Kris's Reviews > The Master and Margarita

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 1001, classics, fiction, russia, five-stars, favorites
Read 3 times. Last read August 19, 2012 to August 23, 2012.

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.


Behemoth

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


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

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."


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Quotes Kris Liked

Mikhail Bulgakov
“But would you kindly ponder this question: What would your good do if
evil didn't exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows
disappeared? After all, shadows are cast by things and people. Here is the
shadow of my sword. But shadows also come from trees and living beings.
Do you want to strip the earth of all trees and living things just because
of your fantasy of enjoying naked light? You're stupid.”
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita

Mikhail Bulgakov
“How sad, ye Gods, how sad the world is at evening, how mysterious the mists over the swamps! You will know it when you have wandered astray in those mists, when you have suffered greatly before dying, when you have walked through the world carrying an unbearable burden. You know it too when you are weary and ready to leave this earth without regret; its mists; its swamps and its rivers; ready to give yourself into the arms of death with a light heart, knowing that death alone can comfort you.”
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita
tags: death

Mikhail Bulgakov
“I wouldn’t like to meet you when you’ve got a revolver,” said Margarita with a coquettish look at Azazello. She had a passion for people who did things well.”
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita

Mikhail Bulgakov
“Azazello begged her not to worry, assuring her that he had seen not only naked women but also women with their skin flayed clean off”
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita

Mikhail Bulgakov
“You were right," said the Master impressed by the neatness of Korovyov's work, "when you said: no documents, no person. So that means I don't exist since I don't have any documents.”
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita

Mikhail Bulgakov
“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!”
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita

Mikhail Bulgakov
“Not fooling around, not bothering nobody, just sitting here mending the Primus," said the cat with a hostile frown, "and, moreover, I consider it my duty to warn you that the cat is an ancient, inviolable animal.”
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita

Mikhail Bulgakov
“I believe you!' the artiste exclaimed finally and extinguishes his gaze. 'I do! These eyes are not lying! How many times have I told you that your basic error consists in underestimating the significance of the human eye. Understand that the tongue can conceal the truth, but the eyes - never! A sudden question is put to you, you don't even flinch, in one second you get hold of yourself and know what you must say to conceal the truth, and you speak quite convincingly, and not a wrinkle on your face moves, but - alas - the truth which the question stirs up from the bottom of your soul leaps momentarily into your eyes, and it's all over! They see it, and you're caught!”
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita

Mikhail Bulgakov
“Actually, I do happen to resemble a hallucination. Kindly note my silhouette in the moonlight." The cat climbed into the shaft of moonlight and wanted to keep talking but was asked to be quiet. "Very well, I shall be silent," he replied, "I shall be a silent hallucination.”
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita


Reading Progress

April 1, 2012 – Shelved
April 1, 2012 – Shelved as: 1001
April 1, 2012 – Shelved as: classics
April 1, 2012 – Shelved as: fiction
August 19, 2012 – Started Reading
August 19, 2012 –
page 86
21.13%
August 20, 2012 –
page 126
30.96%
August 21, 2012 –
page 126
30.96% "I'm listening to Gounod's Faust while reading."
August 21, 2012 –
page 185
55.22%
August 22, 2012 – Shelved as: russia
August 22, 2012 –
page 236
63.27%
August 23, 2012 – Shelved as: five-stars
August 23, 2012 – Shelved as: 1001 (Other Paperback Edition)
August 23, 2012 – Shelved (Other Paperback Edition)
August 23, 2012 – Shelved as: fiction (Other Paperback Edition)
August 23, 2012 – Shelved as: classics (Other Paperback Edition)
August 23, 2012 – Shelved as: russia (Other Paperback Edition)
August 23, 2012 – Shelved as: five-stars (Other Paperback Edition)
August 23, 2012 – Finished Reading
August 28, 2012 –
page 104
25.24% (Other Paperback Edition)
August 29, 2012 –
page 217
52.67% (Other Paperback Edition)
August 30, 2012 –
page 299
72.57% (Other Paperback Edition)
Started Reading (Other Paperback Edition)
August 31, 2012 – Shelved (Other Paperback Edition)
August 31, 2012 – Shelved as: 1001 (Other Paperback Edition)
August 31, 2012 – Shelved as: five-stars (Other Paperback Edition)
August 31, 2012 – Shelved as: classics (Other Paperback Edition)
August 31, 2012 – Shelved as: fiction (Other Paperback Edition)
August 31, 2012 – Shelved as: russia (Other Paperback Edition)
August 31, 2012 – Finished Reading (Other Paperback Edition)
September 22, 2012 –
page 116
28.86% (Other Paperback Edition)
Started Reading (Other Paperback Edition)
September 23, 2012 –
page 235
58.46% (Other Paperback Edition)
September 23, 2012 – Finished Reading (Other Paperback Edition)
January 9, 2018 – Shelved as: favorites

Comments Showing 1-50 of 282 (282 new)


Mary which edition are you reading?


Kris I'm starting now with B&O, and then I will read P&V, and finally Ginsburg (with some comparison with Glenny), bc I am crazy. Which one are you reading?

BTW, I am going to see if I can find some good journal articles on M&M or on censorship. If I find any, I'll give you a heads up, in case you'd like to see them.


Mary I will read P&V, I'll probably start it this weekend.


Kris I thought I was going to read just a chapter or two last night to get my feet wet, and I ended up reading the whole first section we earmarked for the first discussion (chapters 1-9). People should have no trouble getting through the sections for discussion.

I'm a bit more worried about IJ in that regard....


Mary You of all people worried about getting through a book? lol


Kris No, I know I'll get through it! It's more working out a suggested schedule that is feasible for people planning to do the Proust read too.


Nataliya I'm so happy to see that you loved it! This book is a real masterpiece, isn't it? I think if I had more time I'd be trying to read it in different translations as well - just so I can have an excuse to read it one extra time.


Mark Overachiever ;)


Kris Nataliya wrote: "I'm so happy to see that you loved it! This book is a real masterpiece, isn't it? I think if I had more time I'd be trying to read it in different translations as well - just so I can have an excus..."

Definitely -- it's now on my very very short list of favorite books of all time. So many wonderful layers in it. I already loved it very soon after I started it, but that was nothing compared to how I felt when I started getting into Part Two. I'm very eager to re-read it, to compare translations and to see what themes and elements I pick up on a re-read.


message 10: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Mark wrote: "Overachiever ;)"

Ha!


Nataliya Heart of a Dog seems like the next most logical read now ;) More Bulgakov!


message 12: by Mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark Can't wait to read your comparative reviews! Are you writing separate ones for each translation, or an all encompassing review under an edition of your choosing?


message 13: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Nataliya wrote: "Heart of a Dog seems like the next most logical read now ;) More Bulgakov!"

I was just about to buy it. :)

Mark wrote: "Can't wait to read your comparative reviews! Are you writing separate ones for each translation, or an all encompassing review under an edition of your choosing?"

That's a great question, Mark. I think I'll have a better idea once I finish P&V. I am leaning towards one more comprehensive review under whichever is my favorite translation, and then shorter reviews of other translations focusing on how they read, etc - but that could change.


message 14: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris BTW, I thought that Ellendea Proffer's Afterword in the B&O translation was excellent.


Nataliya Kris, after reading your review there is only one thing I can coherently say - I am honored to have you as a friend. You are a brilliant inspiration, and I'm in awe.


message 16: by Stephen M (new) - added it

Stephen M Nataliya wrote: "Kris, after reading your review there is only one thing I can coherently say - I am honored to have you as a friend. You are a brilliant inspiration, and I'm in awe."

what she said.

It's great to see the culmination of reading THREE DIFFERENT TRANSLATIONS. That's too cool. I can't imagine all the different angles that the different translations gave you. You can breathe a big sigh of relief as another great review is ticked off your list.


message 17: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Nataliya wrote: "Kris, after reading your review there is only one thing I can coherently say - I am honored to have you as a friend. You are a brilliant inspiration, and I'm in awe."

Nataliya, this means so much coming from you. You were a constant source of insight and inspiration throughout our discussions of TM&M and beyond. I treasure our friendship, and I am excited to know TM&M was the beginning of many wonderful discussions between the two of us. Thank you.


message 18: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl loved your review and thoughtful analysis, Kris


message 19: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Stephen M wrote: "what she said.

It's great to see the culmination of reading THREE DIFFERENT TRANSLATIONS. That's too cool. I can't imagine all the different angles that the different translations gave you. You can breathe a big sigh of relief as another great review is ticked off your list. *


Thanks Stephen -- but I ran out of room to compare the translations! I need to get some more reviews written (Cloud Atlas up next), but I will put up a comparison shortly -- either as a review or, more likely, under My Writings, somewhere.

I can't believe I wrote a review that was a good 10,000 characters too long!


message 20: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Cheryl wrote: "loved your review and thoughtful analysis, Kris"

Thanks so much, Cheryl -- thanks for reading it!


message 21: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl Kris wrote: "Thanks so much, Cheryl -- thanks for reading it!"

Ha! I had the easy part!


message 22: by Kris (last edited Oct 11, 2012 09:39PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Cheryl wrote: "Kris wrote: "Thanks so much, Cheryl -- thanks for reading it!"

Ha! I had the easy part!"


I have to say, those stupid html tags drove me up the wall. :)


message 23: by Stephen M (new) - added it

Stephen M It's crazy how many great things you can say about one book! You should definitely upload a scattering of thoughts on another version of this book. I would love to read just the little random things that you noticed, not necessarily in order or written in paragraphs. Heck, they could be sentence fragments. I'd love that. Yeah, not to pressure you or anything like that, nope, cause friends wouldn't force friends to do things.


message 24: by Stephen M (last edited Oct 11, 2012 09:43PM) (new) - added it

Stephen M All things aside, you definitely strike a clarity and focus that I greatly envy. I love how you organize your review with all of the sections, each one leading up to the next. Plus all the pictures play off your thoughts so well.


message 25: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Stephen M wrote: "It's crazy how many great things you can say about one book! You should definitely upload a scattering of thoughts on another version of this book. I would love to read just the little random things that you noticed, not necessarily in order or written in paragraphs. Heck, they could be sentence fragments. I'd love that. Yeah, not to pressure you or anything like that, nope, cause friends wouldn't force friends to do things. ."

Friends do get friends to laugh, though. :)

This is a good idea -- I will work on it. There were so many things I wanted to say and didn't have space to say.


Nataliya Kris wrote: "Cheryl wrote: "Kris wrote: "Thanks so much, Cheryl -- thanks for reading it!"

Ha! I had the easy part!"

I have to say, those stupid html tags drove me up the wall. :)"


Hehe, I love html tags! (I think you can tell from my reviews). I think the reason I love them because it feels so rewarding somehow to use them to construct your review into the shape and form that I want it to have. My inner control freak gets finally unleashed then - I keep it well-hidden otherwise.


Megha Kris wrote: "Stephen M wrote: "what she said.

It's great to see the culmination of reading THREE DIFFERENT TRANSLATIONS. That's too cool. I can't imagine all the different angles that the different translation..."


Kris, you could put up the comparison as a review for another edition of M&M. You even read three translations, that easily justifies adding the book to your shelf multiple times.


message 28: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Stephen M wrote: "All things aside, you definitely strike a clarity and focus that I greatly envy. I love how you organize your review with all of the sections, each one leading up to the next. Plus all the pictures..."

Thanks Stephen! All I can say is, taking time, prewriting, and revising in stages helps a lot.

The images were a lot of fun. I kept psyching myself out with the review -- I didn't want to let anyone down, and I wanted to do the book justice. At one point, when I was really stuck, I decided to do a hunt for images, and I got freshly inspired. They helped me to enter Bulgakov's world and focus on the important things, rather than the huge case of writer's block that I gave myself.

I had a fairly good idea of the organization, but I had to play around, consolidate a bit, etc. And then I was hiding behind quotes too much -- Ian gave me some really good advice, so I feel like he deserves an editing credit.

I have a feeling Cloud Atlas will take some work re. organization. I have some ideas, though -- it will be good to be able to focus on it.


message 29: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Proustitute wrote: "Wow, what a tremendous review. And what an honor to Bulgakov. Well done, Kris."

Thank you so much, P -- you are a master reviewer, as well as one of my mentors in literary criticism, so your comment means a great deal to me.


message 30: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Megha wrote: "Kris, you could put up the comparison as a review for another edition of M&M. You even read three translations, that easily justifies adding the book to your shelf multiple times. "

Thanks Megha -- I am definitely going to do this.


message 31: by Garima (new)

Garima This is easily the best TM&M review I've read anywhere. Great work Kris!


message 32: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Garima wrote: "This is easily the best TM&M review I've read anywhere. Great work Kris!"

Thank you Garima!! :)


message 33: by Mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark I'm going to read this review in chapters, just like the book :D


message 34: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Mark wrote: "I'm going to read this review in chapters, just like the book :D"

:) Pace yourself -- it's almost as long.


B0nnie Kris...! thanks for this wonderful review. I'm so glad you are on the winning side, lol, the side that knows what a great book this is. Ah yes, the comedy of the actions of Woland and his minions in Moscow made the story of Pontius Pilate so much more poignant. I really was teary-eyed through those parts. When I think of TM&M I don't whether to laugh or cry.


message 36: by Mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark But is in fact much better organized!


message 37: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris B0nnie wrote: "Kris...! thanks for this wonderful review. I'm so glad you are on the winning side, lol, the side that knows what a great book this is. Ah yes, the comedy of the actions of Woland and his minions..."

Thanks so much, Bonnie! It's good to know we're on the same side -- fighting to uphold TM&M's status as a great book. And I agree with you that that blend of comedy and tears is precisely what Bulgakov was striving for -- those contrasts help to define our lives, light and shadows together.


message 38: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Mark wrote: "But is in fact much better organized!"

I'm not sure about that -- but my review does have more html tags....


Nataliya Kris wrote: "Mark wrote: "But is in fact much better organized!"

I'm not sure about that -- but my review does have more html tags...."


Yes, Bulgakov was not that great with html, I'm afraid ;)


message 40: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Nataliya wrote: "Kris wrote: "Mark wrote: "But is in fact much better organized!"

I'm not sure about that -- but my review does have more html tags...."

Yes, Bulgakov was not that great with html, I'm afraid ;)"


One of his few limitations. :)


message 41: by Mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark And that one was Behemoth's fault. Every time B. copied the tag info, Behemoth came right along and deleted it. Because he was a mischievous kitteh!


message 42: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Mark wrote: "And that one was Behemoth's fault. Every time B. copied the tag info, Behemoth came right along and deleted it. Because he was a mischievous kitteh!"

Laughing here. And Azazello occasionally used the tags for target practice - he could hit them even when they were hidden under images and italics and bold face.


Nataliya Kris wrote: "Mark wrote: "And that one was Behemoth's fault. Every time B. copied the tag info, Behemoth came right along and deleted it. Because he was a mischievous kitteh!"

Laughing here. And Azazello occas..."


But the mastermind behind all that was, of course, Koroviev. Or so the investigators of all these strange happenings would have you believe.


B0nnie I would like to fight for the status of the great tv miniseries too! I hope everyone who's read the book watches it: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=... (don't forget to turn on the captions...)


message 45: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Nataliya wrote: "But the mastermind behind all that was, of course, Koroviev. Or so the investigators of all these strange happenings would have you believe. "

Perfect!


message 46: by Kris (last edited Oct 11, 2012 10:54PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris B0nnie wrote: "I would like to fight for the status of the great tv miniseries too! I hope everyone who's read the book watches it: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=... (don't ..."

I still have to watch it -- I think I can start on Sunday. I have an opera in NYC on Saturday with my dad. I will watch and report back to you, Bonnie. :)


Nataliya B0nnie wrote: "I would like to fight for the status of the great tv miniseries too! I hope everyone who's read the book watches it: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=... (don't ..."

Yes, a thousand times yes. It is so good, even if the characters - I guarantee - will look like nothing you ever imagined when reading the book!


message 48: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Wonderful review, Kris. You've made an enormous contribution to our understanding of the novel. I particularly liked your analysis of the fairy tale elements and the moon.

I wonder whether the sun represents the harshness of [totalitarian] life on Earth (exposed to full sunlight), whereas the moon is a secondary source of light after death (i.e., in an Eternity which is not dark, but partly lit by the moon).

Thus, the Master and Margarita don't escape to darkness but a gentler light?


message 49: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Ian wrote: "Wonderful review, Kris. You've made an enormous contribution to our understanding of the novel. I particularly liked your analysis of the fairy tale elements and the moon.

I wonder whether the su..."


Thanks so much for the comment, and for your feedback earlier -- you helped a lot. Consider this a formal thank you. :)

I agree with your reading of the sun versus the moon. The passages where Bulgakov describes Pilate and Banga freed and moving along a moonbeam path support your reading of the moon = life after death, as does a dream sequence in an earlier Pilate chapter, where he is dreaming of an alternate reality where the execution didn't take place. Similarly, in the final passages of the novel, Bulgakov describes the Master and Margarita as walking into a very gentle early morning light - there is a sense of repose and tranquility, even though they do not experience the full salvation of eternal life that Pilate finally has.

There's a lot to be gained by doing a word search on "moon" and "sun" in TM&M.


Declan That is an outstanding review Kris; thoroughly fitting for an outstanding novel. You make many excellent points along the way, but I think the most important in terms of an overall judgement are:

"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".


and

"...any attempt to read The Master and Margarita as a simple satire of Stalinist totalitarianism is misguided".


Just recently I saw a review here which comprehensively failed to understand the book because it was seen solely as a satire on Stalinism which, he worried, might result in "liberal readers projecting ill-founded anti-communist fantasies upon this novel". Where to start on that comment? Your comment about "some readers’ desire for neat, safe boxes to contain the world" sums it up perfectly. What Bulgakov embraced, and what totalitarian murders can't stand, is ambiguity: the instability of meaning; the view that truth is not absolute. The basis, you might say, of all great art. This you have caught perfectly in your review. Many thanks Kris for going to so much trouble to give us a fresh and original insight into this unique, multifaceted novel.


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