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The Master and Margarita
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Archive In Translation > 2018 August Classic in Translation: The Master and Margarita

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message 1: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rosemarie | 9698 comments Mod
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov is this month's read for our classic in translation.


Claire  | 249 comments Who will be reading this book?


message 3: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rosemarie | 9698 comments Mod
I read this book a couple of years ago and found it a very unusual read indeed, and I really enjoyed it.


message 4: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new) - added it

Lesle | 5736 comments Mod
The Master and Margarita (Russian: Ма́стер и Маргари́та) is a novel by Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, written in the Soviet Union between 1928 and 1940 during Stalin's regime.
The novel alternates between two settings. The first is Moscow during the 1930s. The second setting is the Jerusalem of Pontius Pilate.


message 5: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new) - added it

Lesle | 5736 comments Mod
Claire wrote: "Who will be reading this book?"

I know Member Brian ordered his Mixology book but not sure he has received it yet? Haha!


message 6: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) | 1371 comments I will be picking up my copy from the library in the next few days


Claire  | 249 comments Tracey wrote: "I will be picking up my copy from the library in the next few days"

Ok, let me know when you start. I read it last year and liked it a lot, but will be reading again.


message 8: by Anetq (last edited Aug 02, 2018 01:36PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anetq I really like this - and I found it a rather easy read too - have fun!


Kathy | 1136 comments I'll be starting soon. Just received my copy.


Claire  | 249 comments Kathy wrote: "I'll be starting soon. Just received my copy."

Great!


Susan Maria | 6 comments I started reading this book this afternoon and I have read the first 30 or so pages and I am liking it so far!
I look forward to reading it and keeping up with the group discussion!


message 12: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) | 1371 comments I have picked up my copy and will start it this evening.


Brian Reynolds | 4282 comments Lesle wrote: "I know Member Brian ordered his Mixology book but not sure he has received it yet? Haha!"

I have received it and will start reading when I sober up.

My actual plan is to start in about 10 days depending on when I finish one of my current reads. I chose the Burgin translation rather than Pevear & Volokhonsky, Ginsburg or Glenny translations. This choice was complicated as there are so many, some allegedly incomplete.


message 14: by Piyangie, Classical Princess (new) - rated it 4 stars

Piyangie | 848 comments Mod
I read it last year. Its the most queer book I've ever read. I actually didn't get what it was all about, but I did enjoy the read.
I remember that it had two parts and that second part was more interesting than the first. I'm looking forward to all your views so I ccan understand it better.


Claire  | 249 comments Piyangie wrote: "I read it last year. Its the most queer book I've ever read. I actually didn't get what it was all about, but I did enjoy the read.
I remember that it had two parts and that second part was more i..."


If we do understand it, that is:-)


message 16: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new) - added it

Lesle | 5736 comments Mod
Brian wrote: "I have received it and will start reading when I sober up...."

Claire I am so sorry you have to put up with Brian in this Group Read :>) lol


Claire  | 249 comments Lesle wrote: "Brian wrote: "I have received it and will start reading when I sober up...."

Claire I am so sorry you have to put up with Brian in this Group Read :>) lol"


I will survive! :-)


message 18: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) | 1371 comments Piyangie wrote: "I read it last year. Its the most queer book I've ever read. I actually didn't get what it was all about, but I did enjoy the read.
I remember that it had two parts and that second part was more i..."


I agree it is a strange book to understand so I am listening to an audiobook. I think that is helping me understand better than I would just by reading it.

I already have a question about chapter 2. In chapter 1, Professor Woland and the ethereal person Berlioz sees is one and the same, the Devil. In chapter 2, are the events described the Devil's version of events? He does not deny the historical fact of a man called Jesus but portrays the gospel events such as to deny His divinity.

Chapter 1: warm apricot flavoured water...the best that the proletariat could expect?


Claire  | 249 comments Tracey asked: ‘In chapter 2, are the events described the Devil's version of events? He does not deny the historical fact of a man called Jesus but portrays the gospel events such as to deny His divinity. ’

Anyone has an answer to this?

I’m currentely traveling but will try to give my opinion asap, Tracey


message 20: by Manybooks (new) - added it

Manybooks | 476 comments Claire wrote: "Who will be reading this book?"

There are different translations. Which one should I consider?


Brian Reynolds | 4282 comments Its a crapshoot. I am sending along about one third of an article about one person's search for the best translation. Due to length I have omitted the parts where it shows different translations of a few passages. I googled, found the article, but don't know what it is from or how to post the connection to it. Some commentors after the article seemed to favor the Burgin so I bought it.

The Master and Margarita – the best translation?
Published February 9, 2009

I was reminded of Lethem’s comment while reading The Master and Margarita. Mikhail Bulgakov’s most famous novel, written in the 1930s but unpublished until 1966, has been translated into English at least six times. The best-known versions are by Mirra Ginsburg (1967), Michael Glenny (1967), Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O’Connor (1995), and Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (1997).

So my first task, when my book club settled on The Master and Margarita for its next meeting, was to determine which translation I wanted to read. Based on the excerpts provided on the About Last Night blog, I decided I would seek out Glenny’s. But I live in a small town, and there aren’t many copies of The Master and Margarita available in the half-dozen or so good used bookstores hereabouts. To be precise, I found one*: the Penguin Classics Pevear-Volokhonsky translation.
* * *
After our meeting, I borrowed the Glenny and Burgin-O’Connor translations from fellow book-clubbers.
* * *
What Burgin-O’Connor and Pevear-Volokhonsky have in common is that they labour to express a complicated series of actions in one sprawling but faithful sentence. (From Burgin and O’Connor’s Translator’s Note: “[W]e have tried, as far as possible without sacrificing clarity, not to break up Bulgakov’s long sentences and to adhere to his word order.”) Glenny’s version reads more easily because he has been freer in his punctuation:
* * *
My impression from browsing is that there’s very little to decide between the Pevear-Volokhonsky and Burgin-O’Connor versions; they say pretty much the same thing in slightly different ways. Glenny’s is the outlier. His translation seems easier to read, but the ease may come at the expense of exactitude. Personally I’m not sure how much that matters; I can live with a translation that loses a few details like “lifeless and inert”, even if Bulgakov himself might grumble. (But then, what if I’m missing something more important? – see below.)

But it’s really more a philosophical question than it is an aesthetic one: which should take priority in translation, precision or readability?
***
According to this extract from a book called The Translator in the Text by Rachel May, Michael Glenny’s translation was done from an incomplete manuscript. How incomplete?

When Bulgakov’s novel was first published in the Soviet Union in 1966, the text was heavily censored. Mirra Ginsburg’s translation was based on this censored edition. Glenny’s version came out in 1967, by which time the suppressed material was available in the West. Yet Burgin and O’Connor, in their Translator’s Note, claim that their 1995 effort is the first translation of the complete text. What was still missing from the version Glenny used? Was it just a few disputed lines here and there, of the kind that only purists and scholars quibble over? Or was it whole scenes of politically-sensitive material? Input from knowledgeable readers would be welcomed here.

Having read Pevear and Volokhonsky’s “complete” translation, I’m not sure how important those politically sensitive scenes are. Even in the uncensored text, criticism of the Soviet authorities is extremely circumspect and easy to overlook.
* * *
If you’re wondering: though I’m not entirely sure I liked The Master and Margarita (but that might just be the fault of the translation), I think you should read it anyway.

Update, July 19 2009: I was recently alerted to a wonderfully detailed discussion of The Master and Margarita on the literary website The Valve. I’m going to point you directly to a comment by a Russian speaker named Anatoly, who describes the Pevear-Volokhonsky version as an “awful travesty” – and seems to know what he’s talking about.


message 22: by Manybooks (new) - added it

Manybooks | 476 comments Brian wrote: "Its a crapshoot. I am sending along about one third of an article about one person's search for the best translation. Due to length I have omitted the parts where it shows different translations of..."

Thanks, I will have to do a bit of research, but will probably not want a translation based on the censored version.


Kathy | 1136 comments I've read through Chapter 4 of the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation of The Master and Margarita. I've read Chapters 1 and 3 twice, since I really didn't know what was going on the first time through. I've also started reading the Introduction to get hints on the overall story by Bulgakov.

I'm having to "study" this story.


message 24: by Manybooks (new) - added it

Manybooks | 476 comments Kathy wrote: "I've read through Chapter 4 of the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation of The Master and Margarita. I've read Chapters 1 and 3 twice, since I really didn't know what was going on the first..."

Do I need to reread Goethe or Marlowe to appreciate this?


message 25: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rosemarie | 9698 comments Mod
I don't think so, Manybooks. As long as you know the type of tricks Mephistopheles gets up to.
I read it a few years ago and found it a strange, but entertaining book. It is a unique book, with lots of crazy twists and turns. I liked it.


message 26: by Manybooks (new) - added it

Manybooks | 476 comments Rosemarie wrote: "I don't think so, Manybooks. As long as you know the type of tricks Mephistopheles gets up to.
I read it a few years ago and found it a strange, but entertaining book. It is a unique book, with lot..."


I downloaded two different translations.


Claire  | 249 comments Hi guys, I’m here now! Have been travelling by car the past days, so not really communicative. Tomorrow reading the book again. I know there was a lot I did not understand the first time, but I did enjoy it.


Kathy | 1136 comments You're right, Rosemarie, about the book being strange but entertaining. I look forward to getting back to it every day. I've been so busy with travel and family activities that I'm not reading as much as I usually do.


Susan Maria | 6 comments Hi, I am on holiday and don't have a very good internet connection, so I didn't read most of these messages until today. I didn't have this book in English so I'm reading it in Italian. (translation by Vera Dridso, Einaudi) I have just started the second part of the book.


Kathy | 1136 comments This book is getting outrageously funny.

From Chapter 5 "There Were Doings at Griboedov's": ..."the most eminent representatives of the poetry section of Massolit danced--that is, Baboonov, Blasphemsky, Sweetkin, Smatchstik and Adelphina Buzdyak..."

From Chapter 6 "Schizophrenia, As Was Said": "Comrade office, give orders at once for five motor cycles with machine-guns to be sent out to catch the foreign consultant. What? Come and pick me up, I'll go with you. . . It's the poet Homeless speaking from the madhouse. . ."

I admire Bulgokov for writing this during Stalin's regime. All the people disappearing...


Kathy | 1136 comments I'm into Part II and am getting to know the marvelous Margarita. The weirdness and insanity have gone to a new high. Margarita has just flown on her broom.


Brian Reynolds | 4282 comments Kathy wrote: "This book is getting outrageously funny.

FINISHED CHAPTER VIII

I have read those parts Kathy cites and, while I find the book outrageous and absurd, I guess I do not find it funny as I have yet to chuckle at the events.
I don't dislike it. I find it very interesting but I haven't yet found the humor. Even if I never do, the book is intriguing enough for me to keep going. However, while the writing itself is clear and not difficult, I am finding it to be very slow reading.


Kathy | 1136 comments I've mostly been chuckling at sentences and word choices by Bulgokov. The events are strange - especially the ball put on by Satan. That event was creepy.

There's no predicting what will happen next!


Brian Reynolds | 4282 comments FINISHED CHAPTER CHAPTER XI

Kathy, I'm behind you in reading and have lowered my daily reading amounts so will always be behind you. I look forward to the part you mention.

It could be that the word choices in your P&V translation are funnier choices than in my Burgin. Mainly, though, I may just not get some Russian humor. Some people find it in Dosty and I never have. It's probably why Dead Souls keeps on staying near the top of my TBR pile.


Kathy | 1136 comments It's almost like the things that are happening are so bad or bizarre, that they're funny. For instance, the characters in The Master and the Margarita will do almost anything to get a better apartment. It's so terrible that it's funny to me.


message 36: by Brian (last edited Aug 12, 2018 02:16PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Brian Reynolds | 4282 comments Actually I just read a part involving a slight scramble for available room and it was the first passage I found more humorous than just absurd or bizarre.
Kathy, I'm a little jealous as I like a read that also has me chuckling - but I've got 70% left!


Kathy | 1136 comments I hope you get a few chuckles, Brian, over the next 70% of the book!. Ouch.


Brian Reynolds | 4282 comments FINISHED CHAPTER XII

Well, I had my first BIG chuckle, but it was over a fairly gross event in the magic show.
First I worry about my insufficient sense of humor and now I'm worried about my warped sense of humor.


Kathy | 1136 comments Hahaha. I'm going to have to search for what that passage could possibly be.


Claire  | 249 comments Glad to hear everyone is enjoying it so much.


message 41: by Piyangie, Classical Princess (new) - rated it 4 stars

Piyangie | 848 comments Mod
This is the first book I read which was both dark and funny. The events are so bizarre that I remember laughing out loud to myself. I really didn't understand it but was hooked because it was humerous.


Kathy | 1136 comments Well, I finished the book and although I don't fully understand it, the book was fun to read. I especially liked Margarita's flight on her broom and Satan's party.

I'm sure there were a hundred different ways that Bulgakov skewered Stalin and Soviet Russia but I'd have to study more to see all of them. It was daring of him to write a book where the devil visits Moscow since the regime was so anti-religion.


message 43: by Brian (last edited Aug 24, 2018 11:49AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Brian Reynolds | 4282 comments FINISHED THE WHOLE THING

I have mixed feelings on the book. While it was imaginative and often humorous, the sheer volume of bizarre descriptions and occurrences was sometimes numbing rather than intriguing. I read slowly to get all the details so I could visualize the book better. Often, reading 15 pages would tire me out, though the last 100 pages moved better,
I believe I understood most of the satire but, like Kathy, will look into some of the specific references I may have missed.
I am very glad I read it but, as with fantastical satires from Gulliver's Travels, Alice in Wonderland to modern ones like Vonnegut, I like reading them only every so often. That's my personal preference. It was reading so many fantastical stories like Vonnegut, Tom Robbins, science fiction, LOTR and even the magical realism of 100 Years of Solitude, that led me to revert to more reality-based classics like Buddenbrooks some 40 years ago.


Brian Reynolds | 4282 comments Another thing. Since Russian novels often refer to the same character by various names, it would have been really nice to have had a Character Index like I had for W&P, Anna Karenina, The Idiot and The Brothers K.


Kathy | 1136 comments Brian, I agree about the book having so many bizarre scenes that it was a bit numbing. The book definitely needed a character index.


Claire  | 249 comments Brian wrote: "Another thing. Since Russian novels often refer to the same character by various names, it would have been really nice to have had a Character Index like I had for W&P, Anna Karenina, The Idiot and..."

Indeed. It is also often the unfamilarity of the names that makes it more a task. This combined with a lot of names and a bizar plot, can ask too much concentration.


message 47: by Brian (last edited Aug 28, 2018 11:36PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Brian Reynolds | 4282 comments Claire, its not so much the unfamiliarity of the names, as it is the variety with the Russian name usage.
As an example, I will use a character from Dosty's The Idiot, first introduced as Ivan Ptitsyn. Later, a character called Ivan Petrovich is talking. Then, someone refers to someone called Vanka. One might think there are 3 different people, 2 with the first name of Ivan, but a Character Index can tell you it is one character named Ivan Petrovich Ptitsyn, who is also called Vanka. The index saves you having to figure it out by the context.


Claire  | 249 comments I understand, Brian. If you have a lot of names and they change, it doesn’t help easy reading.
There is a list online, but depending on how you read , not very helpful but for ebooks.
http://cr.middlebury.edu/bulgakov/pub...


Kathy | 1136 comments Thanks, Claire! Very informative about character names.


Brian Reynolds | 4282 comments Thanks, Claire. Wikipedia also explains the characters but I avoided it while reading so I didn't get spoilers. Maybe if I re-read it in 20+ years.
Speaking of re-reads: Claire, you had read it last year and mentioned you might re-read it - did you and, if so, how was it on such a quick re-read. I'd be curious if there were new revelations the second go through.


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