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The Master and Margarita (Penguin Classics) Paperback – January 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“My favorite novel—it’s just the greatest explosion of imagination, craziness, satire, humor, and heart.” —Daniel Radcliffe

About the Author

Mikhail Bulgakov (1891–1940) was a doctor, a novelist, a playwright, a short-story writer, and the assistant director of the Moscow Arts Theater. His body of work includes The White Guard, The Fatal Eggs, Heart of a Dog, and his masterpiece, The Master and Margarita, published more than twenty-five years after his death and cited as an inspiration for Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.

Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky have produced acclaimed translations of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gogol, and Bulgakov. Their translation of The Brothers Karamazov won the 1991 PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize. They are married and live in Paris, France.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (December 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141180145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141180144
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Dan Keener on February 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
Take these as essential ingredients: Satan, Jesus, Stalin, Pontius Pilate and Caesar's Empire, assorted literary critics, a great Artist and the woman who loves him, life in 1930s Moscow, a poet on the bitter road to truth, and various demonic henchmen including a big black cat. They add up to one of the greatest novels of the 20th Century, and one of the handful of most moving books I've ever encountered.
The fundamental purpose of Bulgakov's magnum opus is to hold up the harsh light of truth to the sins and hypocrisies of Stalinist Russia. There are three storylines here: one of them concerns the misadventures of Satan's retinue as they wreak havoc on Muscovite literary society, and presents some of the most penetrating satirical writing you'll ever come across; the second storyline centers around the fifth procurator of Judea, the equestrian Pontius Pilate, and his fateful encounter with Jesus leading to the latter's crucifixion; the final story presents the fates of a great writer (the master), and his lover (Margarita). Bulgakov brings the three stories together in a demonstration of narrative genius, to bury the oppressive fallacy of Soviet society and ideals beneath the combined forces of good and evil, of love, of freedom, and of magic and mysticism.
One brief note about available translations: after sampling most of the available English translations, I am firmly convinced that the Pevear/Volkhonsky version is far and away the best. The notes are excellent, and the introduction by Richard Pevear gives invaluable insight into the history of the novel and its ideas. But most of all, they give the narrative much greater vividness and depth, especially in the wonderfully lyrical Pilate chapters. This translation of Bulgakov's most remarkable novel is enthusiastically recommended!
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59 of 63 people found the following review helpful By desefinado on April 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky are very special translators of this highly complex work. Before you buy any other edition, check out the footnotes here which help to explain the more arcane elements of '30's Soviet culture and the context for much of the parallel story based on the Gospels. I read the first two pages of every edition in print and this had the best narrative flow and a richer texture. But, what else would you expect from the PEN translation award winners for "The Brothers Karamozov"?
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By D. Marcovitz on March 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
This translation of Bulgakov's classic is unbeatable, and its endnotes are very helpful. In terms of accuracy and faithfulness to the original Russian text, Pevear and Volokhonsky's work here is unmatched, and it puts the Glenny translation to shame. With that said, I would recommend this edition particularly to those interested in understanding the novel's remarkable Soviet context. The Glenny translation will leave the average reader blind to much of Bulgakov's satire, but it offers perhaps a smoother overall read, often because of the liberties that Glenny takes in his translation.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By jentje on October 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
The novel is a masterpiece, even though it is unfinished and unresolved. It is truly one of the great novels of the 20th century. I am saddened that the Mirra Ginsberg translation seems to have been usurped by this lifeless and leaden, Pevear/Volokhonsky translation. I am afraid that this inferior version has become the default and I don't understand why... perhaps simply due to marketing opportunities. I am curious to hear what other admirers of Bulgakov feel about this. This being said, it is still a great novel and I'm sure it will be enjoyed in this translation. But I implore you, do yourself a favor and get hold of the Mirra Ginsberg translation.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By James Ferguson VINE VOICE on December 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
When finally published in 1967, "The Master and Margarita" made a huge impact on the young Russian generation. It came at the end of the "Russian Spring." The years of Stalinism had partially thawed, and the Soviet Union saw a period of relaxation of many of the austere measures that had been levied on its citizens. Bulgakov had written the book at the height of Stalinist repression. A devil mercilessly playing with the indoctrinated minds of the proletarians and intellectuals alike. One has to understand that Bulgakov was a deeply religious man. He used satire as a means of renouncing the god-less Soviet state. Bulgakov can be viewed in the same literary vein as Gogol and Dostoevsky. He also delighted in word plays, hidden meanings and multiple layers of storytelling, making this a book you can return to again and again.
There are two essential stories in this novel. The first is that of the Master and Margarita, a doomed pair of lovers who find themselves fatalistically intertwined with the devil and his henchman. The other is that of Christ and Pontius Pilate. Bulgakov moves effortlessly back and forth in time through the voice of the devil, Woland, who overhears two Russian literati discussing the veracity of the death and resurrection of Christ. The fun and games follow in rapid succession, as the devil turns Petersburg on its ear, confounding a sedated city with his miraculous tricks.
Pevear and Volokhonsky have done a fine translation. It is a bit too literal for my tastes. They didn't need to translate the names into English. Footnotes would have sufficed. But, then Bulgakov often employed blunt language. He was a playwright by profession, and in many ways this book is a theatre of the absurd.
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