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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless classic
It takes little time to understand why this is one of the most epochal Russian novels of the 20th century. Mixing theological observation, satire and social comment into one work is never easy, and the book could have been a heavy handed diatribe on Stalinist Russia that dated badly. Instead, there is a timeless quality about this book and a light deftness of touch that...
Published on 16 Jan 2003 by S. Nambiar

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars His masterpiece???
Too weird for me, completely different to his country doc's tales. Supposed to be his masterpiece but I did not enjoy it and din't like the style.
Published 4 months ago by Mouse


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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless classic, 16 Jan 2003
By 
S. Nambiar "steelyman" (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Master and Margarita (Paperback)
It takes little time to understand why this is one of the most epochal Russian novels of the 20th century. Mixing theological observation, satire and social comment into one work is never easy, and the book could have been a heavy handed diatribe on Stalinist Russia that dated badly. Instead, there is a timeless quality about this book and a light deftness of touch that ensures its longevity.
Fittingly, some of Bulgakov's expressions used in this book promptly passed into the Russian vernacular - "second grade fresh", a parody of Stalinist obfuscation that simply means "rotten" is a great example.
Interestingly for those who've heard The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil", the opening lines were inspired by the opening lines of the Devil in this book. Jagger was reportedly a great fan of the book, having been strongly urged to read it by Marianne Faithfull!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars See Moscow & Die, 5 Jun 2003
This review is from: The Master and Margarita (Paperback)
One of the most significant, strange and wonderful books to come out of that perplexing culture. The Master and Margarita is bleak, funny, and scary in equal parts. It also makes pacts with the devil seem positively attractive (that old thing about the devil having all the best tunes) - it is a thoroughly stylish book and easily Bulgakov's most accessible work. Read it - and then read it again!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Genre mix, 14 Jan 2010
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This review is from: The Master and Margarita (Paperback)
A fine and readable politically inspired fantasy.My only gripe would be that common to most Russian novels is that the same character can have up to 3 different names on the same page.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended, recommended, RECOMMENDED!!!, 11 Dec 2002
By 
Ada (Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Master and Margarita (Paperback)
I chose to read this book on the recommendation that it was "the greatest Russian novel of the Twentieth Century" and have not been misled! In 'The Master and Margarita' Bulgakov has created a novel that is both theologically intriguing and a deeply, darkly critical satire of Soviet Russian society. He is an absolutely MASTERFUL writer, combining the elements of Christian theology, politics and fairy story together to provide an amazing novel. This translation is, I've been assured, certainly one of the best going. This is a work of humour and of tragedy and leaves the reader pondering the questions of the functioning of a society and of the human soul: recommended, recommended, recommended. READ THIS BOOK!!!
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Complex Fantasy, 20 Jan 2008
By 
jacr100 "jacr100" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Master and Margarita (Paperback)
A novel written and set in 1930s Moscow, The Master and Margarita is a veiled criticism of the repression of artistic licence and religious expression under Stalinism. But you won't sense that immediately - instead, you'll be trying to work out how the three plots in the book have any relation to each other. The central theme is the Devil's visit to the city with his retinue of demons and witches; intent on an orgy of chaos, he sets about murdering some, banishing or frightening others, and creating an atmosphere in Moscow of disbelief and hysteria. If he is a depiction of Stalin, so the "Master" (a reclusive author of a novel about Pontius Pilate who has wound up in a lunatic asylum) and Margarita (his bold and hedonistic lover) may represent Bulgakov himself and his third wife, Elena Sergeevna Shilovskaya. The third theme is the historical narrative of Pilate's judgement of Jesus - a story that is written by the Master but dreamt or imagined by other characters.
It's a difficult web of sheer fantasy, comic absurdity and references to real people whom Bulgakov knew and were either oppressors or the oppressed under Stalinism. But it's also about the power of narratives to restructure reality, and the struggle of writers like The Master (Bulgakov) not to be bowed into writing only what the authorities will permit. I'd argue that you don't need to be aware of the book's many references to enjoy it. Read it for what it is - a darkly comic tale where anything is possible (after all, Satan and his demons are directing the proceedings) - and don't bog yourself down with the references until a second or third reading. Instead immerse yourself in the novel's rich imagination, refusal to be realistic or dry, and biting satire of conformists. Recommended.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly enjoyable read, 30 Jun 2007
This review is from: The Master and Margarita (Paperback)
A combination of satire on the Stalinist purges with Satan visiting Moscow- though not very funny if you were the wife of the theatre director Myerhold who ended up stabbed through her eyes by the secret police (Bulgakov was a noted playwright who knew the theatre world well), it is also the story of Pilate & Yeshua Ha-Notsri and an affecting, romantic lovestory as Margarita seeks the Master, a writer whose novel on Pilate features amongst the storylines. A book written with little hope of it ever getting published during Bulgakov's lifetime, it champions the notion of art (Manuscripts don't burn) and truth. What I particularly like about this novel is how it juggles so many different elements with panache, imagination and no little surreal humour. Believe me, Bulgakov makes you believe in a giant black cat waving a Mauser existing and not appearing ridiculous! What I particularly like is Bulgakov's presentation of the crucifixion and Pilate's sense of moral cowardice.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Caution: Hypnotists in Moscow!, 3 Jan 2008
By 
A. L. Stannard (Surrey, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Master and Margarita (Paperback)
That this book exists at all is a miracle, considering it was never published during Bulgakov's lifetime, and could easily have been destroyed in the censorship under Bolshevism (let us not be ignorant and refrain from calling it Communism, since that never really happened anywhere except perhaps in Yugoslavia under Tito). Indeed, that Bulgakov lived to write this book is perhaps more of a miracle, given his other satirical writings, such as the contumelious "Heart of the Dog" in which he literally called the Bulshevics dogs! Perhaps it was due to his earlier experiences and imprisonment that he chose to write Master and Margaritta on a more subtle level.

One of the main underlying themes of this book is atheism / the erosion of Christianity under Stalin - it is important even to atheists, in that it highlights the methodology of Stalin's control, effectively replacing the existence of God with himself, and how he achieved this through manipulating the media - hiring writers to produce defamatory articles about Christ (and also to erode Christ from new state releases of the bible, something which annoyed Bulgakov, himself a Christian, though its somewhat ironic that the Orthodox church found this work to be offensive!). And here starts the book, with two poets at a cafe, literary giants of the day, accustomed to atheist writing, debating the existence of Jesus, and then there appears before them a mysterious visitor to Moscow, the devil, who sets them straight - "so you don't believe in Jesus? And so the devil doesn't exist either?" And we are eventually brought to the ingenious chapter "Pontius Pilot", a story of the meeting between Jesus and Pontious Pilate, the latter being reluctant at first to crucify Christ (it is well known that the New Testament places the blame for Jesus' execution on Jewish quarters, rather than on the Romans). This is written with such depth, containing many ingenous devices, like switching between Hebrew, Greek and Latin names, and gems like how impressed Pilot was with Jesus' defence that in the end he wanted to save Jesus and kill the informant Judas instead! And after this fine tale the devil brings misfortune into the lives of the atheists. Thus it is not the devil who is the "Soviet purger" (as mentioned by somebody else here), if anything he is purging soviet purgers! He does bad things to bad people, which is precisely what the devil is supposed to do, right? But then he does good things to good people, such as reuniting Margaritta with the Master - the writer into whom Bulgakov interjected himself and his favorite author Gogol, who went slightly mad and burnt parts of his manuscript for Dead Souls in real life. And in the parallel thread of the book, he reunites Pontius Pilate with Jesus, so they may continue their interesting philosophical discussions - so this is a good devil after all, sorry to give the game away a little (I do mean little).

The temporal parallels are yet another interesting aspect of the book - the past is painted by Bulgakov with clarity and realism, whilst "modern day" Moscow is painted in an unbelievable, mad light - as Bulgakov made clear in his earlier writings, the Bulshevics were wreaking havoc in Russia, although here the madness is wreaked by the "foreign visitors". The state's explanation of all this madness, in denial of supernatural activities, (in real life the Bulshevics banned anything to do with the supernatural), was to say that there was some mass hypnotism by a group of "foreigners" - and even the people who experienced these mad events accepted the state explantion - a satire on the way in which official explanations were accepted by people in real life, no matter the reality of what they had just experienced.

This is by no means a summary of the book, it is impossible to write a summary of such a text, which has formed the subject for a number of phd studies and other analytical works. There are some excellent resources on this book, perhaps the best is the highly informed website by Kevin Moss at Middlebury College (just google this along with Master and Margaritta) - in which you will find many explanations not included in the end notes of this translation. That is not to say that this book cannot be enjoyed without being informed of every little detail - indeed it is best to read this book first without any reference at all, and perhaps no knowledge of Russia's past, and just enjoy it for the story it tells. You will want to read it again an again, to get to the bottom of it, referring to the notes and discovering all the layers where the more subtle satire elements come in.

This particular translation is very helpful for its notes at the back of the book, explaining those subtle points (and some not-so subtle, but only obvious if you were a Russian living at that time!). A very small minority of people here complain about some of the spelling / use of English in comparison to the Glenny translation, but if anything this translation has fewer mistakes / better grammar, e.g. "checked cap" vs "check cap" (the latter appears in Glenny's translation). I think the real issue is down to the prose carried across in the translation - on this front Glenny's translation is better, whilst this translation reads slightly awkwardly, where it seems more effort was made in getting the detail right rather than making it flow naturally. So my advice would be to get both translations, read Glenny's first, then read this with the useful notes, to help reveal the intricate details - after all this book is a work of genius.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great piece of literature by a genius, 15 Dec 2003
By 
Mina (Cheshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Master and Margarita (Paperback)
This is a book worth reading several times. Bulgakov talks about post revolution Russia, market economy, the great war, philosophy, human nature and his personal experiences in his last years in the most interesting fashion; subtle and humorous. His wealth of knowledge on other great literary works such as Goethe's Faust shines throughout the book. I read it twice and enjoyed it very much at both occasions. It is a book highly recommended- 10 stars !
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Devil's Guide to Storytelling, 28 Feb 2010
By 
Oracle - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Master and Margarita (Paperback)
I once read an article which suggested that you would get a better indication of whether or not you liked a new book by reading page 69, rather than page one. After reading that page of The Master and Margarita I was hooked and couldn't find a better page 69 in any of the books in my collection, even my favourites.

It was hard not to be captivated by a scene in which "sprawled in a relaxed pose on the poufle that had once belonged to the jeweller's wife was a third creature, namely, a black cat of horrific proportions with a glass of vodka in one paw and in the other a fork on which he had speared a pickled mushroom." This surreal and fantastical description is typical of the whole novel and I certainly wasn't disappointed by what the other pages contained.

The Master and Margarita is a wonderful book. It's a novel of two parts: the first tells the stories of various citizens of Moscow who are punished by the Devil and his henchmen for various misdemeanours; in the second we finally meet the lovely Margarita of the title and follow her drama. Interspersed with this are chapters narrated by Pontius Pilate about the last days of Christ.

Part satire, part fantasy, this is a remarkable novel. There is much to rave about here. The characters are fantastic creations and will stay with you; Woland and Margarita are unforgettable, but the best of all is Behemoth. Readers have criticised some of the translators of this novel, but this version (Burgin and O'Conner - Picador edition) is excellent.

To quote Woland "manuscripts don't burn" and that was luckily true for this one as it escaped the fires of Stalinism. A true masterpiece.
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2.0 out of 5 stars His masterpiece???, 25 April 2014
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This review is from: The Master and Margarita (Paperback)
Too weird for me, completely different to his country doc's tales. Supposed to be his masterpiece but I did not enjoy it and din't like the style.
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The Master and Margarita
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (Paperback - 8 Aug 1997)
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