Reviews of Master and Margarita, the (1966)
Review by yolanda (2006-08-21)
It’s difficult to understand ‘The Master and Margarita’ by Mikhail Bulgakov without some knowledge of Soviet world, Russian culture and Bulgakov himself. He wrote his novel almost all his life and – like his Master – burnt the first edition in 1930. The next edition Bulgakov wrote and edited to his death in 1940, and he had no time to finish the last chapters (see: Chapter 32).
‘The Master and Margarita’ is constructed like famous Russian dolls, ‘Matryoshkas’: in the main book is sitting another one – Master’s novel about Yeshua (Jesus) and Pontius Pilate, but the structure is additionally complicated by a parallel fantasy world, which accompany the main story of Master and his lover.
This complicated structure creates 3 separated worlds:
1) The real Moscow in May 1929, during the Orthodox Easter, although it’s replaced by communists with various ‘secular rituals’, including the International Worker’s Day.
2) The Old Jerusalem during the Crucifixion (we can see an obvious time relation of this thread to the Moscow reality, which is followed by some similarity of The Master and Yeshua-Jesus Christ)
3) The Eternal Hell, more active (like in folk tales) in the time of Jesus’ death, or –better – during May Day celebrations in pre-Christian (in Moscow: post-Christian) Europe; see: Sabbath and Woland’s Midnight Ball.
But in his novel Bulgakov puts a new essence into well-known forms. The Eternal Hell leaded by Satan-Wolant arrives to Moscow to sort communist abnormalities: to punish guilty folk and save innocent people, including The Master and Margarita. The Devil-Wolant also protects Christianity from atheists (Berlitz).
The similarity of Master and Margarita to Dr Faust and his young lover also is seeming – in fact the Russian Margarita plays the role of Faust when she’s dealing with the Devil and paying him his price, which – strangely – has no dramatic consequences.
The next one – the story of Yeshua and Pilate is an alternative, apocryphal and even heretic version of the Bible. Bulgakov’s Jesus isn’t able to save the world and mankind, but He is giving us the most important and Christian thing – the Charity (see: Margarita who saves Frieda and The Master who saves Pilate).
‘The Master and Margarita’ is a socio-political satire of Soviet system as well as of universal human greed and weaknesses, but in the same time it’s a beautiful philosophical allegory, which shows that the real art and real values (Charity) cannot be destroyed.
Review by sam (2003-03-08)
Absolutely gorgeous metaphysical journey that follows a visit from Satan (Master) to Moscow, culminating in a frenetic party at the devil's apartment where Margarita is the centerpiece. Runs the gamut from revisiting Pilate's decisions, to a talking cat, to a man decapitated by a manhole cover.
Review by brandonsmith (2003-03-08)
Pretty good book depending on the translation for english readers.
The first third is amazing, but kind of becomes keystone-copsish in short order...
Definitely worth a read.