We can't go a whole year without reading a Russian novel, and we can't go through October without paying a little tribute to Halloween. This year's nod to the goulish and other-worldly festivities of All Hallow's Eve will be given by "Master and Margarita", by Mikhail Bulgakov. I'm especially excited to read this one because 1) Russian novels are my favourites, and 2) I read this book 4 years ago and I'm dying to read it again with the hopes that it will make a little more sense. Here's your warning in advance: It is often said that you can't really understand this book unless you're actually Russian, so be prepared to be confused... and make use of a good study guide such as this one.
http://www.gradesaver.com/the-master-and-margarita/study-guide/ It will be worth it!
As briefly touched upon in this review, do your research to decide which translation you would prefer to read.
"This book has got it all -- decapitations, crucifixions, vodka-drinking cats, and naked women flying on broomsticks. What's more, it is a refreshing change of pace from the 19th century works that most people think of when they hear the term "Russian literature." Bulgakov is no Tolstoi or Dostoevskiy, and I mean that as a compliment. All three are top-notch writers, each in his own way. But where Bulgakov differs from the latter two is in his ability to infuse his work with a light-heartedness, even when the subject matter is serious. While Tolstoi is known for epic tales on the grandest of scales, and Dostoevskiy for his penetrating insights into the darkness of the human soul, Bulgakov breaks from his predecessors by creating fiction with flare, stories that dance off the page, with an undeniable element of humor that is extremely rare in Russian literature.
This edition of Master and Margarita is a bit choppy in the translation, but it more than makes up for that minor flaw by providing an excellent set of comments on the text at the back of the book. This is one of those books that is so much easier to appreciate the more you understand the historical references and the social context of the story. Bulgakov, in addition to be a master of the pen, was also a capable historian and keen observer of society and politics. His novels, particularly this one, make this clear. In Master and Margarita, thanks to its novel-within-a-novel structure, you have not one but two socio-historical portraits, both of them exceptionally accurate. Bulgakov showed no fear of the Communist censors, depicting with remarkable honesty the Soviet Union of the 1930s. (No wonder this book didn't see the light of day for several decades.) But perhaps more impressive is his portrayal of a period which he did not witness first-hand. Through the character of the Master, Bulgakov relates a completely unorthodox, though not at all unbelievable, account of Jesus' trial and crucifixion from the perspective of Pontius Pilate, who comes across as most sympathetic and likeable.
As one would expect, the two stories are flawlessly woven together. Parallel plot lines and similarities between the characters in each story make the novel that much richer, that much more of a literary achievement. It is no surprise that most Russians consider this to be their finest example of 20th century literature."
New to the Hungry Hundred Book Club? Here's what you need to know:
1. Read the book (If you don't manage to finish it by the meetup date, don't worry. As long as you're not going to be too disappointed by spoilers, you're still welcome to join.)
2. Come to the meeting, always on the last Sunday of every month
3. Be prepared to order food/drink at the venue (where ever that may be) to show our appreciation for letting us use their space
4. Discuss! It's a casual conversation, so don't be afraid to ask questions and let us know what you think.
If this book inspires a creative element in you, please write a piece for the Creative Component of our book club. It can be about anything that has something to do with the book or the discussion. It might get you a free book! Check our facebook page or send me a message for more information.