The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov

Book #400
Reviewer: Tall, Short, Tiny & a Pickle

The Master and MargaritaThe Master and Margarita appears on numerous “must read” lists, and having recently inhaled it, I believe it is deserving of all the kudos. I had no prior knowledge of the story, and simply had the recommendation of a friend to go by; suffice to say I will be listening to any further book suggestions she makes!

The Master and Margarita is set mainly in Moscow, and begins with a meeting between two literary figures and a mysterious foreign gentleman – a professor of black magic. The conversation turns to one of the literary figures dismissing the idea of the existence of the devil; the foreign gent takes offense at this, and unfortunately for the former, things don’t turn out for the best. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the foreign gentleman is none other than Satan himself, calling to wreak havoc upon the predominantly-atheist, bureaucratic, materialistic society. He has brought with him a handful of weird and wonderful servants, who are essentially his go-betweens.

There is a host of interesting characters, with numerous crossing-of-paths moments. A few of the characters end up in an asylum, and as the story goes on, the reader wonders who else might be admitted. One such character is known as The Master; he has admitted himself to the asylum following a devastating review of his first literary piece, leaving behind a devastated lover by the name of Margarita, who has an interesting meeting with the Devil in the second part of the story.

It did get a little confusing at times, with Russian naming conventions and the use of diminutives as well as full names, and some of the characters had similar names. However, Bulgakov always added in a small descriptor which made it easier to track who was who.

This was an exciting, intriguing, beguiling read. I read at every opportunity, staying up way past my bedtime on numerous occasions, simply because I couldn’t put the book down. It was beautifully written; evocative and fascinating in both subject matter and style, poetic and sumptuous in characterisation and location.

Frozen to the spot in terror, Margarita somehow made all this out in the treacherous shadows from the candles. Her gaze was drawn to the bed, on which sat the one whom poor Ivan had been trying to convince, still very recently at Patriach’s, that the Devil did not exist. It was this non-existent one that sat on the bed.

The subject matter was intriguing, and the telling of the story was magical and quirky. At times, it was quite dark, but there was always an undercurrent of humour. I enjoyed the way the story continued to build impossible layer on top of impossible layer, adding to the element of sheer frivolity. I also liked that many of the characters spoke lines such as,

“He’ll get up to the devil knows what…” and “…it’s time to let everything go to the devil…”

The Master and Margarita was a surprising treat and I won’t hesitate to recommend it to you all.

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3 thoughts on “The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov

  1. J.Gi Federizo March 12, 2014 / 7:19 pm

    Sounds like my kind of read. Haven’t seen any copy of that, though.

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