but dies pages later in the novel. The fulfillment of the death prophecy is witnessed by Ivan Ponyrev, a young and enthusiastically modern poet. He writes poems under the alias Bezdomny ("homeless").

His futile attempt to chase and capture the "gang" and warn of their evil and mysterious nature lands Ponyrev in a lunatic asylum. There, he is introduced to the Master, an embittered author. The rejection of his historical novel about Pontius Pilate and Christ had led the Master to such despair that he burned his manuscript and turned his back on the world, including his devoted lover, Margarita.

Major episodes in the first part of the novel include a satirical portrait of the Massolit and their Griboyedov house; Satan's magic show at the Variety Theatre, satirizing the vanity, greed and gullibility of the new rich; and Woland and his retinue taking over the late Berlioz's apartment for their own use. (Apartments were at a premium in Moscow and were controlled by the state's elite. Bulgakov referred to his own apartment as one of the settings in the Moscow section of the novel.)

Part two of the novel introduces Margarita, the Master's mistress. She refuses to despair over her lover or his work. She is invited to the Devil's midnight ball, where Woland offers her the chance to become a witch with supernatural powers. This takes place the night of Good Friday. This is the time of the spring full moon, as it was traditionally when Christ's fate was affirmed by Pontius Pilate, sending him to be crucified in Jerusalem. The Master's novel also covers this event. All three events in the novel are linked by this.

Margarita enters naked into the realm of night after she learns to fly and control her unleashed passions. (She takes violent retribution on the literary bureaucrats who had condemned her beloved to despair.) She takes her enthusiastic maid Natasha with her, to fly over the deep forests and rivers of the USSR.

She bathes and returns to Moscow with Azazello, her escort, as the anointed hostess for Satan's great Spring Ball. Standing by his side, she welcomes the dark celebrities of human history as they arrive from Hell. She survives this ordeal and, for her pains, Satan offers to grant Margarita her deepest wish. She chooses to liberate a woman whom she met at the ball from the woman's eternal punishment.

The woman had been raped and killed her resulting infant. Her punishment was to wake each morning and find the same handkerchief by which she had killed the child lying on her nightstand. Satan grants her first wish and offers her another, saying that Margarita's first wish was unrelated to her own desires. For her second wish, she chooses to liberate the Master and live in poverty-stricken love with him.

Neither Woland nor Yeshua appreciates her chosen way of life, and Azazello is sent to retrieve them. The three drink Pontius Pilate's poisoned wine in the Master's basement. The Master and Margarita die, metaphorically, as Azazello watches their physical manifestations die.

Azazello reawakens them, and they leave civilization with the Devil, while Moscow's cupolas and windows burn in the setting Easter sun. Because the Master and Margarita did not lose their faith in humanity, they are granted "peace" but are denied "light" — that is, they will spend eternity together in a shadowy yet pleasant region similar to Dante's depiction of Limbo. They have not earned the glories of Heaven, but do not deserve the punishments of Hell. As a parallel, the Master releases Pontius Pilate from eternal punishment, telling him he's free to walk up the moonbeam path in his dreams to Yeshua, where another eternity awaits.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نخست ماه سپتامبر سال1984میلادی

عنوان: مرشد و مارگریتا؛ نویسنده: میخائیل بولگاکف؛ مترجم: عباس میلانی؛ تهران، فرهنگ نشر نو؛ چاپ اول سال1362؛ شابک9647443277؛ چاپ ششم سال1385؛ هفتم سال1386؛ چاپ دهم سال1389؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان روسیه - سده20م

عنوان: مرشد و مارگریتا؛ نویسنده: میخائیل بولگاکف؛ مترجم: پرویزی؛ تهران، نشر مجید؛ سال1395؛ در624ص؛ شابک9786007987278؛

در این اثر واقعیت و خیال، «رئال» و «سورئال» درهم تنیده شده، میتوان گفت: نوعی «رئالیسم جادویی روسیه» است؛ رمان بن مایه های فلسفی و اجتماعی دارد، با پس زمینه ای سیاسی، که به شکلی رقیق و غیرمستقیم، یادآور دوران حکومت «استالین» است، با بیانی بسیار ظریف و هنرمندانه، و گاه شاعرانه، مسائل جامعه آن روزهای «شوروی» را طرح، و در سطح فلسفی، گرفتاریها و بحرانهای انسان معاصر را، به خوانشگر کتاب خویش گوشزد میکند؛ «مرشد و مارگریتا» رمانی مدرن است، که به نقل از «عباس میلانی»: «به زعم بسیاری از منتقدان، به رمانهای کلاسیک پهلو میزند». پایان نقل؛

در این اثر سه داستان شکل میگیرند، و پا به پای هم پیش میروند، و گاه این سه درهم تنیده، و دوباره باز میشوند، تا سرانجام به نقطه ای یگانه رسیده، باهم یکی میشوند؛

داستان نخست: (داستان سفر شیطان است به «مسکو»، در چهره ی پروفسوری خارجی، به عنوان استاد جادوی سیاه، به نام «ولند»، به همراه گروه کوچک سه نفره «عزازیل»، «بهیموت» و «کروویف».)؛

داستان دوم: (داستان «پونتیوس پیلاطس» و مصلوب شدن «عیسی مسیح» در «اورشلیم»، بر سر «جلجتا» است)؛

و داستان سوم: (داستان دلدادگی رمان نویسی بینام، موسوم به «مرشد»، و ماجرای عشق پاک و آسمانی ایشان، به زنی به نام «مارگریتا» است.)؛

در این اثر، «بولگاکف» تنهایی ژرف انسان دوران کنونی در دنیای سکولار، و خالی از اسطوره، و معنویت کنونی را، گوشزد میکنند؛ دنیایی که مردمانش دلباخته، و تشنه ی معجزه، جادو، و چشم بندی هستند؛ گویی خسته از فضای تکنیک زده، و صنعتی معاصر، با ذهنی انباشته از خرافه، منتظر ظهور منجی، یا چشم به راه جادوگران افسانه ای هستند، و هنوز هم علم و مدرنیته را باور نکرده اند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 18/05/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ و 19/09/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
965 reviews6,842 followers
May 23, 2023
All power is violence over people.

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 witches on broomsticks, this is one of those rare books that can nestle its way into the deep places of almost any reader’s heart. Bulgakov lovingly loads each page with semi-auto-biographical frustrations and sharp irony as he unleashes the (literal) powers of hell upon Soviet Moscow.

Manuscripts don’t burn…

Inspired by the epic Faust in its various forms, notably the opera which our author frequently attended, Master and Margarita spins the story of a Mephistopheles, Woland, and his cohorts as they wreck havoc upon the Moscow. This allows Bulgakov to deliver a potent slap in the face to all facets of the obdurate Soviet society that oppressed him and his contemporaries. Specifically targeted are those of the arts, particularly the authors of the times who used their words to tow the party line and the literary critics whom Bulgakov detested. The bitter satire of these writers, many of which are thrust into an existential epiphany that they are nothing but pathetic frauds when compared to Russia’s heroes of the pen such as Alexander Pushkin. Mass mockery is made of the numerous beaurocrats and departments, the ease in which a citizen can be arrested, and endless other events that make the daily life of the 20's seem utterly absurd. It is no surprise countless characters find themselves in the asylum, the only place with order, comfort and logic in all of Bulgakov’s depiction of Moscow.

Juxtaposed with Moscow is the tread of Pontius Pilate, which may or may not be the pages of the Master’s book. As the Master is not a far cry from Bulgakov himself, readers may notice a wonderful spiral into metafictional oblivion beginning here, and may begin to question the very notions and fabric of the novel they hold in their hands. Such as, who really is the intrusive narrator who whimsically guides us through this drama of demons, dreams and destiny, and where does the line between fiction and supposed-fact lie? However, I digress, and I return you to the tread of Pontius Pilate. Or, dear reader, shall I digress yet again, and direct your attention to the implicit irony inherent in the novel’s heroes: Woland (your charming Mephistopheles) and Pontius Pilate, the man who signed the death certificate of Jesus. Things are not always what they seem in this novel, and much of the dialogue and events are interestingly ironic. But yet, what is more flagrant to the upheld Soviet atheism than the devil himself preaching that Christ did in fact live? For how can they deny religion when the devil is right in their face? Bulgakov is a funny genius. And now, finally, I return to the Pilate thread, which itself is teeming with irony. For in the Pilate chapters, the reader will find a story that is seemingly biblical shorn of all religious implications and instead illuminating political plots and an attempt at a historically plausible event (the Master was a historian, or so he says) while the biblical allusions and quotations are found within the Moscow chapters instead. The ‘Satan’s Grand Ball’, of all places, has the most frequent biblical quotes and allusions. In a way, Pilate’s world is not unlike Bulgakov’s Moscow, full of dirty politics and persecution. On the other hand, the modern Moscow, which denies religion is full of religious symbolism (the 12 members seated at the MASSOLIT table, the severed head on a plate, etc).

Each sentence of this book is a joy. The writing simply flows and is incredibly comical, plus the characters are very lovable. Woland’s demonic procession are highly entertaining and the reader will be compelled to keep reading just to see what chaos can be stirred by them as they flood the city. The Master, whom is a hero to all repressed authors, and his lovely Margarita are the gems within this story however. Although they lend their names to this novels title, these two lovers make up a very small portion to the story, and aren’t even relevant until part 2 when the book finds a groove and takes off like a cannon shot after wandering along the streets of Moscow for the first hundred and some odd pages. Always aware of his literary predecessors, Bulgakov leaves constant ‘scholarly jokes’ (as the translators put it) and allusions for a reader with an eye for Russian novels to discover. Anyone who is as enamored with the prose of Nikolai Gogol as I am should definitely read this novel. Gogol is apparently a large hero of Bulgakov’s and he makes several allusions as well as stylistic choices fashioned off this master of absurdity.

There are many different translations of this book, I myself chose the Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O’Connor version published by Vintage (because really, you can’t go wrong with Vintage usually, not always but usually) because it offered a full version of the text and included many very helpful and insightful notes that really helped highlight the social context and the more apocryphal references. Nate has a wonderful review that highlights the differences between the many translations and was very helpful in my choosing of this text. As I cannot read it as intended in it’s original language, I felt this was at least ‘second-grade fresh’.

I cannot stress more how incredible this book is. It is just an all-around good time and a marvelous example of magical-realism used to its highest capacity. Despite it’s often dark and macabre nature, it is uplifting and laugh out loud funny. Plus, the ending is a kick to the head. I read much of this through the subways of Boston recently while on a much-needed and exceptional vacation, and, like Pilate and his crucified friend, the memory of both have become one. Bulgakov’s masterpiece has survived censorship and translation to make it to you, don’t pass it by!

Gods, my gods! How sad the earth is at eventide! How mysterious are the mists over the swamps. Anyone who has wandered in these mists, who has suffered a great deal before death, or flown above the earth, bearing a burden beyond his strength knows this. Someone who is exhausted knows this. And without regret he forsakes the mists of the earth, its swamps, its rivers, and sinks into the arms of death with a light heart, knowing that death alone…
Seriously. How incredible is that?
Profile Image for emma.
1,869 reviews54.6k followers
April 3, 2023

another excellent title + month pun, another paragon of literature added to my currently reading at the beginning of the month...you know what that means. IT'S ANOTHER PROJECT LONG CLASSIC INSTALLMENT (in which i read long classics segmented into smaller chunks over the course of a month to make them manageable). and this one is ordained from the heavens.

my friend asked me if i had ever read this book as we stood in the middle of a three-story barnes & noble and i said no and we looked down to see the one (1) copy left in the entire store.

so if i don't like it, i will be betraying not only my friend, but the universe itself.

let's get into it.

oh how i love when chapters have titles.

this book has 32 chapters, so it doesn't work PERFECTLY, but i'm incredibly brave and dedicated and it's pretty close, so. onward at roughly 1 chapter per day.

immediately this is so cool.

a fairly long and extremely jesus prequel-y second chapter is a damn bold move.

i see why people DNF this.



not as climactic as the title and the immediately preceding events and the overall vibe would make it seem.

for those moments when the plot has really kicked off and things are shocking and violent and high-stakes and you're like, "i wish i could be reading lengthy descriptions about restaurants and the group of writers that meet there right now."

i feel prepared to say i have no idea what's going on.

this certainly didn't bring any enlightenment.

this was the most logical chapter yet. and it took place in an insane asylum.

out of the insane asylum and into the insanity.

folks, i don't know how to tell you this, but...we are 5 days behind. sometimes procrastinating a project you completely made up and assigned yourself feels a lot like self-care.

let's be clear that there is nothing i would rather read about than a friend group involving a dark magic practicer, his weird annoying sidekick, and a cat. but can i not read about their trials and tribulations instead of alternating members of the russian public's reactions to them...

i mean, this HAS to be good.
the real magic trick was me predicting this would be fun from title alone!!

no heroes, please...i'd like to spend some more time with our bad guys...
ah. the titular MASTER.

i mean...come on. it's too easy.

i cannot for the life of me remember these russian-ass names. can you blame me? everyone's name has 11 consonants and 8 of them are Vs.

pontius again...i'm at a loss.

now this is the kind of nonsense i can get behind. this is just magic and tomfoolery. i feel comfortable here.

i still don't know what's going on but someone just hit someone else over the head with a roast chicken. so i have no complaints, really. how could i when literary genius is unfolding before me.

we're caught up AND we've checked both of our titular boxes. what a day.

this chapter is dedicated in its entirety to describing the power of a nice lotion.

sometimes, as a woman, you have to run out of your house naked, become a witch, turn invisible, and start smashing windows. it happens to all of us.

very cool to go to the devil's house and mainly be like, "oh sick, his chessboard has animated pieces." très stoic.

the absolute must-attend event of the season.

well. here they are. the titular duo, in the flesh, hanging out at the devil's house. and still i have no idea what this book is about.

oh my god. more pontius.

please, no...not more pontius...not more pontius in a long chapter on a day i don't feel like reading this...take mercy...

i'm sick today and i'm making it absolutely everyone else's problem, so...all i can say is that if this chapter so much as alludes to jesus christ's lifetime, mikhail bulgakov should live in posthumous fear.

oh my god.

well, it happened. i finally got too tired of this book to go on and took a days-long break that included the entire end of march. happy april. let's finish this.

hard to imagine a scenario in which i spend as much time, as many pages, and as significant a portion of my mental health on two characters and care this little about their "fate."

crossing my fingers that the time in question is "time for this book to be fun again."
...i don't want to jinx anything, but...

the nicest thing i can say about this one is that it's like two pages long.

i am like pavlov's dog, except instead of drooling i experience unfettered rage and instead of a bell ringing it's this f*cking book talking about pontius f*cking pilate again.

thank god.

there was a lot going for this book. talking cats. tomfoolery. dark magic. big parties. annoying people eating dinner. institutes for the mentally insane. decapitation. a woman becoming a witch. the devil himself.

but unfortunately none of it was enough to save itself from what was either a terrible, unforgivable translation (which, thanks to the unheeded warnings in the comments, i'm leaning towards) or a propensity to total nonsense.

for the first time in this project's somewhat considerable history, i did not have fun. what a bummer.
rating: 2.5
Profile Image for Jason.
137 reviews2,348 followers
September 25, 2012
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? There are articles in the Journal of Biological Chemistry that have more successfully held my attention than this Bulgakovian bore. (Exhibit A)

To start, the characterization in this book is near zero. Although there is a point where some barely discernable personality traits become apparent in one or two of the characters, by the time the reader makes it this far the show is nearly over. And if by curtain call the reader discovers Woland and his retinue to be even remotely interesting, it is not because of careful character construction. It’s more like the end of a really stuffy dinner party when you begin making your parting rounds. The thrill is in the palpability of finally being free of these people. Toodle-oo!

And what is the author’s intent here, to single out the literary bureaucrats and the nouveaux riche? If so, the demographic is not effectively targeted. The Faustian demon who comes to wreak havoc across Moscow does so seemingly at random, with little adherence to agenda. Bartenders, ticket sellers, poets, little old ladies—they are all ambushed. It is clear someone needs to take a lesson from Omar Little, who “ain’t never put no gun on no citizen.”

Whatever. I’m tired of even writing about this book. Before we part, though, I’ll leave you with several examples of yet another unworthy aspect of this novel: its ridiculous sentences. Here are some of my favorites.
To tell the truth, it took Arkady Apollonovich not a second, not a minute, but a quarter of a minute to get to the phone.
I ask this question in complete earnestness: is this supposed to be funny? I have absolutely no idea.
Quite naturally there was speculation that he had escaped abroad, but he never showed up there either.
The bartender drew his head into his shoulders, so that it would become obvious that he was a poor man.
Yeah, I give. I don’t even pretend to understand what this means. Anyhoo, hey—it’s been a pleasure meeting you all; we should do this again soon. Toodle-oo!
Profile Image for Ilse (away until November).
475 reviews3,124 followers
February 10, 2017
Love leaped out in front of us like a murderer in an alley leaping out of nowhere, and struck us both at once. As lightning strikes, as a Finnish knife strikes! She, by the way, insisted afterwards that it wasn’t so, that we had, of course, loved each other for a long, long time, without knowing each other, never having seen each other…

I experienced this magical novel as an unrivalled ode to love and reveled in its delectable burlesque and hilarious scenes. It knocked me off my feet and pointed me to read Goethe’s Faust.


Somewhere around 1930, the devil and his cronies descend on Moscow, putting the entire city on edge by their diabolical humor and ditto magic tricks. The authorities can only look on, powerless. Before the arrival of the devil, a “Master” wrote a novel about Pontius Pilate (this serene novel within the novel is entirely integrated in the story), which was dismissed by the regime, therefore sending the Master into a mental asylum. Margarita, the Master’s clandestine lover, makes a pact with the devil to save her companion writer. If she agrees to act as a hostess at the witches' Sabbath of the devil- naked - the devil will free her master, and Margarita and her Master will be together for all eternity and live happily ever after.

By far one of the most brilliant novels I have ever read, these insipid sentences were all I was capable of writing about this astounding and greatly allegorical novel when I got a few lines in a free newspaper 10 years ago in order to promote reading, and specifically to lure ((hence the revealing of Margarita’s nakedness) readers into reading what has been thematized by the paper as former cult books - now The Master and Margarita is strongly established amongst the greatest Russian novels of the twentieth century. My copy has been residing with friends for 11 years now, and noticing write-ups on it popping up this forum almost every day, I am craving to revisit it.

(Paintings by Danila Zhirov)
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,466 reviews3,627 followers
September 30, 2022
There was something devilish and demonic in the time itself so the devil with his demons descended unto the capital city.
First of all, the man described did not limp on any leg, and was neither short nor enormous, but simply tall. As for his teeth, he had platinum crowns on the left side and gold on the right. He was wearing an expensive grey suit and imported shoes of a matching colour. His grey beret was cocked rakishly over one ear; under his arm he carried a stick with a black knob shaped like a poodle’s head. He looked to be a little over forty. Mouth somehow twisted. Clean-shaven. Dark-haired. Right eye black, left – for some reason – green. Dark eyebrows, but one higher than the other. In short, a foreigner.

But in the time of evil even the doings of Satan seem to turn into the rather good deeds. The tale is eternal and the story of Faust, Gretchen and Mephistopheles repeats over and over again, all the way through the ages. In the grotesque Soviet times the tale becomes especially grotesque and fabulous…
Follow me, reader! Who told you that there is no true, faithful, eternal love in this world! May the liar’s vile tongue be cut out!
Follow me, my reader, and me alone, and I will show you such a love!
No! The master was mistaken when with bitterness he told Ivanushka in the hospital, at that hour when the night was falling past midnight, that she had forgotten him. That could not be. She had, of course, not forgotten him.
First of all let us reveal the secret which the master did not wish to reveal to Ivanushka. His beloved’s name was Margarita Nikolaevna. Everything the master told the poor poet about her was the exact truth. He described his beloved correctly. She was beautiful and intelligent.

Love is pristine and ever since the serpent revealed it to Adam and Eve, Satan himself could do nothing against love.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,085 reviews68.4k followers
February 22, 2021
Soviet Ghost Stories

Stories, stories, all is stories: political stories, religious stories, scientific stories, even stories about stories. We live inside these stories. Like this one in The Master and Margarita. The story that we can more or less agree upon we call reality. But is it real?

Story-making and telling is what we do as human beings. Through stories we create meaning out of thin air, in the same way that plants create their food from light, and usually with about the same level of casual unconsciousness. We then learn to share meaning and thereby create language and societies. We call this culture and have little idea what it means or how it works.

What happens when stories, particularly stories about stories, are inhibited or forbidden? The most important result: society goes mad. And that part of society which becomes most mad is that of the professional story-tellers who, because they are the carriers of the essential human and cultural talent, become less than human. They are unable to tell the stories needed by the rest of us and enter a dream-like state of inexplicability and meaninglessness.

The Master and Margarita is obviously a satire, a purposeful distortion of language to demonstrate its corrupt use. It is also obviously meant to recall the necessity for religious stories in a society that has degraded and mocked them. But for me the book is less about the corruption of Soviet society and its attitude toward the Christian religion and more about the even more fundamental beliefs that are the unspoken tenets of story-telling, that is to say, the philosophy of literature.

In an important sense, literature is indistinguishable from religion. Religion cannot exist without it; but it is likely that literature could exist without religion. Literature precedes religion. Bulgakov notices this in his story of Christ before Pilate.
“These good people,” the prisoner began, hastily added “Hegemon” and continued: “learnt nothing and muddled up all I said. In general, I’m beginning to worry that this muddle will continue for a very long time. And all because he records what I say incorrectly.”
This is a direct attack on the ‘veracity’ of the gospel of Matthew. Bulgakov here implicitly contrasts religion against literature in his expanded and reinterpreted version of the biblical story of Jesus's condemnation and death; and he comes down decisively for literature as the more fundamental mode of thinking. The only thing beyond a text is... another text.

This is not to say that literature should cause trouble for religion. The use of language is itself a religious experience even when it is used to parody religion as in Bulgakov's Communion of Sinners Ball and demonic Eucharist. Literature, consequently, exists as a spiritual (and social) rather than a material (and merely sensory) process. Materialism, of a Marxist, Capitalist, Scientific or any other sort, tells a story that cannot account for where its story comes from. Its causes cannot be enumerated and accounted for. Such a story is deficient and incomplete.

Stories do not appear to be 'in nature' but they do comment upon nature. It is not inaccurate to say that they come from 'elsewhere.' And it is this elsewhere that is both the source and guarantor of the integrity of the stories that get told. Without the existence of this infinitely fecund elsewhere, the realm of the spirit, there is no way to verify the stories we tell ourselves. As Bulgakov has a psychiatrist point out to one writer, "People can go around telling all sorts of stories! But you don’t have to believe everything!”

It is this spiritual elsewhere that Bulgakov has intruding on and disrupting Russian civil society. In time-honoured fashion, the intruders are portrayed as devils who are able to exploit the presumptuous conceits of this society, especially those of the literary elite of the MASSOLIT, the state-run literary guild. It is the writers who sense this intrusion first and it is they who are quite properly driven mad - or to their death - by it.

Bulgakov's demonic characters are up-front in their challenge to cultural reality. They make a reductio ad absurdum by denying the reality of language and the society and the culture associated with it. "The seductive mystics lie, there are no Caribbean Seas on earth, and desperate filibusters do not sail them, and a corvette does not give chase, and cannon smoke does not spread above the waves. There is nothing, and never was there anything either!" This challenge of course passes over the heads of the Soviet Citizenry.

From the writers, the plague induced by constrained and distorted story-telling spreads to minor government officials. The local housing officer is the first casualty and he instinctively recognises the problem, "Comrades!... We’ve got unclean spirits in our building!” And he's right: the spiritual cannot be excluded, only deformed, by telling a story that denies the spirit. Such denial is patently a confirmation of what is being denied.

It is through entertainment, 1930's stage vaudeville, that the condition is spread through the wider population. The presumably hidden or at least repressed culture of Soviet consumer society is shown for what it is - impressed as deeply as in any capitalist society by the linguistic distortions of brand names and wealth without purpose. The 'watching mass' has no idea that it is being shown itself, literally exposed, in all its mendacious cupidity.

Even love, ultimately the cohesive force of marriage and family as well as society, is a product of language. It appears from that spiritual elsewhere, "as a murderer leaps out from under the ground in a side street” for the Master. Love may start with a look but it doesn’t progress beyond fantasy unless the look is the beginning of a shared story, interpreted by Margarita as an eternally fated event. The object that keeps them together while apart is of course the manuscript of the Master's book, an alternative gospel.

If the medieval troubadours are not enough evidence of the cultural determination of the meaning of love, surely the varieties of love articulated in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, and accepted by generations since, clinch the case. Any society that attempts to limit what love, in all its variants, might mean is doomed by its own contradictions; and not just the Soviet variety. But it is Bulgakov’s conception of divine love that I find the most disturbing aspect of the piece.

Any theologically aware person must at some point confront the problem of evil. Evil demands a story. The monotheistic religions subscribe to the story line that not only the Creator but his creation are ‘good.’ How then does the obvious evil in the world come about?

The existence of evil is typically explained with one of several largely inadequate theories: Evil is a spontaneous development of a rebellious force against the goodness of God and His works; Evil is not an autonomous force but merely the localised absence of the divine within creation; Evil is actually inherent in a world that was formed by a subsidiary god.

This last theory has a number of designations but is usually associated with the third century CE Persian Mani. So-called Manichaeism is the perennial thinking persons solution to the problem of evil since it accounts for the available facts of life without the need to invent a number of questionable metaphysical entities. It needs only one such beast - the flawed demiurge, a satanic figure who made a few mistakes in the way he shaped the cosmos and we have been dealing with the consequences ever since.

It becomes apparent in The Master and Margarita that Bulgakov rejects all the classical theological explanations for evil, especially Manichaeism. But the resulting theology is not easy to digest. He suggests that what appears as evil, the work of Satan in the world, is in fact the disguised work of God. Bulgakov's contemporary, Carl Jung, termed this the Shadow and conceived it as an integral part of the divine. In The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov echoes Jung exactly in Satan's criticism of the evangelist Matthew:
"Would you be so kind as to give a little thought to the question of what your good would be doing if evil did not exist, and how the earth would look if the shadows were to disappear from it? After all, shadows come from objects and people."

In other words: God is Satan; Satan is God. And God/Satan cannot be avoided or escaped. Even within evil, God is present. He is present among the atrocious evil-doers of his demonic ball; among the crass bureaucrats and proletarian graspers in the audience of the Black Magician; among the scammers and players of the system who try to get one-up on their fellow citizens; in Pilate and in Judas. And presumably God is present and active therefore within and through Soviet society despite official protestations to the contrary. (The idea of Soviet Moscow as Paradise Lost is perhaps the greatest irony/truth that Bulgakov expresses in the book)

Of course Bulgakov does not make a theological argument. He tells a story. But in this story Satan as well as his devoted angels transform suddenly into their opposites, caring agents of human well-being; then into clownish Loki or Coyote trinitarian figures whose function is to play the fool with social institutions. There is no logic that can capture this divine turnaround from evil to love and play. But there is a narrative in which it can be described, and, on the basis of that description, be believed.

Bulgakov’s technique, as well as the substance of his story, is not very different from, for example, the story of Exodus in which the God of Israel both allows the imprisonment of his people and then saves them from the situation he allowed to happen. The story also presents an alternative account of creation itself - as a text produced and protected by Adam and Eve, a couple which is bound together by it. Going beyond biblical bounds, religion itself is accounted for by the Master, the new Adam:
"Of course, when people have been completely pillaged, like you and me, they seek salvation from a preternatural force!"
And he is immediately corrected by Margarita, the new Eve with eminent practicality, "Preternatural or not preternatural –isn’t it all the same? I’m hungry.”

The theme, almost a running joke, is clear: The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord. The situation is dire but not hopeless. Exile from the Garden means freedom as well as toil. This is a theme that demands great faith to assert. More than I have had at times certainly.
Profile Image for Agir(آگِر).
437 reviews509 followers
June 2, 2016
مزخرف یعنی این: از لحاظ تازگی درجه دو
تازگی تنها یک درجه دارد؛ درجه اول و آخرش یکی است

این کتاب نمایشی است از تقابل راستی و دروغ در جامعه روسیه استالین

جامعه روسیه را دروغ و دزدی و تظاهر فرا گرفته و روشنفکران و منتقدان و نویسندگان هم به این کار دامن می زنند
از آنان بیشتر از این انتظاری نمی توان داشت
با حقوق و مزایای زیادی که از دولت می گیرند و خانه گاریبایدوف(محل کلوب
...نویسندگان وابسته به دولت) با آن غذاهای اعلا و ارزان، برنده شدن آپارتمان و

به قول دو زیردست ابلیس، این نویسندگان مانند آناناس در گرمخانه هستند
آیا امکان دارد نویسنده آینده کتابهایی مثل "دون کیشوت" و "فاوست" در زیر سقف خانه گاریبایدوف باشد!؟

و جالب اینکه وقتی ابلیس وارد این جامعه می شود مجبور می شود از حقیقت تقریبا مسلم وجود داشتن مسیح در برابر روشنفکران دفاع کند

و بعد ابلیس نمایشی محشر برگزار می کند
ابلیس در صحنه نمایش به مردم پول و لباس های زیبا و بظاهر واقعی می دهد و بعد که آنها واریته را ترک کردند و وارد خیابان شدند لباسشان غیب می شود و نیمه لخت می گردند. پول ها هم به چیزهای دیگری تبدیل می شود
این نمایش پر از کنایه و استعاره است
و این کنایه از وعده هایی رویایی است که توسط دولت و نویسندگان و ... به خورد مردم داده می شود ولی همه آنها دروغی بیش نیستند

حرف بولگاکف با دو طبقه اجتماعی است: روشنفکران و مردم عادی

وی می خواهد به روشنفکران و نویسندگان یاد بدهد که حقیقت مهمترین چیز است
:نتیجه را این چنین بیان کرد
شاعر عاقبت به این حقیقت رسید که شعرهایش بی ارزشند چون به هیچکدامشان باور نداشته است و در نتیجه هیچگاه مانند پوشکین مشهور نخواهند شد

!بعد از نقد طبقه روشنفکران به سراغ مردمی می رود که فک می کنند خوش بخت اند

همسرانی که نمی دانند شوهرشان خیانت می کنند
و مردمی که نمی توانند ماهی و اغذیه اعلا بخرند
در فروشگاهی به پیرمردی خارجی بر می خوریم که ثروتمندتر از بقیه است وهمراهش کلی دلار یعنی ارز خارجی دارد. همچنین نمی تواند براحتی به زبان روسی حرف بزند ولی وقتی
!!!در خطر می افتد می بینم که به روسی فصیح درخواست کمک می کند
داشتن ارز در روسیه زندان دارد و ولی برای بعضی ها نه
و پیرمرد ادای خارجی ها را در می آورد تا مردم عادی چیزی نفهمند که چرا وی پولدار است و آنها نه!؟

:کمی در مورد داستان

مرشد مردی است که داستانی در مورد مسیح نوشته و می بیند منتقدان معروف نه براساس صداقت بلکه با ریا به داستانش حمله کرده اند
این باعث می شود کارش به اندوه و جنون بکشد
اما در زندگی او که بی شباهت به مسیح نیست، منجی دیگری وجود دارد: یک زن

و بولگاکف هم مانند ساراماگو در "کوری"، تنها راه نجات را در وجود زنی شجاع و فداکار می بیند
..زنی که برای بدست آوردن عشقش، حاضر است به مهمانی ابلیس برود
و یادمان نرود که ترس بزرگترین گناه است

:تخیل و خلاقیت نویسنده

فضای سوررئال این کتاب فوق العاده لذت بخشه
بولگاکف در هر صحنه ای چیزی خلق می کنه که آدم انگشت به دهان می مونه
در یک کلام، محشرررره


نوشتن کتاب 12 سال طول کشیده و این خود نشان می دهد که بولگاکف وسواس زیادی بخرج داده تا کتابش اجازه چاپ بگیرد. شاید به همین خاطر است که کتاب پر از تلمیح و استعاره و کنایه است
اما باز کتاب اجازه چاپ پیدا نکرده و بعد مرگش وقتی قسمتی از آن سانسور شد چاپ گردید

برای درک بیشتر کتاب و کنایه های آن، باید شناخت بیشتری از جامعه آن زمان روسیه داشت، که متاسفانه چیزهای زیادی از آن نمی دانم و جاهایی برام بصورت سوال باقی ماند

قسمتی از کتاب چیشتی مجیور را که «ماموستا هه ژار» برای درمان بیماری اش به شوروی رفته
:بود را در اینجا می آورم که برای من بسی تعجب برانگیز بود

جداي از سياستمداران، مردم عادي كاري به سياست ندارند و تصور مي‌كنند سعادت تنها در شوروي و زندگي كردن در آن است. از نگاه آنها مردم در ساير كشورها تحت تأثير نظام سرمايه‌داري، از زندگي انساني به دور و با كمترين بهانه‌ اي مجازات مي‌شوند

از من پرسيدند: تو كارگري؟
ـ نخير مغازه‌ اي شخصي دارم

ـ چند كارگر زير دست تو كار مي‌كنند؟
ـ هيچ، تنها هستم

ـ باور نمي‌ كنیم. چقدر درآمد داري؟
ـ به اندازه‌ي معاش روزانه

ـ چه دروغ بزرگي؟

يك روز در باغچه‌ي آسايشگاه، زني که پزشك كودكان بود، تكه گیاهي سبز از زمين كند
: و گفت
ـ در عراق چنين چيزهايي داريد؟
ـ نه، آنجا نظام سرمايه داري است و گياهان سبز نمي‌شوند

ـ واقعاً‌ ما در بهشت هستيم. اين همه گياه را مي‌بيني

فتحي (دوست تبریزی هه ژار) به فارسی گفت چرا واقعيت را به او نمي‌ گويي؟
...ـ بگذار با همين روياي خوش سر کند

اگر چه در ماركسيسم دين جايي ندارد، اما تعجب مي‌ كردم وقتي مي‌ديدم يك دين مستقل ظهور كرده و آن لنين پرستي است. روزها و شب‌ ها هزاران نفر به زيارت جسد موميايي او در گور شيشه‌ اي مي‌ آمدند. در هيچ كشور مسلماني به بزرگان دين، آنقدر اهميت داده نشده است. هنگامي كه درس‌ هاي كتب ابتدايي روسي را مي‌ خواندم به بسياري از فرمايشات لنين بر مي‌ خوردم. بسياري از آنها را از بر كرده بودم چون عيناً ترجمه‌ ي جملات پيغمبر اسلام از زبان لنين فقيد بود

Profile Image for فؤاد.
1,066 reviews1,759 followers
August 9, 2019
چگونه می‌توان عاشق ولند نبود؟ چگونه می‌توان آرزویش را نکرد؟ شیطانی که با دستیارهایش جهان را از پاشنه در می‌کند تا حق گردن کلفت‌ها را بگذارد کف دست‌شان، گردن بزرگ‌ترین‌هاشان را به یک اشاره خرد کند، با شعبده‌هایش به ریش‌شان بخندد و این چهره‌های متشخص و جا افتاده را روانۀ تیمارستان کند، و از طرف دیگر، زیر پا له‌شده‌ها را، بی‌منزلت‌ترین‌ها را، دیوانه‌های تیمارستانی را، مطرودان و محرومان همیشگی را غرق پاک‌ترین و کودکانه‌ترین رؤیاهاشان کند، و همراه خود پروازکنان از نزد مردمان فرومایه ببردشان، ببردشان، ببردشان تا ابرها، تا ماه، تا خود ستاره‌ها، تا جایی که بوی عفن این جهان دیگر مشام‌شان را آزار ندهد.

یک شب مهتابی، باز به "والس پروانه‌ها" گوش دادم و بد جوری دلم هوای ولند را کرد، یادم افتاد چقدر جایش در جهان واقعیت‌های نفرت‌انگیز خالی است. چقدر جهان بدون حضور او بی معنا و بی رنگ است.
بعد، در این دلتنگی، این‌ها را نوشتم.
May 15, 2020
«Sympathy for the Devil»

His name is God. Not Lucifer,not Satan,but God!!!
Satan is God in a bad mood. God in a bad mood lays our souls to waste.
«As heads is tales
Just call me LUCIFER
cop is to criminal as God is to Lucifer».

God in a good mood plays games with us.
«What’s confusing you is just THE NATURE OF MY GAME»

«This song has a direct tie to the book, "the Master and the Margarita", is about all the history & tragedies with points throughout time. The man he is describing is the devil.The devil is asking for sympathy because he claims the reason he is not to blame is because the devil does not make you do anything. He simply sets the stage, which is the nature of his game. Look up those points in time. You should know most of them from history». Someone said.

His name --> the devil --> humanity.

A masterful song for a masterpiece...

«Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul to waste

[[[[[[[And I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate]]]]]]]]]

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

[{I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain}]

I rode a tank
Held a general's rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
Ah, what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made

Let me please introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name
(Who who)
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, get down, baby

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name
But what's confusing you
Is just the nature of my game


[{Cause I'm in need of some restraint
So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste}]

Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name
But what's puzzling you
IS THE NATURE OF MY GAME mean it, get down

Tell me baby, what's my name
Tell me honey, can you guess my name
Tell me baby, what's my name
[[[[[ tell you one time, YOU ARE TO BLAME ]]]]]

Ο συγγραφέας μας καλεί σε ένα ταξίδι χωρίς όρια.
Μια τρελή περιπέτεια και η απόλυτη ερωτική ιστορία.
Πρωταγωνιστές και συνοδοιπόροι μας ο Διάβολος και ο Χριστός.
Καταρρίπτουμε τα δεδομένα,τα χρηστά,τα χρονικά σύνορα,τα απλά. Μπαίνουμε στο μύθο του Φάουστ,αλλάζουμε τα Ευαγγέλια,κάνουμε μυστικιστικές αναζητήσεις,ενώνουμε τη φαντασία με την σοβαρότητα, εξομοιώνουμε το ρεαλισμό με τον τρυφερό λυρισμό και απο τα βάθη της μεσαιωνικής μαγείας μέχρι τη Σταλινική Μόσχα ζούμε τον διαβολικά παράφορο έρωτα του Μαίτρ και της Μαργαρίτας.

Κοιταζόμαστε στον καθρέφτη βλέποντας τα πάθη και τις αμαρτίες μας. Μαθαίνουμε ακράδαντα να πιστεύουμε πως το μεγαλύτερο αμάρτημα για τον καλό και τον κακό Θεό είναι μόνο η ΔΕΙΛΙΑ.
Αυτή τιμωρεί και τιμωρείται. Αυτή γεννάει την αιώνια δυστυχία της ανθρώπινης ύπαρξης. Ο φόβος και η δειλία είναι τα συστατικά για την πλήρη ανυπαρξία.

Παίζουμε σε ένα δαιμονικό παιχνίδι με τους ανθρώπους και τους διαβόλους.
Ο Σατανάς μαζί μας,δίπλα μας έχει εντολή απο το θεό να παίξει μαζί μας να μας προκαλέσει,να μας δείξει αλήθειες.
Στη Μόσχα,στη Ναζαρέτ,στην Καινή διαθήκη,στη συνείδηση μας,στην πουλημένη ή κατεστραμμένη ψυχή μας βρίσκονται αιώνες επαναλήψεων ιστορικών,κοινωνικών,ατομικών μυθικών ρεαλισμών.

Κάναμε περίπατο με τον Πόντιο Πιλάτο και τον Χα Νοτσρί. Ο Ιησούς τραγούδησε. Συνομιλήσαμε για πολλά με έναν γάτο και έναν κακάσχημο δαίμονα. Τα πλήθη ξετρελαμένα σε ομαδική παράκρουση τραγουδούσαν ασταμάτητα.
Ο Σατανάς πάντα δίπλα μας έκανε χρέη οικοδεσπότη και μεταφραστή.
Ταξιδεύουμε πάντα με γεμάτη Σελήνη.
Ποζάρουμε ως τέρατα χαμογελώντας στον καθρέφτη της ζωής.
Μπροστά μας πάντα η Μαργαρίτα,ολόγυμνη και ευτυχισμένη σέρνει το χορό στην τελετή του διαβόλου και μας καθοδηγεί.

Η επιλογή κατεύθυνσης πάντα δική μας ευθύνη.
Κύριο χαρακτηριστικό μας η ελεύθερη βούληση.
Βασικό μειονέκτημα η θνητότητα μας που ίσως θεραπεύεται μόνο με πάθη και αμαρτίες.

Μια δοκιμή ή περισσότερες θα μας πείσουν.

Καλή ανάγνωση.
Πολλούς διαβολικούς ασπασμούς.
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
469 reviews3,255 followers
July 3, 2023
A poet "Homeless" as he calls himself, and a magazine editor his gruff boss, Berlioz, are having a conversation in a quiet, nondescript Moscow park before the start of the Second World War. Drinking, just harmless sodas and discussing business, ordinary right? That's the last time in this novel it is. An apparition appears in the sky, weird and unbelievable, a frightening seven foot transparent man is seen floating above their heads, but only Berlioz spots it, he's obviously the editor, a very sick man... Later a foreign, debonair stranger joins them on the next bench, they will start an uncomfortable, lively, rather dangerous conversation about Jesus ( in the days of Stalinist Russia ), if he really existed. The newcomer, a self -described black magic expert tells the others, he saw Pontius Pilate and Jesus personally ! Naturally his startled companions look at him with a little disbelief, the two close friends think Professor Woland ( the name is discovered afterwards) must be a spy or crazy, either way authorities should be contacted immediately. Tragic results follow soon after, a wild, long, thrilling, death defying chase through many city streets ensues, strangest of all a giant black Tom cat , who walks on two legs and tries to get on a streetcar, but the heartless conductor says no cats, refuses entry. But Behemoth the big cat's name, does manage to get on the streetcar, they're very intelligent resourceful, demanding animals. What the devil is going on ? The charismatic professor and his talented entourage, give the best magic show on stage, ever seen in Moscow by an astounded audience, it's so spectacular, incomprehensible and not explainable that all the city wants to go also . Still ticket lines are numerous blocks in length, and growing too bad you missed it! Meanwhile a married woman Margarita, having an affair with an obscure, poor author writing a novel, she calls him "Master" you guessed right , the book is about the Roman Governor of Judaea Pontius Pilate. Mirroring Bulgakov's life the manuscript is banned... Countless, funny adventures follow involving soaring humans flying without a vehicle, the joys and terrors looking down you can imagine, and the destruction of fragile property everywhere... men disappear, creepy events happening all around the vast city and in the countryside.... The highlight is Satan's loathsome Ball, presided over by the stunned Margarita, as the incredibly reluctant Queen, attended mostly by the dead... eerie, bizarre and grotesque to say the least. A dream like, unworldly, vague, melancholic atmosphere permeates. Flamboyant, imaginative fable, a real classic.
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,101 reviews7,199 followers
April 7, 2023
[Revised, pictures added 4/6/23]

More or less a novel, this book is also an allegory. Like Moby Dick, there are probably a dozen interpretations that can be given to it. The extensive local color comes from Moscow in the early Twentieth Century. The author wrote and revised it from 1929 to 1940, the year he died. This is a major book: more than 300,000 rating and more than 17,000 reviews on GR.


The main plot centers around a crowd of Russian literati: authors, theater goers and hangers-on, particularly one older world-weary author (the Master) and his beautiful young woman friend (Margarita). The devil and his sidekicks come to town and a lot of evil doings ensue. (If this were a modern Latin American novel, we would call it magical realism.)

Interspersed with the Moscow chapters is a mini historical novel that the Master is writing about Pontius Pilate and his agony over his decisions leading to the Crucifixion. Given that the Soviet Union in this era was promoting atheism, closing churches and persecuting religious folks, the main thesis seems to be summed up as follows: "Surely the devil is real, and if so, there must be a God."

Like Dante in his Divine Comedy, the author uses his work to settle old scores with critics and censors.

I wouldn't say that it's a book that I couldn't put down, but the plot moves along and it kept my attention. One thing that struck me is that Moscow was "behind-the-times" apparently, and much of the plot felt like it was set in the late 1800's. But then a phone would ring or someone would arrive by plane and it jarred me back to the proper era.


The author (1891-1940) was born in Kyiv, then Russia, now Ukraine. Of course he ran afoul of Russian censors during Stalin’s era and his books and plays were banned.

Top image from Master and Margarita site on facebook.com
The author from Goodreads

Profile Image for فايز غازي Fayez Ghazi .
Author 2 books3,911 followers
September 3, 2023
- أهلاً بكم الى ملحمة بولغاكوف، قمة عطائه الأدبي وأفضل اعماله، والمرحلة الأخيرة من نتاج عقله وقلبه متحدين.. الملحمة ذات الأبعاد الثلاثية (كما وجدتها)، والتي قدّم بولغاكوف فيها قراءة دينية جديدة، وسياسية واقعية، وغيبية مستقبلية رافعاً الأدب والأديب من مساره الإنساني البحت الى مراتب اخرى وفاتحاً لجدلٍ قد لا يروق للمتدينين ابداً!!

- البعد الأول، السياسة: يصوب بولغاكوف بندقيته الى النظام الماركسي الحاكم، بدءاً من الإلحاد الى الشك بالأجنبي (على انه عميل)، الى مجموعة الأدباء والشعراء الأغبياء والعقيمين (ماسوليت) الذين ترعاهم الدولة! الى الجهل المطبق في موسكو وعطش الناس للمال (مشهد العرض في المسرح)، الى الرشوة والتضليل ويكلل كل ذلك بالأعمال الأمنية التي كانت تجري في حينها في ظل ستالين (سنعود لستالين بعد قليل).

- البعد الثاني، الدين: يصوب بولغاكوف هنا مدفعاً على المعتقدات الدينية يبدأها عل�� لسان السيد المسيح "هؤلاء الناس الطيبون ليسوا متعلمين على الإطلاق وقد بلبلوا ما قلته. وعموماً بدأت اخشى ان تستمر هذه البلبلة وقتاً طويلاً جداً. وهذا كله لأنه يدون اقوالي بشكل خاطئ" والتدوين يعود ل "متى" وهذا النسف يستهدف انجيل متى، ويكمل على لسان الشيطان"ينبغي ان تعلم ان شيئاً مما هو مكتوب في الأناجيل لم يحدث في الواقع قط"، لكنه يبقي على صورة المسيح كالتجسيد المطلق للحق وهذا سأربطه بالنهاية بما سبق وما سيلي.

- البعد الثالث، الغيب: إذا صح التعبير، ففي الرحلة الأخيرة يحصد "عزازيلو" روحي المعلم ومارغريتا ويأخذهما في رحلة الى السكينة، الى البيت الأبدي ليشكلا معاً "آدم وحواء" جديدين ولينتصرا لفكرة الحب الأبدي، حاملين معهما انجيلهما الخاص الا وهو رواية المعلم نفسها عن بيلاطس النبطي!

- بنظرة شاملة ماذا فعل بولغاكوف في هذه الرواية؟ بولغاكوف اتى بشيطان الى موسكو، ومعه بعض الأتباع، عرّى المجتمع الستاليني واظهر سيئاته، عرّج على القصص الدينية وسخر منها، رابطاً الإلحاد والإيمان الأعمى بنفس الحبل اي الجهل. لكنه اعطى صفات رحيمة للشيطان، فهو لا يفتل عبثاً، وهو اكثر رحمة من الإنسان الحاكم (ستالين)، وهو على تواصل دائم مع الحق المطلق ( متّى يتواصل مع فولاند وينقل له رسائل السيد المسيح)، وهو لديه مسؤوليات معينة يقوم بها، ويذهب، وههنا ربط للعلاقة العضوية بين الخير والشر ووجوب وجود احداهما كيلا تنتفي الثانية! ومن هنا قد نستطيع فهم الهجوم الديني على الرواية بأنها تزين الدرب للشيطان وتهاجم الكنيسة!

بولغاكوف ايضاً يرفع من قيمة القصة، فيجعلها سابقة للدين (تدوينات الإنجيل) ويجعله قائماً عليها، فلا دين بلا قصة (او قصص بالمعنى الأصح)، لكنه يطوّر هذا النسق ويجعل من القصة كياناً قائماً مفصولاً عن الدين وغير مرتكز عليه (مرغريتا في غياب المعلم تقرأ القصة، وتزداد حباً) ومن ثم يعلي اكثر من شأنها حيث يأخذها المعلم الى داره الجديدة معه كإنجيله الجديد!

- في النهاية لا بد من الإشادة بالترجمة الراقية لهقال يوسف، الف تحية!
Profile Image for Kevin Ansbro.
Author 5 books1,476 followers
February 19, 2022
"The devil went down to Georgia Moscow, he was looking for a soul to steal."

Phew! I needed a margarita after finishing The Master and Margarita! What a magnificent, turbulent read!
This extravagant Russian allegory is an adult 'Alice in Wonderland' bursting at the seams with mischief, darkness and rambunctiousness. The ghosts of Faust and Dante must have sat on the author's shoulders as he worked tirelessly on this masterpiece.
In short, this book was made for me! Come down from the heavens, Mikhail Bulgakov, and give me a hug, my brother from another мамочка. I'm so glad we found each other!

The Devil and his motley crew breeze into 1930s Moscow and begin to wreak havoc by reading people's minds, decapitating citizens and throwing an astonishing stage show that scandalises the local glitterati. To give you some inkling of what we're dealing with here, one of Satan's sidekicks is a talking cat the size of a pig, who is always in the thick of things (Bulgakov was evidently writing magical realism before Gabriel García Márquez was even born). The humour is riotous and the badinage so hilarious that I was holding my ribs, kicking my legs and Cossack dancing around the room!

In tandem with all of this magic and mayhem (please bear with me, dear reader) is a travel back in time to the trial and eventual crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. These subplot scenes are written in a completely different hist-fic style and are amazingly cinematic. The author's juxtaposition of the supernatural and the real is a constant stratagem throughout.
It would take me all day to discuss the symbolism that underpins this incredible book, so I won't bore you with every detail. Suffice to say that Bulgakov sets out to satirise the Stalinist regime he was oppressed by (was Orwell's Animal Farm inspired by this novel?) and the Devil is on hand to mete out an extreme brand of either punishment or reward to whoever displeases or pleases him (human cowardice is what really gets his goat).
The underlying parable jumps about all over the place – and sometimes out of windows on a broomstick! Heck, there is even a Magritte-style talking suit! I'd be lying if I said I'd grasped the significance of all of the author's philosophical analogies, but I certainly had a lot of fun trying.

I loved this book; really loved it. And it's incredible to think that The Master and Margarita was fashioned in the 1920s. It was years ahead of its time and is like no other novel I've ever read.

Clearly, this book wouldn't be for everyone, but if you like your literature dark, magical, intellectual, thought-provoking and absurd, then you should find room for it on your shelves.

This was a buddy read with my wonderful magical realism friend, Kimber Silver.

Kimber's review
Profile Image for Luís.
1,945 reviews610 followers
March 19, 2023
In a Moscow public garden, a writer and a poet discuss religion: Did Jesus exist? While the writer tries to impose his vision of things on the poet, a third character suddenly appears as a movement of the air. He joins in the conversation of the two men, says to be a professor of black magic visiting Moscow for a series of consultations, and begins to tell a strange story about Pontius Pilate.
This stranger is, in fact, the Devil. It predicts the writer's death and his stay in the psychiatric hospital of the poet. However, when he leaves the public garden, Berlioz, the writer, dies precisely in the manner described by the Devil.
Begun in 1928 by Bulgakov, "The Master and Margarita" was not completed until 1940, shortly before the author's death. And it was not until 1966 that it was finally published in the USSR, cut by nearly 80 pages by censorship ...
Therefore, this magnificent novel had not immediately recognized for its actual value. And yet, what a masterpiece! A profusion of sets and characters, different plots from one chapter to another but invariably intertwined, makes this a magnificent fresco, colorful and still in motion, a bit like a crazy carousel, launched in endless and faster and faster turns.
There are three stories organized around the character of the Devil, who in Bulgakov's work is called Woland. First, we witness the drama in which the Devil's arrival and his troop plunge into Moscow. And what a drama! The Muscovite militia gives the impression of running in all directions to fight against the strange events which manifest themselves in the four corners of the city:
a) strange disappearances
b) theft of individual pieces of corpses
c) embezzlement
d) women walking around naked ( while Woland has just offered them dresses of great couturiers)
e) counterfeit money
The whole city is plunged into perplexity in front of the almost supernatural phenomena in Moscow, usually so peaceful.
Then we get to know the Master and his story, which forms the second story within the "Master and Margarita." Through the unfortunate Ivan, the poet gone mad and locked in a psychiatric establishment, we meet this famous Master. He is also a hospital resident and tells Ivan what made him angry. This Master is in love with Marguerite, a beautiful young woman who encouraged him to continue the novel he wrote when they met (because the Master is a writer) and deals with Pontius Pilate.
And this famous historical figure, the procurator of Judea at the time of Jesus' crucifixion, forms the third story of the novel. We are thus following in Pilate's footsteps from the moment he meets Jesus, thanks to Woland's account, which speaks of this historic moment to Berlioz and Ivan, and then to the Master's manuscript.
These three novels contain references and anecdotes about the USSR of Bulgakov's time. And the author is not kind to his country: more than once, he launches himself into hilarious scenes, which give the impression that he is trying to ridicule the established order. But, unfortunately, and fortunately for us, it is precisely this rather cruel humor of Bulgakov which, mixed with the many twists and turns of the story, make The Master and Margarita an absolute delight!
Profile Image for William2.
758 reviews3,076 followers
September 1, 2021
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 García Márquez 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 million people died, many succumbing to cannibalism, and the Moscow show trials so carefully dissected by Robert Conquest in his The Great Terror. But I was oblivious to any such subtext while reading this novel. What struck me was the lively picture it gives one of Moscow in the 1930s. The tenor of the city, its street life, not to mention the look of the place and the landscape surrounding it. The parks and public spaces. I had seen Moscow before in Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, but that was late 19th century Moscow, a provincial city parroting Parisian culture and language. I also remember--how can I forget?--the sinister Moscow of Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago. But here we have a Moscow bursting with life, with people enjoying their lives. Yet, it's also a Moscow that aspires to world dominance. It was that contradiction that was always foremost in my mind as I read. One wonders how Bulgakov did it? Turning out this fabulist masterpiece in the midst of such craziness, such instability. But all that aside the book is finally unlike anything I have ever read before. Description is really the book's strength: action and imagery. There's no plot to speak of. (You can look elsewhere in these reviews for a description of the storyline.) It's character driven. And it never flags. An absolutely astonishing book.

Sign near Patriarch Ponds, Moscow.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,194 reviews1,815 followers
January 5, 2023

È stata forse la prima lettura, o una delle prime, a svelarmi il potere immenso della letteratura, l’arte della parola.
Non che fino ad allora avessi letto piattume e banalità, tutt’altro: ma Il Maestro e Margherita apriva allargava sconfinava virava s’innalzava.

Marc Chagall: Sopra la città, 1918.

La magia che sembra vera, il Diavolo in persona, divertente e intelligente e dotato di spiccato senso della giustizia, la bella Margherita che possiede la magia di essere anche strega, talmente bella che poteva volare su Mosca a cavallo di una scopa senza essere scambiata per una befana, la micidiale ruota di tram, il sogno, il manicomio, il gatto nero che parla, Ponzio Pilato, il sipario in teatro…
I famigerati anni Trenta sovietici, le “purghe” di Stalin, che rendevano perfino luminosi gli anni di Ponzio Pilato, della dominazione romana della Palestina, della crocefissione del cristo…
Il gioco di incastri tipico di una matrioska… Uno su tutti: Bulgakov scrisse e riscrisse questo suo romanzo, dando alle fiamme almeno una prima stesura – nel romanzo il Diavolo Woland dice al Maestro la frase “Un manoscritto non brucia”.

Margherita e il Maestro: Mimsy Farmer e Ugo Tognazzi nel film di Aleksandar Petrovic del 1972.

E poi la storia stessa del libro, come dicevo prima, scritto e riscritto da Bulgakov più volte (e, per l’appunto, incluso fuoco a un primo manoscritto, che all’epoca era davvero scritto a mano), dodici anni di lavoro, fino alla morte, la terza e ultima moglie che ha seguito il parto letterario e lo completa postumo, la pubblicazione a quasi trent’anni dalla morte dell’autore, ma ovviamente incompleta e censurata, le prime edizioni integrali straniere, tra cui quella italiana… Come in un film di spionaggio.

Spizzichi e bocconi, soprattutto immagini e suggestioni sono rimaste nonostante il tempo sia passato. La bellezza di non essere certo di capire quello che stavo leggendo, ma comunque di trovarlo emozionante.

A Mosca, panchina dedicata al Maestro e Margherita.

“Se non ho sentito male, lei stava dicendo che Gesù non è mai esistito?” chiese cortesemente lo straniero. “No, non ha sentito male” disse Berlioz. “Ah, com’è interessante!, e, scusate se sono importuno, voi oltretutto non credete neppure in Dio? – fece gli occhi impauriti e aggiunse – giuro che non lo dirò a nessuno”. “Sì, noi non crediamo in Dio, siamo atei – rispose Berlioz sorridendo della paura del turista straniero – ma se ne può parlare con assoluta libertà”. A questo punto il forestiero si alzò e strinse la mano all’allibito direttore dicendo: “Permetta che la ringrazi di tutto cuore dell’informazione che per me, viaggiatore, è eccezionalmente interessante! – e lo straniero volse lo sguardo impaurito alle case attorno, quasi temesse di vedere un ateo ad ogni finestra – ma ecco il problema che mi turba: se Dio non esiste, allora, mi domando, cosa dirige la vita umana e in generale tutto l’ordine della terra?” “L’uomo stesso li dirige” si affrettò a rispondere Bezdomnyj irritato. “Chiedo scusa – replicò dolcemente lo sconosciuto – ma per dirigere bisogna per questo avere un piano preciso per un periodo di tempo almeno rispettabile. E come può dirigere l’uomo, se non soltanto gli manca la possibilità di fare un piano anche per un periodo di, poniamo mille anni, ma non può disporre neppure del proprio domani? Immagini che lei, ad esempio, cominci a dirigere, a disporre di sé e degli altri, insomma a prenderci gusto, quando improvvisamente le capita… eh… eh… un sarcoma al polmone – e lo straniero socchiuse gli occhi come un gatto – ed ecco che tutto il suo dirigere è finito! Nessun destino, a parte il suo, le interessa più. I parenti cominciano a mentirle mentre lei si precipita prima dagli specialisti, poi dai ciarlatani, se non addirittura dalle chiromanti. E alla fine, colui che s’immaginava di dirigere qualcosa si trova a giacere in una cassa di legno, e gli altri lo cremano in un forno. E capita anche di peggio! Uno ha appena deciso di andare in villeggiatura, un progetto da nulla, sembrerebbe, ma non può attuare nemmeno quello perché tutt’un tratto scivola e finisce sotto un tram!” disse lo sconosciuto strizzando l’occhio a Berlioz, che effettivamente aveva deciso di andare in villeggiatura.

E accadde una cosa mai vista. Il gatto rizzò il pelo e miagolò in maniera straziante. Poi si raggomitolò a palla e, come una pantera, saltò dritto sul petto di Bengalskij e di qui gli saltò sulla testa. Emettendo gorgoglii il gatto si afferrò con le zampe grassocce ai radi capelli del presentatore e urlando selvaggiamente, con due giri, strappò quella testa con tutto il collo. Duemila e cinquecento persone nel teatro urlarono all’unisono. Il sangue sprizzò a fontanella dalle arterie lacerate del collo verso l’alto e si riversò sullo sparato e sul frac. Il corpo senza testa assurdamente incespicò con le gambe e crollò al suolo. Nella sala si udirono grida isteriche di donne. Il gatto consegnò la testa a Fagotto, questi la sollevò per i capelli e la mostrò al pubblico e quella testa urlò disperatamente per tutto il teatro: «Un dottore!».

Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,634 followers
December 19, 2020
This book by Bulgakov is a miracle - a magical text of incredible imagination that miraculously did not get its author shipped out to a gulag and forgotten. Miraculous that the book made it out of Stalinist Russia for our enjoyment. Miraculous as it is a work of sublime beauty and a fitting 20th C Faustian story. A must-read to understand a slice of reality under a totalitarian government. The writing is engaging and highly imaginative. I need to reread this one again!

Just rereading tonight and loving the Pontius Pilate / Yeshua episode. As far as reinterpreting and reimagining a biblical story, it is funnier than KOK’s A Time for Everything and almost as profound as Dosto’s Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov. I love how the book shifts effortlessly from one absurd situation to the next. Amazing writing.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
September 6, 2019
The Master and Margarita by Soviet era writer Mikhail Bulgakov seems to inspire strong emotions though most critics and commentators have been impressed with the fantastic satire. Le Monde listed the novel number 94 on its 100 books of the century. I found it absurd, outrageous, inconsistent, but for the most part entertaining.

I would probably appreciate the novel more if I better understood Bulgakov’s scathing satire on atheistic Soviet society, which he exposes as materialistic and bourgeois. The book is alternately set in 1930s Moscow and Jerusalem during the execution of Yeshua Ha-Notsri, a translation as Jesus. Pontius Pilate is an integral part of both settings as an acting character in his own time and as the subject of an unburnable manuscript by “The Master” in Moscow.

The premise is that Satan and his demonic retinue has come for a visit to Moscow and this visit is used by Bulgakov as a means to critically observe the Soviet Russians. One of the most endearing scenes was the Satanic Ball hosted by Margarita and attended by the celebrated damned from Hell.

Bulgakov's theme of the relationship between good and evil is a strong message that works well from the spirited, forced perspective allegory. It has been suggested that the Rolling Stones song “Sympathy for the Devil” was influenced by the novel and it also seems clear that Bulgakov was himself influenced by Faust.

All in all, this is an important work, though it may not be timeless as many of the references to Soviet life were not clear to this 21st century suburban American. This is one I may try to read again in a year or so as I may need to think about it more.

Profile Image for Adina .
890 reviews3,543 followers
February 16, 2022
This is going to be a short one. I am too disappointed to be able to write much. I am not disappointed with the book but with myself for failing to love this one. I have no idea what went wrong. I love satire and the subject seemed to be something I would be interested to explore. I liked it, I got some of the hidden meaning but overall I was not enthralled.

I tried both the audiobook narrated by one of my favourites, Julian Rhind-Tutt and the written Romanian version. None of the two versions left a lasting imprint in my soul. I could admire the craftmanship and the importance of the novel but I could not get immersed in the story. The plot felt too convoluted , there were too many characters, too much chaos, I got tired.

I plan to re-read it at some point in the future because I believe the novel deserves a 2nd chance.
Profile Image for Steve.
251 reviews900 followers
December 4, 2013
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.
Blind fools in their presence would cower.
And smug Party folks
Were easy to hoax.
No tears, though, when bureaucrats sour.

To further the key dialectic
Twixt good that’s in man versus septic,
Comes Christ to the fore
Through Pilate’s back door,
Though this prefect’s well-nigh eclectic.

In Moscow amidst the commotion
We realize a somewhat strange notion:
M and M from the title
Weren’t all that vital,
But she, at least, showed love’s devotion.

The Master, whose job was to write
Shared Bulgakov’s tyrannized plight
Do manuscripts burn?
That’s something we learn.
The hope is that art survives might.

It’s funny how evil can blur
Just read this and you may concur
The Devil may stir
But you might prefer
Ol’ Satan to Anton Chigurh.

And how does good shine without bad?
Is bad the worst trait to be had?
Pilate’s regretful;
Others were fretful –
Mikhail cursed the cowardly cad.

It’s odd to choose this review style –
We’re not on the Emerald Isle.
These aren’t the best themes
Just fits to rhyme schemes
That target a Russ-celtophile.

This was a group read for me and I’m guessing nine out of any ten clicks this review gets will be from fellow members. So when I say it’s no easy matter to add anything that’s not been said better elsewhere, most of you will know what I mean. That’s especially true with this group, loaded with smart people who’ve already done their reviews. The group (which we all thank Kris and Mary for running so well) has been great for providing discussions and links to help interpret the symbols, themes and historical context. But this, too, makes original thoughts about it hard to come by. Anyway, this is my justification for punting, and instead trying (perhaps too hard) just to be different.

I will say that I never really lost myself in the story nor cared about the thinly drawn characters. Maybe it’s not meant to be that kind of book. The greater pleasure was in trying to figure out the different elements of the allegory, what the broader questions were, and how Stalinist oppression may have driven it. The fact that this emerged in the 60’s as a samizdat well after Bulgakov’s death in 1940 was part of the appeal. The axe he was grinding to counter the shush on creative freedom continues to resonate.

It’s easy to pose questions: What does the devil (Woland) represent? What is Bulgakov saying about Stalinist Russia; the general population; the arts community/intelligentsia? Is there a religious angle? What about moral judgment; free will vs. determinism; the nature of man?

I won’t attempt to answer these because 1) I don’t want to supply any spoilers, and 2) I’m not sure I can.

Others have done a much better job addressing the main themes: good vs. evil, courage vs. cowardice, and related to that, artistic freedom vs. toeing the line. About the only motif I haven’t seen mentioned is the contrast between felines and canines. The big, black, humanized cat in Woland’s retinue was like a badly behaved Marx brother. As an example of his character, he tried cheating at chess. Conversely, Pilate’s dog was nearly fearless and ever faithful. I’m surprised that cat owners have not been more vocal in their protests against such an unfavorable contradistinction.

Three stars is a cop-out, I know. I was caught between extremes. The story and characters failed to draw me in, but it was an interesting exercise in interpretation.
February 21, 2023
4 stars for a very Russian story but a universally appealing book which demonstrates that the power of imagination has no boundaries, and much can be achieved through literature as the author unleashes a stinging satire on Russian life at the time of Stalin, but with humour perfectly woven into a very profound story.

There have been many reviews of this book and a wide range of opinions as once again we are presented with a very unique novel that draws us into the world of magical realism that forces us to think and interpret what the author was actually conveying as he wrote this ingenious book. The reader must suspend disbelief, read between the lines, and embrace the many themes but most of all this book will require your undivided attention. A complex novel sometimes confusing but oh so clever.

Unique, incredibly accomplished, and strongly evocative - both macabre and hilarious, dark yet enlightening, and magical but with very real themes.

The Plot

The Master and Margarita has two main time periods; Jerusalem at the time of Pontius Pilate during the trial and subsequent death of Christ and in Moscow in the 1930s, where Satan first appears at Patriarche’s ponds as Professor Woland.

Whilst the two men (part of the Moscow elite) discuss Ivan’s writings and the possibility that Jesus did not exist, Woland appears accompanied by Behemoth, a large black cat that walks on his back legs; Hella, a female vampire; and Azazello, a hitman. Even more mysterious, the strange visitor informs the men that he was there the time of Jesus’ trial and goes on to make a prophecy that Berlioz will be decapitated before the day is out. Meanwhile Bezdomny’s hysteria when relaying the days events, and demise of his learned colleague, see him incarcerated in a mental institution for the mentally insane, despite being a poet and writer which only adds to the suspicion surrounding him.

Part two introduces Margarita, the Master's mistress, who refuses to give up hope for her lover. It is this love story that features heavily in the second half with the adoring Margarita committing to the devils wishes to have her beloved ‘Master’ freed and so willingly succumbs to his power.

All the layers and multiple threads start of converge in this second half and what can sometimes feel like random and bizarre events turn out to be quite poignant and incredibly symbolic.

Review and Comments

This has been described as a masterpiece, a literary giant, but for me this book stands out for its uniqueness in revealing the injustices in a Stalinist Russian and let’s the reader witness the destruction of an open and free society, not through political rantings but through magical realism that exposes censorship, absurdness, and cowardice through humour.

So why the 4 stars? I didn’t really connect with the story of Pilate and the last days of Christ. Whilst I understand what the author was trying to achieve this didn’t work for me personally. Plus, I enjoyed the second half of the book more when we got to Magrarita who the book takes its title from.

Whilst not a criticism, I paused reading and did some research to reacquaint myself with Stalin’s Russia to understand the social, political, and religious critique at that time, and it was only then that I would say I fully appreciated the brilliance of this novel and for all it represented.

Despite not enjoying all aspects of the book, this is still a very worthy 4 stars; a true work of art and a feast for the senses and the mind. The story is highly imaginative not just with the story but how the story was told. The vivid descriptions of the times, place, people, and emotions was superb, the use of magical realism, humour, and irony to expose the blind acceptance of people in a Stalinist Russia was also very clever, poignant, and relevant - even today.

From the ridiculous to the sublime and the magical to the farcical the author goes to the extreme in painting a surreal picture of a political system that prohibits people from speaking out, and in doing so we experience the mix of good and evil, courage and cowardice, and intellectual curiosity curtailed within a rigid system - and herein lies the beauty of this book. A book that is the definition of magical realism. A book that pushed all the boundaries at the time, and above all a wonderfully unique book that holds the bar high for originality.

Food for the mind, brilliant imagery, superb storytelling, and great satisfaction for this reader - And to one of my favourite quotes.

“What would your good be doing if there were no evil, and what would the earth look like if shadows disappeared from it? “
Profile Image for Fabian.
957 reviews1,623 followers
October 7, 2020
This is a bit like trying to explain the "Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey" ride at Universal Studios (a constant ad on Goodreads [also, cool factoid: this is actor Daniel Radcliffe's favorite novel!])--I will eventually make a fool of myself trying to describe the orchestrations of both the physical body with the pyrotechnics & rollercoaster mechanics... see, I just can't.

And one can't quite get to the bottom of "The Master and Margarita"--a trippy, satirical, hard-to-classify classic of the mid-century Russian variety. It remains an almost mystical experience. Strange, exciting literary terrain is traversed and it truly titillates the senses. It is a panorama with no beginning and no end--which begins at the beginning of Christian times and ends... or does it? It stays in the mind--there is soo much to ponder here. The details are mostly red herrings--but are they? Uffh!

Deja vu is not uncommon. It's like being inside nesting dolls that are degutted, with jewels for entrails! Surreal doesn't befit it, nor does "parable." Quite not.

An opera of wondrous dimensions! You'll enjoy it...
Profile Image for Guille.
784 reviews1,748 followers
September 18, 2018
Novela con innumerables recovecos y múltiples interpretaciones e imposible de abarcar aquí (o simplemente inabarcable). Pero sirvan estas notas para intentar animar a su lectura que estoy seguro que entusiasmará a más de uno de los que por aquí transitan.

Los atractivos son muchos. Para empezar, disfrutaremos de varios y muy distintos estilos literarios. La farsa centrada en el diablo, Woland, y su comitiva, es una sátira grotesca y justiciera de la situación política e intelectual rusa, con un lenguaje y tono propio de un cuento infantil y de ritmo trepidante; el drama histórico de la muerte de Jesús, despojado de toda simbología cristiana y alejado del relato bíblico, que concentran uno de los leitmotiv del libro, la cobardía como el más grande de los defectos del hombre, narrado de una forma realista, con un estilo literario más cuidado, una gran atención por el detalle y de ritmo mucho más pausado; y, por último, el lirismo y la poesía de la bella historia de amor entre el maestro y Margarita que ejemplifican otros dos leitmotiv de la novela, la misericordia y la leyenda de Fausto.

La novela, que tiene una lectura superficial entretenidísima, está repleta de simbología y sujeta, por tanto, a la interpretación del lector, pero lo que no está abierto a discusión es la indudable representación de la sociedad rusa del momento y la crítica a su intelectualidad, ambas sujetas a esa terrible acusación de cobardía. Las “indicaciones” que da el burócrata literario al artista para la escritura de su obra, la prudencia hacia los extranjeros que son recluidos en un hotel especial, las viviendas comunales, la misma emisora de radio en todas ellas, los privilegios de las clases intelectuales y dirigentes, las desapariciones repentinas… por referirnos solo a los capítulos iniciales, son una buena muestra de ello. Y en el centro de este paisaje está el homo soviéticus, ese producto del comunismo, ese “hombre nuevo” destinado a alcanzar nuestro histórico destino.

Woland, el diablo cojuelo de la literatura rusa, se pregunta: “¿Habrán cambiado en su interior estos ciudadanos?” Y se responde:
“son como todas las personas. Les gusta el dinero, pero eso siempre fue así… La humanidad ama el dinero, no importa de qué esté hecho, si de piel, de papel, de bronce o de oro. Bueno, son frívolos… Pero ¿y qué? A veces la misericordia también llama a sus corazones…”.
El bien y el mal se aúnan y son inseparables:
“¿Qué haría tu bien si no existiera el mal y qué aspecto tendría la tierra si desaparecieran las sombras? Los hombres y los objetos producen sombras. Ésta es la sombra de mi espada. También hay sombras de árboles y seres vivos. ¿No querrás raspar toda la tierra, arrancar los árboles todo lo vivo para gozar de la luz desnuda? Eres un necio.”

Se podría decir que Bulgakov no creía en ese “hombre nuevo” que controlaría su destino y conseguiría esa sociedad eternamente justa, libre y próspera. Pero, ¿se desacredita únicamente el intento soviético o se impugna su posibilidad en todo caso? No está claro. Otro personaje, Yoshúa Ga-Nozri, el Jesús bulgakiano, defiende ante Pilatos lo irremediable de esos dos objetivos comunistas:
“cualquier autoridad es una violencia sobre los hombres y llegará el día en que no existirá el poder de los césares ni ningún otro. El hombre entrará en el reino de la verdad y de la justicia donde no será necesario ningún poder.”
Y ello gracias a que
”No hay hombres malos en la tierra.”
El lector tendrá que dilucidar la cuestión por su cuenta. Yo solo digo que:

El Maestro y Margarita es imaginativa, venenosa, sugerente, inagotable, divertida, una de esas obras provistas de esa magia especial que les confiere un carácter único y las hace inolvidables. Que el diablo me lleve si miento.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,081 reviews2,719 followers
January 25, 2015
What. The Hell. Was That?

This Russian novel was so wacky and schizophrenic that it gave me a headache.

I had never heard of "The Master and Margarita" until a book club friend said it was one of her favorites. It comes weighted with a lot of praise -- it is considered one of the great Russian novels and has been listed as one of the best books of the 20th Century.

I read a lot of glowing, 5-star reviews of this book, but I just didn't connect with it as others have. I didn't even like the book until page 217, which was when Margarita finally showed up. The second half of the book is definitely better than the first half, which really plodded along in places.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's back up. According to the introduction, Bulgakov was upset about how Christ was portrayed in Soviet anti-religious propaganda, so he wrote a satire about what would happen if Satan suddenly appeared in Moscow. The novel pokes fun at the greed and pettiness of people, and at the rigid social order in Russian life.

While I did have a few giggles at the hijinks that ensue when the devil starts making mischief -- and there's a talking cat! -- there were also these frustrating flashbacks to Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem, which is what gave me a headache. And I'm getting another one just thinking about trying to summarize the rest of the story, so forgive me if I pop some aspirin and recommend anyone who is interested in this novel to read Kris' excellent review. She got way more out of this book than I did.

Bulgakov worked on the novel for more than a decade, but in several different versions because at one point he even burned the manuscript. (One of its most famous quotes is that "manuscripts don't burn.")

While I know enough about Stalin's oppressive regime to appreciate the creative protest that Bulgakov was undertaking, I think I would rather read a biography about the author than to ever reread "Master and Margarita."
Profile Image for Phoenix  Perpetuale.
206 reviews66 followers
March 27, 2022
This book is my all-time favourite. I have recently listened to The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov on Audible narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt New English translation by Michael Karpelson, the most exciting listening. Also, I have read it in its original language, Russian, respectfully, which was quite a challenge despite me having had Russian language lessons in high school. I have read it in Lithuanian to understand better it. This classic is phenomenal, a gift from Russian society geniuses. Every time I read or listened to this book, it was hilarious, exciting and intense—how the author shows politics and delicately touches inside problems in Russia. The plots with the devil and Jeshua are priceless.
Profile Image for Piyangie.
530 reviews488 followers
September 28, 2022
The Master and Margarita is undoubtedly the most unusual book I have read. The book is written in two parts: The first part opens with the Devil's arrival in Moscow and the series of tragic events that take place in its wake. Devil, who goes by the name Woland, and his retinue create havoc in Moscow targeting literary elites, the most important target being Berlioz, the head of the Moscow Literary Union known as MASSOLIT, a renowned atheist. Most of the literary members being atheist receive cruel punishment at the hand of the Devil and his assistants.

I had a difficult time finding a plot in this section. What I read was a series of tragic events that took place, which saw several literate elites being fallen victim to the Devil. However, the interesting thing about Bulgakov's writing is that, although you do not properly grasp what it is all about, nevertheless you can enjoy what he writes. It is full of religious and social satire. I have only a limited knowledge of the Stalin regime in the Soviet Union, but I can clearly see Bulgakov's satirical attack on his governance. There is also a subtle attack on the growing atheism in the Soviet Union and perhaps on the contribution to that by the literary elite. And after reading a bit of the biography on Bulgakov, I felt this part of the book is his personal vendetta against the literary giants who made working as an author difficult for him.

The second part deals with the Master and Margarita. If there is a story in this book, I found it only in this part. The master, having written a novel on Pontius Pilate and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and on its being rejected for publication and severely criticized, falls into despair (to this extent the master resembles Bulgakov) and finds him in a lunatic asylum under the Devil's clutch. Margarita, the faithful, young, and beautiful lover of the master, works on a pact with the Devil with a view of rescuing her beloved. The chapters that dealt with their story were quite interesting. I read that Bulgakov's third wife, Elena, was the inspiration for the character Margarita. Her devotion to Bulgakov and his works is indeed reflected in Margarita's devotion to the Master and his work.

Bulgakov's approach to the story is in a fantasy form, but he nevertheless, has done a great job in bringing out the satire he clearly intended when writing it. The story is dark, dangerous, and at times violent, but also entertaining and humorous. Never in my life had I thought I would say a dark and dangerous book entertaining. But in all honesty, it was entertaining; the due credit goes to Bugakov for his excellent writing. And although I'm still convinced I didn't understand the story fully, it was still an enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Kimber Silver.
Author 1 book266 followers
August 27, 2023
"What would your good do if evil didn't exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared?"
― Mikhail Bulgakov

The intriguing cover gave nothing away, while the title made me long for a frosty drink on the beach. I hadn’t heard a whisper about this book before, unaware of the captivating discovery I was about to make. Like a multifaceted gem, each sparkling page of this fantastical Russian wonder drew me deeper into The Master and Margarita's brilliant world. I was soon running along the steamy streets of Moscow with a vibrant cast of characters, doing my best to keep up with their unbridled antics as they turned the city on its ear.

The story packs a magical realism punch with a capital ‘M,’ delicately infused with a tale of imperishable love. A recurring theme reminiscent of a Faustian bargain is served with a large side of comedy and a big black cat as a dining companion. Most of all, it was a joy to be immersed within the pages of this multilayered novel.

"Love leaped out in front of us like a murderer in an alley leaping out of nowhere, and struck us both at once. As lightning strikes, as a Finnish knife strikes! She, by the way, insisted afterwards that it wasn’t so, that we had, of course, loved each other for a long, long time, without knowing each other, never having seen each other…"

While I openly admit this won't be the book for everyone, The Master and Margarita will be one of my favorite reads of the year.

If beautifully written prose and a scrumptious yarn that knows no boundaries are what you are looking for, then you’ve come to the right place!

Thank you, Kevin Ansbro, for this fantastic buddy read!
Kevin's review
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