Classic of the Month: The Master and Margarita

mastermargaritaThe Master and Margaria by Mikhail Bulgakov

Published by Penguin Classics on May 3, 2016

Genres: Adult, Fiction, Classics, Magical Realism, Cultural

Pages: 448 Format: Paperback Source: Library

2.5/5 Stars

Image and Description Credit: Goodreads

A 50th-anniversary Deluxe Edition of the incomparable 20th-century masterpiece of satire and fantasy, in a newly revised version of the acclaimed Pevear and Volokhonsky translation, made from the complete and unabridged Russian text.

Nothing in the whole of literature compares with The Master and Margarita. One spring afternoon, the Devil, trailing fire and chaos in his wake, weaves himself out of the shadows and into Moscow. Mikhail Bulgakov’s fantastical, funny, and devastating satire of Soviet life combines two distinct yet interwoven parts, one set in contemporary Moscow, the other in ancient Jerusalem, each brimming with historical, imaginary, frightful, and wonderful characters. Written during the darkest days of Stalin’s reign, and finally published in 1966 and 1967, The Master and Margarita became a literary phenomenon, signaling artistic and spiritual freedom for Russians everywhere.

Where even to begin with The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov? I’ll start by saying that this was for a book club and not something I’d normally pick up even though Russian history fascinates me. Magical realism can be hit or miss for me especially when it comes to weighty novels and this one was definitely rough. The main plot line of this story follows Satan’s arrival in Moscow and the catastrophe he leaves in his wake.

There’s a lot more going on though. The book is set up into two parts and within this book there’s essentially a fanfiction of Pontius Pilate and the crucifixion story. It’s similar to the gospel but with key differences and strange circumstances. It’s also a massive satire and commentary on Soviet life. From people going missing to the corruption of officials, Bulgakov does not hold back.

Another issue is the ridiculous amount of characters introduced throughout the novel. It was hard to keep straight who was who and honestly a lot of them started to blend together. At one point there were like four people who could be Satan. The only standout was Margarita who comes into the second half of the novel. She’s caring, passionate, and willing to do what it takes.

Overall The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov was pretty darn confusing but important for its time. Margarita was by far my favorite part of the story as well as the cat Behemoth. I mean, hello, talking cat. If you like heavy magical realism stories based on reality akin to Midnight’s Children than check this one out. Otherwise I’m not sure it’s worth it.

So is there anyone else out there that has read The Master and Margarita? Do you like heavy magical realism and satire? Let me know in the comments below!

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