November Slow Read - The Master and Margarita

November's Slow Read is The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.


by Patricia Bochi

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940) is the Russian writer’s best-known work. Bulgakov began writing the novel in 1928, and took about ten years to complete. But it was not published until 1966, when it became an immediate success and is now a classic.

Issued from the intellectual elite of Kiev, Bulgakov studied and practiced medicine but after moving to Moscow he turned to writing and playwriting. His sharp criticism and satire of the dismal living conditions in the repressive regime of Stalin caused him troubles. His writings were confiscated and his plays banned in the theaters.

In 1938, in a letter to his wife Yelena Shilovskaya, Gulgakov wrote of his disillusion about the fate of his novel The Master and Margarita: “What’s its future?’ you ask? I don’t know. Possibly, you will store the manuscript in one of the drawers, next to my ‘killed’ plays, and occasionally it will be in your thoughts. Then again, you don’t know the future. My own judgment of the book is already made and I think it truly deserves being hidden away in the darkness of some chest…”

Synopsis

“Mikhail Bulgakov’s devastating satire of Soviet life was written during the darkest period of Stalin’s regime. Combining two distinct yet interwoven parts — one set in ancient Jerusalem, one in contemporary Moscow — the novel veers from moods of wild theatricality with violent storms, vampire attacks, and a Satanic ball; to such somber scenes as the meeting of Pilate and Yeshua, and the murder of Judas in the moonlit garden of Gethsemane; to the substance-less, circus-like reality of Moscow. Its central characters, Woland (Satan) and his retinue — including the vodka-drinking, black cat, Behemoth; the poet, Ivan Homeless; Pontius Pilate; and a writer known only as The Master, and his passionate companion, Margarita — exist in a world that blends fantasy and chilling realism, an artful collage of grostesqueries, dark comedy, and timeless ethical questions.” – Penguin Books

Reviews

“One of the truly great Russian novels of this century.” – The New York Times Review of Books

“One of the greatest novels ever to come out of the Soviet Union. A parable on power and its corruption, on good and evil and on human frailty and the strength of love. Equal parts fable, fantasy, political satire and slapstick. A rich, funny, moving and bitter novel.” – The New York Times

“A wild surrealistic romp…. Brilliantly flamboyant and outrageous.” – Joyce Carol Oates, The Detroit News


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