addressalign-toparrow-leftarrow-rightbackbellblockcalendarcameraccwchatcheckchevron-downchevron-leftchevron-rightchevron-small-downchevron-small-leftchevron-small-rightchevron-small-upchevron-upcircle-with-checkcircle-with-crosscircle-with-pluscrossdots-three-verticaleditemptyheartexporteye-with-lineeyefacebookfolderfullheartglobegmailgoogleimageimagesinstagramlinklocation-pinmagnifying-glassmailminusmoremuplabelShape 3 + Rectangle 1outlookpersonplusprice-ribbonImported LayersImported LayersImported Layersshieldstartickettrashtriangle-downtriangle-uptwitteruseryahoo

"Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov

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. 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.


Join or login to comment.

  • Rachel

    I lived this book the second time around, but as usual there were different opinions. Great discussion, I think it helped shed some light on a hard to read book!

    1 · October 28, 2013

    • Keiko M.

      It did help me a lot! Thank you, Rachel! Thanks, everybody!

      October 29, 2013

    • Mark

      To have lived this book you’d have had to be really really stoned or tripping balls, so am somewhat relieved at your correction... It is indeed a very lovable book!

      1 · October 30, 2013

  • G.F. Y.

    Sorry Rachel will be late

    October 27, 2013

  • Rachel

    Hi everyone, please update your RSVP if you're unable to make it!

    October 25, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Had last min work trip and will be away. Got the burgess book and it's been a whirlwind read. Hope you guys enjoy discussing!

    October 24, 2013

  • Josephine D.

    Rachel, kudos for choosing this book! What a read! What a fab read!! Sorry Ive just changed my rsvp to "not attending". But its going to my huge loss i know.
    I'm reading the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa volokhonsky (from good ol' national library).

    1 · October 23, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I have to go find the damn book. Can't buy on kindle and have been stuck with just airport bookstores with restrictive selections. Everyone's posts have been inspiring. I will buy it this weekend!

    October 10, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Thanks! Think I'm going to need it. Got the book and realized I haven't read anything besides non-fiction for awhile and my head is spinning with characters, colours and scene sets changes!

      October 13, 2013

  • Rachel

    I took Marks suggestion and got the Burgin/O'Conner translation, and I like it so far much better than the first time I read it. And I loved it the first time I read it. :) The notes at the back are helpful, especially since I didn't see any sparknotes on this book.

    1 · October 4, 2013

    • Khaing, the delivery took two to three weeks though

      October 9, 2013

    • Mark

      I’ve never bought a book online, but I bought my copy of this book from Littered With Books, an independent bookshop on Duxton Road. They had a copy of the translation I wanted, plus a few copies of other translations. You can phone them to check if they've still got any in-store:


      I'd say there're actually still quite a number of physical bookshops selling books here: Kinokuniya, Littered with Books, Books Actually, MPH, Times, Popular... Kino by far the most well-stocked and wide-ranging one, of course.

      October 9, 2013

  • t.r.i.s.h

    'the master and margarita' movie, if anyone's interested... broken up into 9 mins' parts. subtitles are a bit wonky at parts...

    start with:

    1 · October 5, 2013

  • Mark

    Enjoyed this one. Should appeal to Neil Gaiman fans, those who like kind of nutty, hallucinatory stories or those interested in Soviet Russia. If you’re looking to buy a really good translation I would recommend the one by Diana Burgin & Katherine O’Conner, which also comes with notes explaining each cultural reference.

    2 · September 28, 2013

15 went

Our Sponsors

  • Books Actually

    20% discount on our upcoming discussion books, 10% off store wide.

People in this
Meetup are also in:

Sign up

Meetup members, Log in

By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy