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THE MASTER AND MARGARITA: 50th-Anniversary Edition (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Kindle Edition
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“From the first page I was immediately beguiled, leading me to my year of reading Bulgakov, drawing me to venture to Moscow to seek out the landmarks in the book, and the author’s grave, which is steps away from the grave of Gogol.” —Patti Smith, The New York Times Book Review
“Nude vampires, gun-toting talking black cat, and devil as ultimate party starter aside, the miracle of this novel is that every time you read it, it’s a different book.” —Marlon James, “My 10 Favorite Books,” in T: The New York Times Style Magazine
“I read it first as an 18-year-old and, just like a meteor from a distant galaxy, it hit my tender young brain and dug its way deep into its gray material. It has nestled there ever since, radiating with beauty and wonder, irony and horror.” —Sjón, Vulture
“One of the truly great Russian novels of [the twentieth] century.” —The New York Times Book Review
“By turns hilarious, mysterious, contemplative, and poignant . . . A great work.” —Chicago Tribune
“A soaring, dazzling novel; an extraordinary fusion of wildly disparate elements. It is a concerto played simultaneously on the organ, the bagpipes, and a pennywhistle, while someone sets off fireworks between the players’ feet.” —The New York Times
“Fine, funny, imaginative . . . The Master and Margarita stands squarely in the great Gogolesque tradition of satiric narrative.” —Newsweek
“A wild surrealistic romp . . . Brilliantly flamboyant and outrageous.” —Joyce Carol Oates
“Beautiful, strange, tender, scarifying, and incandescent . . . One of those novels that, even in translation, make one feel that not one word could have been written differently . . . Margarita has too many achievements to list—for one thing, a plot scudding with action and suspense, not exactly a hallmark of Russian literature. . . . This luminous translation [is] distinguished by not only the stylistic elegance that has become a hallmark of Pevear and Volokhonsky translations but also a supreme ear for the sound and meaning of Soviet life. . . . It’s time for The Master and Margarita to rise to its rightful place in the canon of great world literature. . . . As literature, it will live forever.” —Boris Fishman, from the Foreword
About the Author
Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (translators) have translated works by Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, Gogol, and Pasternak. They were twice awarded the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize, for their translations of Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Pevear, a native of Boston, and Volokhonsky, of St. Petersburg, are married and live in Paris.
Boris Fishman (foreword) is the author of two novels, A Replacement Life, which was one of The New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2014 and won the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and the American Library Association’s Sophie Brody Medal, and Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo. His journalism, essays, and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, the London Review of Books, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. Fishman has taught at Princeton University and New York University. Born in Minsk, Belarus, he moved to the United States at age nine and now lives in New York.
Christopher Conn Askew (cover illustrator) is a painter and tattoo artist whose illustrations have appeared on the covers of books, albums, and magazines. He lives in Los Angeles. --This text refers to the paperback edition.
- File Size : 1335 KB
- Publication Date : June 21, 2016
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 445 pages
- Publisher : Penguin Classics; Deluxe Edition (June 21, 2016)
- Lending : Not Enabled
- ASIN : B01DJZWALO
- Language: : English
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #42,150 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The first time I read The Master and Margarita in Russian, it was, out of all places, in Berlin. I was a teenager, and I lived in Berlin with my father and his new wife and my half-sister, because my father was a writer and a journalist and was sent by Soviet Union to Berlin to be the correspondent for a large Russian newspaper agency. I remember reading the book so vividly, that even today every detail is etched in my brain like a colorful photograph. The soft bright chair I sat in, with my back toward the window, the book in my lap, the pages rustling, and the image of Margarita, most importantly, of her knee, the knee that's been kissed over and over and how it turned blue. And the cat, the black cat that could talk. That's all I remember, plus the feeling of fascination I got. And now, over 20 years later, I have read it again, after becoming a writer myself 2 years ago, not knowing back in my teens that I would ever write, but being struck by the genius of Bulgakov. And, my, oh my, rereading it now I understood for the first time what the book was about. I sort of thought of it as a fairy tale back in my teens, I felt something underneath it, but couldn't get it. I got it now, and I cried, I cried for Bulgakov, for his imprisonment as a writer in the country that oppressed him to the last of his days, and I cried because he refused to be broken, and because he has written a masterpiece, and I was holding it in my hands, reliving it like so many people, many many years after he died.
As to the story. It's not just one story, and not even two, it's four. A story of love, and of darkness, and of life and death. There are four narratives, the love between Master and Margarita, the strange visitors and Satan who come to Moscow, the story of Moscow life itself, the city, the people, and the story of Yeshua in the ancient walls of Yershalayim. Each has its own flavor, breathes its own air, and weaves into one book that tethers on that notion that no work of art can be destroyed, "manuscripts don't burn", says Satan, and that's Bulgakov's pain, him against the system that wanted to crush him, and didn't. He escaped. The irony of the book is that, in some sense, it's autobiographical, and that makes it even more tragic. But the satire! Oh, the satire! I don't know how many times I snorted coffee and tea out of my nose, because I have this habit of drinking hot drinks while reading, curled up on the couch. So many memories burst on the scene, so many authentic Russian quirks and habits and characters, the wealth of which I have nearly forgotten over my 16 years in US, and which dazzled my mind like fireworks, albeit of course, because I was reading it in Russian, and I'm about to start reading two translations in English, one by Mirra Ginsburg, and another by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Because, if there was ever a book worth reading 5, 10, 20 times in a row, it is The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov, his last book written over the course of 10 years, and not quite completed… he narrated changes to his wife right up to his death. No matter. It is perfect. Read it.
I’m not Russian. I’ve never been to Russia and the largest segment of Russian culture that I know anything about is classical ballet. I’m not political, so I don’t know much of the political structures that have governed Russia for decades. But I do know that the Master and Margarita is a modern day Russian classic so I read it. I expected it to be a dry, impenetrable task but I wanted to see what the big deal was.
I probably still don’t know what the big deal is, but what a wild ride. There’s a devil who shows up in Moscow one day (God only knows why) and takes over the theatre and all the chaos and hilarity that ensures from that. We’ve got a giant black cat that stands on his hind legs and talks and causes a boatload of trouble. He’s in league with the devil, you see. We have a heroine who flies over Moscow by night on her witch’s broom and her servant girl who rides with her, but on the back of a giant flying pig.
But first, you must make your way past the first 3 chapters. Once you do, I guarantee you’ll be re-reading passages to make sure you read it right the first time. You probably did; this book is as wild as anything Fellini ever put on film and makes Alice in Wonderland look like child’s play. Don’t get bogged down in Pontius Pilate and all of that. It’s temporary and doesn’t take up much of the book.
Magical realism? I don’t know. It’s pretty magical but I don’t think it’s real. Symbolism? Plenty of it: the moon, the color red, naked women, mental hospitals and more. But what it all means is up to the reader to decipher and having read this book once, I know I’ll have to re-read it to glean understanding.
History says Mikhail Bulgakov wrote this during the height of Stalin’s tyranny. For that reason, the book was banned which is a concept that Americans can’t understand. To us, the label “banned book” is an enticement to see what the big deal was. In Stalinist Russia, having your book banned was getting off easy; writers and members of the intelligentsia were often sent off to work camps or killed.
But enough history. The thing is, if you pick up this book, expect to be captivated by chaos and improbability, passages that are truly gothic, and beautiful writing. It’s an outrageous trip. Overall, The Master and Margarita is a love story imagined during a time of great trouble. This book can go as deep as the reader is willing to go, but don’t expect to get it all in the first or third read. You can keep it light and be amazed or take it deeper. If you go deep, please report back to us and share your findings. I know I missed a lot.
Don’t be frightened away from The Master and Margarita. Remember, there’s a giant black cat that walks on hind legs and can’t wait to stir up disaster. How entertaining is that?
Top reviews from other countries
On a warm spring afternoon at full moon Satan, attended by a bizarre retinue of demons including a huge black cat that walks on its hind legs, talks, drinks vodka and plays chess, arrives in Moscow, presents himself as ‘Professor Woland’ a theatrical magician and for the following few days presides as a kind of ‘Lord of Misrule’ over a series of hilariously disruptive events that cause widespread hysteria. While it becomes clear to the reader what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in the world of the novel it is not at all clear to most of those citizens of Moscow who encounter Satan/Woland and his demons. For the people of Moscow have made their compromises with tyranny to the extent that their perceptions have become so distorted that that they do not recognize tyranny for what it is, but believe it to be good and regard anything that disrupts the status quo as bad. Woland represents the urge to escape, to be free and apart from Natasha the only characters who act on this urge are Margarita who longs to escape from a loveless marriage and to be reunited with her lover, a persecuted novelist (‘the Master’), who has disappeared and the Master himself. The other characters who encounter Woland and his entourage are too immersed in the petty concerns of their everyday lives, their envy, their ambition, their crass materialism and their fearful and unquestioning acceptance of things as they are to dare to desire freedom.
The novel is filled with incident and is very fast paced and I got the distinct impression that the driving force behind all of this is Bulgakov’s anger – his anger at Soviet society for its acceptance of and collaboration with tyranny and his anger at himself for what he believed to be his own cowardice in the face of tyranny. He invents a world in which he can wreak revenge and creates his own version of Satan to be his avenging angel. Bulgakov’s Satan is not the all evil Satan of the Christian imagination. True, he does bad things to bad people as Satan is expected to do, but uncharacteristically he also does good things to good people; not only is he capable of doing good as well as evil, but he also has a sense of humour: through Satan/Woland, Bulgakov can fantasize about laughing at and at the same time punishing the bureaucrats, spies, informers and busybodies who made day-to-day Soviet life so intolerable.
Much of Bulgakov’s animus is directed at the complacent Muscovite literary establishment, who should have known better, who should have spoken out on behalf of the oppressed, but were so seduced by their privileged status and its attendant material benefits and so cowed that they ignored the reality of the world that they lived in. It was said by Nabokov that there was no such thing as Soviet literature as the truly great figures of Russian literature in the Soviet period were forced to become dissidents to be true to themselves and their art. It was the mediocrities who did not become dissidents and who reaped the rewards for their collaboration. Bulgakov shows his contempt for them by portraying them as the members of the literary club Massolit who are less interested in writing than in dachas, Crimean holidays and above all their fine club restaurant from which members of the public are excluded. The Master, in contrast, is not part of the literary establishment. He has written a novel about the moral cowardice of Pontius Pilate, who was so terrified of the consequences of defying the Emperor Tiberius that he submitted to the blackmail of the high priest and acted contrary to his own conscience and inclinations by agreeing to the execution of Jesus. The Master’s novel has been denied publication presumably because the parallels with Soviet life are too obvious for comfort, and a campaign against its author by a group of influential literary critics has driven the Master to burn the manuscript and has led to his being arrested and subsequently seeking refuge in a psychiatric hospital. There are parallels with Bulgakov’s life in that he was himself the victim of a politically motivated press campaign in the 1920’s. The Master and Margarita was not published during his lifetime and at one stage he even burned the manuscript. But, as Woland says, “Manuscripts do not burn”…
The Master and Margarita is a wonderful comic fantasy in which supernatural happenings occur in a world that does not accept the supernatural as a possibility and much of the comedy is provided by the reactions of Soviet citizens and officials to the outrageous tricks that are perpetrated on them. One of the funniest incidents in the book is when a pompous citizen who has temporarily been metamorphosed into a hog and forced to attend Satan’s grand ball demands from Satan a certificate attesting to this fact as evidence to prove to his wife and to the authorities where he has spent the night. I suppose it is the portrayal of Satan that caused the Russian Orthodox Church to find the novel offensive and that in 2006 induced a religious extremist to vandalize the Bulgakov museum in Moscow. This is ironic because Bulgakov was a Christian and it was his outrage at the crude anti-religious propaganda of the Soviet authorities that prompted him to write the novel, but Satan as the advocate of religious belief and the opponent of official Soviet atheism even in the context of a satire was clearly too much for conventional Christians to swallow. It is also probable that they were offended that the Master’s unorthodox retelling of the Gospel story is featured in four chapters as a novel within the novel, part of which is actually narrated by Satan. In the circumstances the fact that the atmosphere of ancient Jerusalem (in the novel called ‘Yershalaim’) and the events surrounding the crucifixion are brought to life much more vividly than in the Gospel accounts cannot have pleased the church authorities.
I found it difficult to put the book down so engrossed did I become in the world that Bulgakov created and as soon as I finished it I started to read it again. His Moscow seems very immediate and alive and the small-minded, sly, officious and corrupt Soviet citizens and officials that he describes are sadly all too credible. The general unpleasantness of life in the Stalinist period, the atmosphere of fear and distrust, the denunciations, the disappearances, the privations of life in communal apartments, the privileges enjoyed by the favoured few such as hard currency shops and exclusive clubs are all objects of Bulgakov’s satire. Even though it is set in Stalinist Moscow at the height of the purges and show trials in the late 1930’s the atmosphere of the novel is not oppressive. This is a Moscow of the imagination in which demons with a sense of fun play pranks against the dour and humourless citizens and officials of the communist state. It is hardly surprising that Bulgakov did not seek to have the novel published during his lifetime.
It seems that the book is not an original copy but a roadside rip-off. The cover quality is pathetic. It is definitely not something that would survive any number of years on a shelf.It seems that the hobby of collecting book is about to go obsolete.
What saddens me however is that this is the normal state of affairs. Past experiences tell me returning the book would not solve the issue
Moreover what's up with not using cardboard boxes in delivering boooks , Amazon? Each fold is excruciatingly painful for a book lover.
If you're not familiar with Russian literature I still think you'd find this good a great romp but you may possibly not enjoy it as much as someone who has read Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Cherneshevsky, Turgenev, Goncharov etc beforehand, mostly because, in my opinion, the humor which this book boasts a-plenty is very, very Russian!!
If you have an interest in the culture and history of Russia, this book also gives you an insight into the prejudices, the moral and philosophical opinions and the political upheaval of the time.
One of my favorite (and most "Bulgakov-esque"!) moments comes at the very beginning of the book where Berlioz and his companion meet The Devil on a park bench and, not really knowing who he was and finding him somewhat strange, they try to logically and rationally discuss between themselves where he comes from and who, exactly, he is. They then conclude that he must surely be a mentally unstable German! Bulgakov has a way of writing which makes you believe that Berlioz and Co had come to this conclusion perfectly reasonably!
The concept of someone being beheaded by olive oil (indirectly!) is just too delicious for words too!
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who fancies a foray into Russian literature at the turn of the 20th Century and who is open to Bulgakov's seemingly limitless powers of imagination!
This is not a "story" in the conventional sense - it is a wander through the mind of Mikhail Bulgakov (a genius by my estimation) and there are many different interpretations of this novel. My own feeling is that it is an attempt to parallel "old" and "new" moral values (in much the same way as Turgenev's Fathers and Sons or Dostoyevsky's Notes From the Underground were) and it also has a philosophical and slightly heretical take on organized religion.
Give it a try as it really is a superb book and funny beyond words!!