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The Master and Margarita

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The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

 

I wanted to start a thread because it is one of my favorite books of all time, and with spring coming it feels time for a re-read.  Here's the TLDR version - This is the book that inspired Mick Jagger to write "Sympathy for the Devil" (look it up)

 

It starts when one Mr. W, a professor who says he from Germany, visits the city of Moscow in the pre-Stalin late 1920s.  It is a tragedy, farce, romance, political satire, magical realism and existentialism rolled up into an amazing whole.  It is loosely based on Goethe's Faust the same way O Brother Where Art Thou was based on the Odyssey.  There is a large talking cat and pranks involving telegrams,  burned novels and a magic show.  Also the last days of Jesus.  Trying not to be too spoilery here.  

 

History

So (cribbing from the wiki) this is a novel written by Bulgakov, a Russian writer from the Lenin days.  He had mostly done plays before.  He wrote this from 1928-1936 (and you thought George RR Martin was bad).  A censored version was eventually published but it largely remained unavailable in full until the 1970s.

 

Translation:

I read the Diana Burgin, Katherine O'connor (red/black cover with a silhouette of a cat).  It has really good chapter notes.  I've never read any other translations,  I'm curious if fans have preferred translations?

 

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I read it last year and quite liked it. I had a different translation (Larissa Volokhonsky and Richard Pevear) but it also had notes. Those helped a lot in understanding the historical context of the book, who the various characters might be based on, and so on. For some reason, the Pontius Pilate part was by far the most fascinating to me.

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This book's Finnish translation has a completely different title ("Satan arrives in Moscow") which always captivated me along with the stark grey cover with a large cat holding a revolver. I liked it a lot when I read it. I should read it again.

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If you are reading a translation know that the older ones have to work from the censored version.  I've never read the censored version, I admit I am curious as to what was left out.  The later translations, Burgin/O'connor and the penguin classics people are both good with translation and bring the humor and satire through.  As a novel it was so ahead of its time.   

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Yeah, I had one where the previously censored bits were italicised.

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This book's Finnish translation has a completely different title ("Satan arrives in Moscow") 

 

Those are the exact words I use to explain the plot when I am trying to get a friend to read it.  

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