Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Master and Margarita

Title: The Master and Margarita

Author: Mikhail Bulgakov

Number of pages: 564

Started: 7 February 2010

Finished: 17 February 2010

Opening words:

At the hour of the hot spring sunset two citizens appeared at the Patriarch's Ponds. One of them, approximately forty years old, dressed in a grey summer suit, was short, dark-haired, plump, bald, and carried his respectable fedora hat in his hand. His neatly shaven face was adorned with black horn-rimmed glasses of a supernatural size. The other, a broad-shouldered young man with tousled reddish hair, his checkered cap cocked back on his head, was wearing a cowboy shirt, wrinkled white trousers and black sneakers.

The first was none other than Mikhail Alexandrovich Berlioz, editor of a fat literary journal and chairman of the board of one of the major Moscow literary associations, called Massolit for short, and his young companion was the poet Ivan Nikolayevich Ponyrev, who wrote under the pseudonym of Homeless.

Read a longer extract here.

Plot summary:

The devil comes to Moscow wearing a fancy suit. With his disorderly band of accomplices - including a demonic, gun-toting tomcat - he immediately begins to create havoc.

Disappearances, destruction and death spread through the city like wildfire and Margarita discovers that her lover has vanished in the chaos. Making a bargain with the devil, she decides to try a little black magic of her own to save the man she loves ...

Read a major analysis of the book (by an “amateur”) here

What I thought:

This book wasn’t really my kind of read. I didn’t really get into the plot very well and found it all a bit odd and unsatisfying. This might, in part, be down to the translation, particularly as there seems to be much debate about which of the many translation is “best”. Perhaps if I had read another version, I might have found it to be a different read. But, for me, I didn’t really find the book flowed, I thought the plot was odd and a bit to surreal in some places for my liking and I just didn’t find the book very coherent. Not a book that I would particularly recommend.


Sarah said...

Yes, but you finished it! I'm so jealous. I couldn't read it, gave up before the half way point, and know that I have it still to do... Not feeling so very enthusiastic about that right now!

The White Guard by Bulgakov is much more accessible (ie I managed that one) and I would recommend it strongly.

Random Reflections said...

Sarah - I think I persevered with it because the thought of giving it a go another time filled me with horror. Maybe another translation woudl have been better. the one I read was by Richard Peaver.

I will keep your recommendation in mind, but am not sure I will be trying another of his books...

Sarah said...

Interesting point about the translation: my copy is translated by the same guy, but The White Guard is translated by someone else...

Are you having a Russian phase; I see that you have read two in a row?

Random Reflections said...

Sarah - I do wonder if another translation might have helped me, but I am not going to give it another go to find out.

My Russian phase is over, I am now reading a book translated from French - The Count of Monte Cristo.

anothercookiecrumbles said...

Oh! I have the same edition as yours (well, same cover), and was planning on reading it in the next couple of months. Thought that despite being surreal, the plot sounded fantastic.

Might have to procrastinate on that one!

Random Reflections said...

anothercookiecrumbles - There are clearly people who love this book, although there are some people who put this down to the expertise of particular translations.

I would encourage you to read books that are higher on your TBR list. But the choice is yours...