Amy Reads Books

Master and Margarita (Penguin Classics)

The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov, Richard Pevear, Larissa Volokhonsky This* is how novels about magic should be done.Published in 1966, over twenty years after Bulgakov's death, The Master & Margarita became a literary phenomenon, and its hardly surprising. Although the title speaks of The Master and Margarita neither are the key characters. Although they definitely play important parts; the key character is Woland, who is probably the Devil, and his retinue, consisting of Azazello, Koroviev, Behemoth and Hella. Behemoth is probably my favourite character in the novel, he's a giant talking cat that can transform into a person, indeed in the final chapters he is described as a young court jester.As Woland and his retinue run amok in Moscow, their paths cross numerous men whose lives are either ended or drastically changed due to this encounter. One such individual is Ivan Homeless, a poet, who meets Woland in a park with his friend Berlioz. When Berlioz perishes by being hit by a tram, Ivan is struck by the fact that Woland knew what was going to happen beforehand, an gives chase to Woland and his retinue. This fails, and he is committed to a mental asylum, especially when he tells police of Behemoth the cat boarding a tram and of the tale that Woland told him of having met Pontius Pilate. The mental asylum is suspicious, by the end of the novel Ivan no longer cares about Berlioz's fate.Meanwhile, the title characters are an author (The Master) who writes a novel about the 'real' story of the Crucifixion of 'Jesus Christ'; and his lover, the married, 30-year-old [nice to see an older heroine really] Margarita, who literally makes a pact with the Devil in order to see her Master again, as he has been committed to the same institution as Ivan.Bulgakov paints the city of Moscow wonderfully, and I found it really interesting how he could do that, and then switch so easily to the Ancient world, one can see and feel the palace and the sun in the ancient city. You can feel the heat through the words. And of course, the fascinating use of magic. Characters disappear and re-appear with no memory. Within Woland's show money is turned from roubles to merely bits of paper; and women who receive make-overs leave the theatre in just their underwear. Creams make people into witches and comfortable naked. Animals fly. Woland possesses a globe on which you can view world conflicts. This is black magic, and the darkness is never hidden from the reader. The Master & Margarita is a dark novel. It is a novel that portrays the Devil as being rational, and almost sympathetic. It laughs at men who occupy themselves with business and money and fame. It's wonderful.