Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Friday, November 6, 2015

Book Review #2 (2015 Challenge), The Master and Margarita

The next book in my challenge:

The name of the book was "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov.  It was under my reading challenge category: Book that was originally written in a different language.

(read January 2015)




This was by far the most challenging book I have ever read.  Ever.  It was recommended to me by a friend and it is on the list of "100 books you should read before you die".

This book as a cult following - a serious one.  Bulgakov was a famous Russian writer but he died before his book ever got published.  He lived in the early 1900's and died in 1940, but with Russia at war  - and what he printed would have put him in jail for sure - it never saw the light of day until the 1960s.

I have never read a Russian novel before and this one was hard.  VERY hard.  Thank goodness it had a commentary section in the back of the book that broke out some of meanings of the Russian words.  That helps a great deal.  But it still took me over 2 weeks to read its 335 pages because I could only do one or two chapters a night before I needed to take a break.

If you are looking to challenge yourself this year - I suggest reading The Master and Margarita.  The premise of the book is.......all over the place.  Really - it is the story of how Satan visits Moscow and how he wreaks havoc on a group of writers who were atheist.  They don't believe in God or Satan, and this doesn't make Satan very happy.

The Master (whose real name we never learn) is a writer.  He doesn't actually enter the novel himself until about 1/3 of the way through the book.  Bulgakov died before the book went to print, and people speculate that he might have called it something else had he lived to see it printed.  The Master is writing a story about Pontius Pilate and his crucifixion of Yeshua - who the reader believes is Jesus.  But this is never told.  This manuscript of the Master is intertwined between the "present" story of these writers in Moscow and what happens to them if they cross Woland (who is Satan - but again, not really said).  Margarita is The Master's love of his life.  She is a beautiful woman who leaves her husband to be with the Master and encourage him to write his story of Pontius Pilate.

Is your head spinning yet?

The writer lived in a very tumultuous Russia.  The 1930s in the Soviet Union were very unsafe - especially when it came to writing.  There is a line in the back of the book that says "All of Bulgakov's literary energy and creative will were concentrated on proving something that his enviornment contradicted:  that manuscripts don't burn, that art outlasts the tyrants, that entropy doesn't triumph over the creative spirit."

I can't give you much more because this book goes is so many directions that it would be impossible to really give you a feel for it.  I do suggest you reading it.  I would give it 4 stars, and hope that someday to read it again to see what I missed and to better understand it.

**The picture above is the translation that is recommended.  Apparently this book has been translated several times  - sometimes very badly**

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