Monday, November 7, 2011

Master and Margarita - the Amazing Novel That Keeps Giving

NaBloPoMo Post #7

Today, I want to tell you about my favorite book, a book that influenced me since I was barely a teenager. I just finished watching a Russian movie in ten parts based on this book, and, even though it had good actors and was extremely close to the book, almost word for word in fact, I will say again what I have always said – this book is almost impossible to translate onto the big screen or stage. And many have tried.

Curious yet what the book is? I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. I’m talking about Master and Margarita by a famous Russian writer Mikail Bulgakov. Master and Margarita is considered one of the most important and influential literary works of the 20th century.

Mikail Bulgakov
When I’m asked to describe what the novel is about, I always have a hard time at first. There are two intertwining parts to the novel, two time settings. One is Moscow of the 1930s (the time when Bulgakov wrote), the other is the time of Jesus Christ, called Yeshua in the novel, and of Pontius Pilot. The 1930s Moscow is visited by the Devil (who presents himself as Professor Woland) with his retinue that includes a tall, badly dressed valet by the name of Koroviev, a scary fanged Azazello, who often acts as a hitman, a big black cat that walks on two paws and talks, named Begemot (Behemoth) and a vampire witch Gella. The group wreaks havoc on the city and its citizens. Wollands is also in Moscow to throw his ball, which has to be presided by a woman who has to be named Margarita and who has to be a local. This chosen Margarita enters the scene in part II of the novel, as we get to know the story of her love with the tragic Master. Master is a writer who wrote the novel about Pontius Pilot, the novel that is interspersed as parallel chapters throughout the book. Master was heavily critiqued for it by the literary critics of the socialist communist, religion-less Russia. He suffers greatly because of this and eventually ends up in an insane asylum. Margarita, his mistress, is willing to do anything for him, including becoming a witch and presiding over the Devil's ball.

Much of the novel is a social and political satire written in a light, comedic style. The rest is philosophical and spiritual, with a darker and heavier language.

One of the most famous phrases from Master and Margarita is “Manuscripts Don’t Burn”.

The first time I read Master and Margarita, I was thirteen. Many thought I was too young to read it and were surprised at how much I loved it. I have read it about 20 times since, and every time I read it, I find something new, something I haven’t thought of or realized before. At every age, I read it with renewed awe and fascination. It remains my favorite book still. The last time I read it, I realized that, even though you cannot call it an urban fantasy or paranormal romance per se (and it’s audience is definitely not exclusively women), it definitely has the elements of the genre and was amazed at how it connected to my present day love of writing and reading urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

I have never read the novel in English, just Russian, so I’m not able to suggest the best translation, but here are a few versions. If you’d like to read more, you can find the information here. It is a classic of classics.


  1. Can't wait to read it :) Which language should I read it in first?

  2. Rebecca, I always suggest reading any book in the original language if that's a possibility. No matter how good a translation, it loses something. But if it's going to be too hard for you to read in Russian, then read it in English, that's fine.

  3. LOVE LOVE LOVE this book! Even if you know nothing about Russian history and politics - as I didn't when I read it the first time - you'll find philosophical questions that transcend culture. My personal favorite English translation is this version...

  4. Oh, that's great, Tee! Thanks for sharing the translation that you like. I need to read a few versions in English to figure out which one is the closest to the original lol


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...