Friday, February 8, 2013

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Translators: Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O'Connor
ISBN: 0679760806 ISBN13: 978-0679760801 
Pages: 372
Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism
Publisher: Vintage (Paperback, March 19, 1996)

Originally Published: 1966
Original Language: Russian 


Well, this was an interesting book. I would call this a semi page turner. That is, at certain points I was railing through pages, but other times I didn't feel the need to read the next chapter right away.

The basic premise of this book is that Satan comes to Moscow and starts screwing with people. That's my one sentence summary of this book. Is it funny? Absolutely. Is it thoughtful? Certainly. It is difficult to do a character break down in this book because there are a fair number of characters.

Really, this is more of a plot driven book since the characters are developed very quickly and don't go through much of a character progression. The book is a political critique of the literary establishment of Soviet society at the time. It also takes a shot at the heavy handed bureaucracy of the Soviet Union. 

There is a double plot line running through this book. The main plot line is Satan and his retinue screwing with citizens, but there is another plot line that does a retelling of the story of Pontius Pilate and the crucifixion of Jesus. No, it's not a heavy handed religious punch, it really focuses more on Pilate himself and lesser so on Jesus. So, don't be scared away by the religious inference there if that sort of thing bothers you.

I read the Burgin/O'Connor translation of the book which is supposedly one of the better translations of the novel. I can't really say for sure since I unfortunately can't read in Russian. The prose was written very well in the translation (I can only imagine what it was like in its original Russian).

This book fits into the genre of magical realism and I couldn't help but think of Haruki Murakami while I was reading this. I'm not saying at all that Bulgakov is analogous to Murakami, but it certainly had a similar feel. After all, one of the main characters in the story is the devil who messes with people so there is definitely some black magic going on throughout the novel.

The book is definitely a head trip, but I don't want to give too much of the plot away. It is fairly philosophical, but it's not heavy handed in that respect. The philosophical undertones glide along nicely in the background.

I definitely recommend this book, and I hope you enjoy it as well!

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