languagehat.com: THE MASTER AND MARGARITA.
Couldn't refrain from commenting...
I must confess that I don't have the same admiration for M&M novel as I used to have - not after re-reading it several times at different ages (that I did thus re-read it would testify to the strength of the original admiration). I think that many of those who read it as Soviet adolescents will never forget the stunning first impression it all - the satire, the devil, the romance - had made on them, especially by contrast with what one usually read and saw at the time. That, and the language - best words in the best order.
What turns me away now is mostly the Voland/Margarita line (so very diabolic: the dead villains having a ball, bathing in champaign, and naked witches, no less) that has started to annoy me at some point. And, to think that, in Stalin's Moscow, of all places, the Devil himself would find nothing more interesting by way of evil than a bunch of petty thieves and literary sycophants... I don't know what understanding of it would be worse - a deliberate statement of values or a moral blind spot. As for the Jerusalem story, for me it was just like the rest of it: stunning first impression that, over the years, changed to slight annoyance from what I saw as the arbitrariness of it all.
Then again, there is that study proving that Bulgakov was thinking about his conversation with Stalin when writing at least some of the exchanges between Voland and Margarita. There is something narrow and self-centred about all that, and I think it rubs off on the rest of the novel somehow. A nervous, broken man, just like the Master, never fully recovered from the bloody chaos of the Civil War, seeking a Power - any Power - that would protect him, that he could serve in exchange for peace, and maybe a Power that would end up understanding and rewarding him, and, yes, punishing his enemies.
As for the recent TV series, I think it is quite good, and, I believe, true to the text to the point of actually having just what I see as the shortcomings of the novel itself.
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