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The Master & Margarita Faust 13 > Discussion - Week Two - The Master & Margarita - Part One, ch. XI - XVIII

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message 1: by Jim (last edited Mar 18, 2013 12:43AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
This discussion covers Part One, Chapter XI – XVIII, p. 95 – 181


Ivan splits his personality. Monsieur Woland and his assistants give the Muscovites a show to remember, and a few exposés they’d rather forget. Ivan listens to the Master’s tale of woe. Rimsky has a close encounter of the worst kind and hits the road after the cock crows. Nikanor Ivanovich dreams of a night at the theater. Levi Matvei arrives at Bald Mountain too late to help Yeshua. Despite his best efforts to do the right thing, bookkeeper Lastochkin learns that no good deed goes unpunished. The bartender gets shortchanged and learns that his tea-totaling habits weren’t enough to protect his liver after all.

So ends Part One, in which Woland and Company create havoc and deliver instant karma for no good reason ‘cause that’s how Satan rolls…

Much emphasis on the perils of foreign currency speculation in Part One. I imagine the post-revolution, between-the-wars years must have been fairly chaotic times for currency stability. Anyone know the story there? Also, the lust for foreign goods, as shown by the women’s feeding frenzy during the stage show.

Quite an interesting interlude with Levi Matvei on Bald Mountain. I can’t help thinking that the whole scene with its inner and outer circles of soldiers, and the slow death of the three condemned men with their “Outlaw and rebel” signs, must have some analogous relation to the history of the Communist party and the Soviet state.


To avoid spoilers, please restrict your comments to Part One, pages 1 – 181


Cleo (cleopatra18) | 58 comments I'm not quite finished this section but I'm going to get some of these spinning thoughts out ......

I was sad that Ivan was split in two. I much preferred his raving loud professions of the truth. I'm assuming this chapter illustrates how institutionalization can wear a person down and cause them to doubt their own senses. He was having a Gollum-like moment. ;-)

Does anyone think there is any significance to the initials of the Master: "M" and the initials of Woland: "W", which is, of course, an inverted "M"?

In Black Magic and Its Exposé, why was the magician's assistant counting in German? Is this an historical component that I'm missing? I loved the philosophical conversation that was part of the show. The Muscovites have changed on the outside but have they changed on the inside? I would love to know the answer to this question or at least someone's opinion. Indeed, sir, that is a most important question.

So far I find the devil/demons much different than I expected. I believe the usual impression of the devil is a being that is powerful and is able to work situations to fit his own evil devices, causing death, destruction and chaos. So far this devilish trio have behaved like rowdy teenagers, causing chaos certainly but in a very light-hearted way. The only death (at least, I think) is Berloiz and the question is: did the Woland cause his death or did he just have fore-knowlegde of what was divined to happen to him?

Perhaps my observations of benign devilishness is due to Bulgakov's brillance. When you look factually at what has happened, we have a couple of severed heads (although one was put back on), people fleeing in terror and a number of people in insane asylums. Hmmm ...... sounds quite serious when you look at it that way .....


message 3: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Cleo wrote: "Does anyone think there is any significance to the initials of the Master: "M" and the initials of Woland: "W", which is, of course, an inverted "M"?.."

I typed "Woland" into google translator and it came out Воланд, so I think the W and M thing doesn't work in Cyrillic alphabet. Any Russian speakers out there?

It is kind of sad to see the Ivan split. The new Ivan seems so sedate and lacking in fire. Makes sense given that he's in the hospital and probably drugged.


Whitney | 326 comments Jim wrote: "I typed "Woland" into google translator and it came out Воланд, so I think the W and M thing doesn't work in Cyrillic alphabet. Any Russian speakers out there?
..."


Nyet. But if it's okay to site notes, the one in the BO translations says that Bulgakov makes it a point that in Russian that the name begins with not with a 'V', but with a Roman W. It also says how in Faust 'Valend' (with a V) is one of the names of the devil, and that 'W' is 'M' upside-down. There is no expansion on the upside-down thing, at least in the note I'm looking at.


Whitney | 326 comments Cleo wrote: "I loved the philosophical conversation that was part of the show. The Muscovites have changed on the outside but have they changed on the inside? I would love to know the answer to this question or at least someone's opinion. Indeed, sir, that is a most important question..."

The thing that struck me about this exchange is the more mundane comment from Woland that "On the whole they remind me of their predecessors...only the housing shortage has had a bad effect on them." So much of the pettiness, informing, back-biting, etc. in the novel is driven by the housing shortage and people jockeying for better apartments. I don't know how this relates to this bigger picture of Satan, but on the ground Bulgakov seems to be using it as representative of the bad behavior caused by Soviet bureaucracy.

"So far this devilish trio have behaved like rowdy teenagers, causing chaos certainly but in a very light-hearted way. The only death (at least, I think) is Berloiz and the question is: did the Woland cause his death or did he just have fore-knowlegde of what was divined to happen to him? .."

I agree with your impression that Woland just had foreknowledge of Belioz's death. I'm on shaky ground here, but I think the Russian Orthodox view of Satan probably corresponds to the Catholic one, that he really can't create anything, but only act as a sort of instigator. Any religious scholars out there that can elaborate?


message 6: by Cleo (last edited Mar 22, 2013 10:47PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 58 comments Jim wrote: " typed "Woland" into google translator and it came out Воланд, so I think the W and M thing doesn't work in Cyrillic alphabet. Any Russian speakers out there?
..."


And that just proves my ineptitude with the Russian language. :-Z I was thinking something symbolic such as an inverted cross but it looks like my observation has fallen flat.


message 7: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 3055 comments Mod
Cleo wrote: "And that just proves my ineptitude with the Russian language. :-Z I was thinking something symbolic such as an inverted cross but it looks like my observation has fallen flat..."

I'm no expert myself (thank you google translator!)

What I wonder about is the relation between Pilate and Stalin, and which contemporary Russians might be analogous to the three men crucified on Bald Mountain. Could Trotsky be one of the condemned? And could Levi be analogous to the Russian citizen disillusioned by the progress of the revolution under Stalin?

I don't have any answers or conclusions yet, but given the dangerous political realities of the Stalin-era, the story of Pilate and Yeshua has to be there as a commentary.


message 8: by Whitney (last edited Mar 24, 2013 09:56AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Whitney | 326 comments Jim wrote: "What I wonder about is the relation between Pilate and Stalin, and which contemporary Russians might be analogous to the three men crucified on Bald Mountain. Could Trotsky be one of the condemned? And could Levi be analogous to the Russian citizen disillusioned by the progress of the revolution under Stalin? ..."

I'm not sure I believe that characters in the different story lines are necessarily directly analogous to one another, but think that instead they serve to illuminate aspects of Soviet life. Woland / Satan is largely parodying and exploiting aspects of Stalinist Russia: the greed for foreign goods and currency, informing for the sake of material improvement, the forced participation in official events (i.e. the choral singing), etc..

Pontius Pilate strikes me of an example of a good man in a bad system. He would like to protect Ha-Notsri, but his death serves the political needs of the Jewish authority. Kaifa reminds Pilate of the trouble that has resulted from the Roman authorities defying the priesthood, effectively forcing his hand. Judas is an obvious informer, a creature than can only exist in a corrupt system.

More to come in later chapters! As I've mentioned, this is a hard book to discuss in pieces. Especially since I recently watched the miniseries :-)


Cleo (cleopatra18) | 58 comments While it's under the guise of polite banter and zany antics, the creative intimidation of Poplavsky, and to a greater extent the bartender, is rather shocking. I love the "second-grade fresh" description though!


message 10: by Tracy (last edited Jul 17, 2013 12:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tracy Reilly (tracyreilly) | 158 comments Jim wrote: "Cleo wrote: "Does anyone think there is any significance to the initials of the Master: "M" and the initials of Woland: "W", which is, of course, an inverted "M"?.."

I typed "Woland" into google t..."


Yes. There is no W in the Russian alphabet. The sound doesn't exist. The B Jim noted is usually pronounced as our "V" is, so more like German? On the other hand, their M is one of the handful always pronounced as ours is.

About the women's feeding frenzy at the demonic magic show--a good contemporay author to put some perspective on modern Muscovites ambivalent (and lustful) feelings towards Western goods is Victor Pelevin--in particular GENERATION P (the P stands for PEPSI, BTW).

Also, one more item that may give insight into 20th century Russia and its conflicting points of view on the West, its own Soviet government, is a movie called HIPSTERS. (STILYAGI in the original Russian--which basically are persons who are adamant adherents to a particular style of dress and culture--think punks or goths for an American parallel).

The movie is not at all unpleasant to watch--it is a musical, and might get you hooked on Russian rock. It may even remind you, as it did me, of West Side Story. The setting is 1950's Moscow--still steeped in the Cold-War. There are two groups in the movie: the gray, grim Komsomols, (Soviet party bureaucrats-still youngsters in the movie, akin to our boy/girl scouts but pushing the communist pov). These are pitted against the stilyagi hipsters, who defy the Soviets by dressing in crazy, western, rock 'n' roll colors and styles, and listening to underground rock music, even under threat from the gov't. I loved it. You can find a version with English subtitles on Netflix.


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