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Archive: Other Books > The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov / 4 stars

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message 1: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3148 comments This was for the June magical realism challenge, but it took me 2 months to finish!

The Master and Margarita isn't something I would normally read at this point in my life. I am mainly burning through thrillers, true crime, or literary fiction. But thanks to joining this group, I have really been challenging myself to read other genres and try books that are outside my comfort zone.

The Master and Margarita is like the original gangsta of magical realism before there was magical realism, so it is commonly referred to as surrealist, which essentially is the same thing (I think, I am not an expert).

In case you can't tell by the author's name, this is Russian literature. I was really nervous about following the story due to the names and cultural references I didn't think I would get. But the names are repeated so often it is easy to get them embedded in your brain, and as far as any cultural / societal references of the time (Soviet Russia between 1928-1940 during Stalin's regime), there are notes to help you follow along.

To keep a smooth flow while reading, I tried not to get too hung up on the cultural / historical details. I still learned a lot from the notes, but I think you could learn a lot more if you are willing to research things referenced in this book. Or if you already have a deep understanding of Russian history during that time, all the better for you to enjoy what this book has to offer.

My own prejudice, and perhaps experience with Dostoevsky (although very limited), lead me to expect a very dry and boring read. But in truth, The Master and Margarita is a wild and fantastic story with shenanigans that could rival some current bizarro fiction. I feel pretty silly saying that I was surprised how easy it was to follow the story. I thought the humor would be lost on me due to the gap in culture and time, but the humor and sentiments expressed still resonate today.

Still, there was no murder mystery driving the plot or sex, drugs, and rock&roll which have become my bread and butter for literary entertainment in some combination of the aforementioned, so I didn't find myself aching to get some reading time in, which is why I finished at least 4 other books before finally putting the nail in the coffin on this one.

I would give it a 5, as the book really deserves it. It is amazing to think someone came up with this story out of thin air. But, I wouldn't read this again and I don't see myself singing it's praises to anyone who will listen, so I settled on 4.

However, if you wanna read some wild shit... try this book!

message 2: by KateNZ (new)

KateNZ | 2212 comments Fabulous review, Meli! I’ve got quite a bit of Russian literature on my shelves but I’ve never got around to Bulgakov. Definitely need to change that

message 3: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3148 comments When you do, please come back and share your thoughts.

I forgot to mention, I read the Picador edition published in 1995, but a 50th anniversary edition was recently published and it may be a better translation with better notes as well. Although the impact was not lost in my translation, I suspect there is a better version out there.

I'd like to add this quote from Part Two of the book:
Follow me, reader! Who ever told you there is no such thing in the world as real, true, everlasting love? May the liar have his despicable tongue cut out!
Follow me, my reader, and only me, and I'll show you that kind of love!

message 4: by Nicole D. (new)

Nicole D. | 1476 comments I did a bunch of research before picking the translation I read and I settled on the Burgin/O'Connor translation which is thought to be the best.

The anniversary edition (according to my sources ... Reddit) is the most literal translation thus the writing comes off as "stiff" and sometimes the syntax is weird at times. I don't know, I didn't read it.

The one you read is based on a censored version of the Russian text (I think ...) Would be interesting to know what's missing. Obviously a lot of the political commentary, but I wonder what else.

message 5: by Meli (new)

Meli (melihooker) | 3148 comments I said I wouldn't read this again, but you've piqued my interest.
I didn't do any research, I just picked up the only copy at my local used bookstore.

I am very curious what was censored, so I may have to revisit this again and the translation you read.
I feel like sooner than later would be better for comparisons sake, but I don't know if I can handle it. :)

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