Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov

The Master and Margarita is undoubtedly the most unusual book I have read. The book is written in two parts: The first part opens with the Devil’s arrival in Moscow and the series of tragic events that take place in its wake. Devil, who goes by the name Woland, and his retinue create havoc in Moscow targeting literary elites, the most important target being Berlioz, the head of the Moscow Literary Union known as MASSOLIT, a renowned atheist. Most of the literary members being atheist receive cruel punishment at the hand of the Devil and his assistants.

I had a difficult time finding a plot in this section. What I read was a series of tragic events that took place, which saw several literate elites being fallen victim to the Devil. However, the interesting thing about Bulgakov’s writing is that, although you do not properly grasp what it is all about, nevertheless you can enjoy what he writes. It is full of religious and social satire. I have only a limited knowledge of the Stalin regime in the Soviet Union, but I can clearly see Bulgakov’s satirical attack on his governance. There is also a subtle attack on the growing atheism in the Soviet Union and perhaps on the contribution to that by the literary elite. And after reading a bit of the biography on Bulgakov, I felt this part of the book is his personal vendetta against the literary giants who made working as an author difficult for him.

The second part deals with the Master and Margarita. If there is a story in this book, I found it only in this part. The master, having written a novel on Pontius Pilate and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and on its being rejected for publication and severely criticized, falls into despair (to this extent the master resembles Bulgakov) and finds him in a lunatic asylum under the Devil’s clutch. Margarita, the faithful, young, and beautiful lover of the master, works on a pact with the Devil with a view of rescuing her beloved. The chapters that dealt with their story were quite interesting. I read that Bulgakov’s third wife, Elena, was the inspiration for the character Margarita. Her devotion to Bulgakov and his works is indeed reflected in Margarita’s devotion to the Master and his work.

Bulgakov’s approach to the story is in a fantasy form, but he nevertheless, has done a great job in bringing out the satire he clearly intended when writing it. The story is dark, dangerous, and at times violent, but also entertaining and humorous. Never in my life had I thought I would say a dark and dangerous book entertaining. But in all honesty, it was entertaining; the due credit goes to Bugakov for his excellent writing. And although I’m still convinced I didn’t understand the story fully, it was still an enjoyable read.

Rating: 4/5

About the author

Piyangie Jay Ediriwickrema is an Attorney-at-Law by profession. Her devotion to literature has taken shape in reading and reviewing books of various genres set in different periods of time. She dabs at a little poetry and fiction of her own and hopes to share her work with the readers in the future.

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