مرشد و مارگريتا مرشد و مارگريتا discussion

please help me to understand

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message 1: by Safoura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:00PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Safoura I have read this book about two years ago. this book was so fascinating that made me stay awake two nights to finish it (it happens seldom to me).but except of it's fascinating story, i didn't understand it at all. I know this book is very famous and has been one of the best sellers. i know also that it was an important book in its time because of the sensorship at that time. but please explain me what did you understand? is it a symbolic book?for what?

Tereza I understand, that you liked this book. I also loved it.
There is symbolic for 1920's when Stalin was the leader of Soviet Union and it was real terror.
He killed the most of his military commanders, because he was affraid of them (then it was problem during the WW2).
He send many (i guess millions) of people to gulags, they have to do nonsense things like to build a canal which couldn't be used because it wasn't deep enough.
The easiest symbol in this book is, that the devil is actually Stalin.
Bulgakov wrote this novel in 20's, but he couldn't release the book in this time, so it was released after his dead, I guess in 60's.
I hope it helped you a bit and I'm sorry for my bad english

message 3: by Scott (new) - added it

Scott Smithson To say that 'Master & Margarita' is about censorship and the Soviet system is accurate, but also superficial. The reason that this is a great book has as much to do with the epigram as anything else, the quote from Faust. Evil and good are brothers. Light does not exist without dark, and so one. It is perhaps a trite sentiment to post modern sensibility, however it is in the execution of this sentiment wherein the art lies.

The Master/Yeshua forgives Pontius Pilate. Yeshua speaks to Wolland as if he were a brother. Once you understand this aspect of "M&M" the layers begin to peel away.

Because, it's not just about good and evil. It's about the eternity of art. "Margarita, Manuscripts do not burn." It's about how love brings the artist to a magical place where he can create. It's about magic.

It's about the evil of mediocrity. ("Poshlost'" in Russian). The ironic statement that "All the 'best' writers go to Griboyedev House". Griboyedev, who not only represents all that is bad about the conformity to the state, his name also means "Mushroom eater". Remember, that Behemoth also eats mushrooms, suggesting, perhaps, that reliance of the comfort and material protection of the state is a sin of indulgence itself.

There are many, many layers to M&M, and many readers take from it only a few. If you speak to a Russian, they will frequently point to Bulgakov as the greatest writer/playwright of the 20th Century. No one can achieve such a stature, in a tradition that produced Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov, without having written works of art that speak on many levels.

So, while it is true that much in "M&M" is allegorical to the Soviet system, and it certainly helps to understand it, the characters are far more complex than saying "Wolland is Stalin" or "the Master is Bulgakov". It helps to know that Bulgakov was not only a doctor but a seminarian. His knowledge of religion and science were deep. His struggle with the Soviet system was complex. He had destroyed the manuscript for M&M and had to re-write it.


message 4: by Scott (new) - added it

Scott Smithson Also, I failed to notice that you are from an Islamic tradition. It helps to know that Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus Christ to be crucified. It also helps to know that there was (and still is) a large degree of xenophobia in Russian culture. The first chapter often is translated as "do not talk to strangers", but the Russian word is "inostranyets" which means "foreigner". I do not know how this would be translated into Farsi. But it's important to point out what the original says. Wolland is a German name. The devil, in this case, is a foreigner, which had very strong implications for Russians.

For me, I read this book in college, then again many times. I know of few people who feel ambivalently about this book. It will almost always provoke a strong reaction, even when the references are not culturally relevant to the reader.

Andy I would recommend that ANYBODY trying to read and understand M&M should go to Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, to get a vivid historical/personal survey (made bearable to writer/reader through liberal use of irony) of evil times in a society living in fear from 1920 on. He brings back to life countless Russians destroyed/disappeared by Lenin, Stalin, and their army of interrogator-prosecutors. In a way, these lost Russians are the people that make Bulgakov and his characters make sense -- those that spoke their minds (or might someday, or that noticed things) were removed, and those that were left needed to ignore, not see, and pretend convincingly. Gulag can be a difficult read for some, I think -- I failed early in the second chapter my first time around, some years ago. This time, I was ready.

At least read: the first chapter, on his arrest; as much as you can of the second, on the countless waves of arrest/torture/execution (aka "sewage disposal system"); the chapter on his "First Cell, First Love", also about his cell mates; and "The Law as a Child", about the first "show" trials of innocents (and many, many patriots) in the teens and early 20's.

Jekaterina Scott, good insight! I am a Russian speaker and for some reason i never gave much weight to the fact that Wolland was a German name. It pushed me think about the mixture of chauvinism and submission towards other nations there is in much of Russia, and about it's complex position in the world in general

Erik Rodgers Scott, excellent analysis. Though I love the book, as an American, I definitely feel that some of the book is out of my reach (like the whole mushroom thing). There are, however, many universal themes in it that do communicate across culture and time. The Faustian aspect of course, as well as the Kafka-eque relationship between the individual and the state. It is, to me, a novel that speaks to the hubris of the modern era, with it's rational determinism and it's always uneasy relationship with our natural, more irrational human condition.

Jekaterina-- the american translations make much of his German name and dress. ;-)

And to all of you Russian speakers, do you have a preferred English translation? I read the Burgin/O'Connor one first, and later the Pevear/Volkovonsky (sp?).

message 8: by Clinton (new) - added it

Clinton Just to weigh in here, I agree with everything that has been said-- yet let's remember that books aren't made great by how many intellectual layers they have, like some brainy casserole. This book is also gripping and funny as hell. Psychology tells us that the laugh comes from something very deep inside our unconscious. So the work here is also striking chords deep in our being, at the same time as it is working on the intellectual level. I also think the juxtaposition of the two narratives is genius... they are so dissimilar, they seem to haunt one another like a dream, and are a subtle invitation to ponder the work on levels you may not have otherwise. You are still marveling and chuckling at the "Master" story when you go back to the Pontius Pilate one, and the latter haunts you with its sobriety as you go back to the former- it's almost a schizoid effect that is so subtly chilling and ultimately leaves you shaken to your very foundations. There is no other book like this.

Anja Weber Scott wrote: "To say that 'Master & Margarita' is about censorship and the Soviet system is accurate, but also superficial. The reason that this is a great book has as much to do with the epigram as anything el..."
Greetings Scoot,
This is excellent comment about M&M, no more no less.I've have read it on Russian language and on English.First time in age of 15..second time on studies.Today i will open again to read it. Second, what is written by Russian writers in XIX century is Universal for all cultures..

Ricky Huard In addition to the issue of blatant censorship, it's important to note the relationship between the writer (the Master) and the literary critics (represented by the critic Latunsky). Every writer has to face his or her share of criticism, but not every writer has to face critics who serve as the media attack dogs of the state. Bulgakov understood this well, having been the target of censure in the press--see the chapter in which Margarita trashes Latunsky's apartment.

I first read it in Michael Glenny's translation, then Ellendea Proffer's before going to the original Russian. Overall, I prefer Proffer's translation, but in some key passages (e.g., Satan's ball), Glenny's is just delightful.

Amanda Clinton wrote: "Just to weigh in here, I agree with everything that has been said-- yet let's remember that books aren't made great by how many intellectual layers they have, like some brainy casserole. This book ..."

agreed. everything you just said..

William Of course Bulgahov put something of his own frustration at the official Soviet policies in regard to art in this book, but we mustn't forget that this book is very funny. As I said in my review it helps to have lived in Moscow. For instance all subplots in the book where various characters are trying to find a better apartment--that's life Moscow. It also helps to know something of Faust because some the scenes parody Goethe's play.

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

Dima Yeah, it started with the notion that evil is part of good. Later it touches on several 'lightweight' themes, such as foreigners, atheism, literary commissioning and criticism.

Later, the author pits magic(belief) vs scepticism(atheism); he paints an artist who refuses commissioning (and perhaps conformism) by sending Master and the poet into the psychiatric ward. There follows black magic, lunacy, and corrupt souls.

I have heard a Russian orthodox priest explain that Bulgakov used the dating of a Pagan satanic ritual to accommodate the time Woland came and left Moscow.

The first function of this devil is to punish the literary critic by decapitation, which unlike Stalin, loves 'sophisticated' works. Bulgakov is known to be hopeful of Stalin's recognition. Maybe that's what he wished would happened when he depicted Woland coming to Margarita's help, which is the second function. The third function, I assume, is the satan's ball that Bulgakov wrote after being inspired (in the negative way) by a real event that took place at the American ambassador's residence.(Bulgakov loves parties and also a womaniser, but he disliked this particular party).

We can imagine Stalin as the devil himself. But Bulgakov never portrayed the police (back then it was part of the secret service) to be stronger than Woland's entourage. Hence, he could be saying that there is a more wicked devil than Stalin.

In the end, Bulgakov used Woland to do both good and bad, to do justice, including to unite him with Margarita.

PS. The same priest I mentioned above believes that the Pilate/Yeshua story was Woland's version of Jesus' last days. Perhaps the priest thinks that Master was given Margarita in exchange for the book's manuscript.

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