Saturday, June 04, 2011

Review: The Master and Margarita

The Master and MargaritaThe Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have no idea what I think of this strange tale of the devil and the mortals in early 20th century Soviet Russia. It is an angry tale, a vengeful satire, with references not known to me so that I couldn't appreciate the finer points and details. For me, it was a wild, whirling tale, a fluttering of colors and images told in an arch tone.

I read it slowly, taking in sections and letting them digest in my mind. I spent some time on Wikipedia looking up things like Primus Stoves and Woland, and reading about the novel itself. It does take some study to grasp a book translated from another language and written some 80+ years ago.

It's hard to run down any proper narrative thread, for there really isn't any, at least, not until well into the novel, when one finally meets the titular Master. The story comes to the reader like fluttery bits of torn colored paper collected together and laid down, adjacent and overlapping, fixed into a collage that eventually forms first one picture, then another, until the whole is apparent. Yet what the picture is, I cannot tell. It's still beyond me. I grasp the sarcastic tone, the dislike of overwhelming bureaucracy, the anger at restraint and cruelty and greed for power, money, and status, but I sense there are other layers in the book to which I am blind -- jokes, observations, philosophy and references for which I have no clue, glimpses into a time and a culture of which I know little.

Ah well, there's no help for it. Still, I enjoyed reading the novel, enjoyed the madness of it, the resolution of it, the odd tilt of it. I'll have to put it on my list of books to reread.

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