Friday Reads: The Master & Margarita

The strangest book I have ever read was The Master and Margarita. I read this Russian novel way back in 2010 and think of it often. I want to recommend it now as we enter the fall season, as it includes some typically Halloween & Samhain elements and hopefully someone else will pick it up so I can live vicariously through you’re reading it. (DO IT).

The Master and Margarita was written by Michael Bulgakov between 1928 & 1940, but not published until 1967 after the author’s death. This was a heavily censored version was printed in Moskva magazine (no. 11, 1966 and no. 1, 1967). A final, unedited, print was finally completed in 1973.

I can hardly summarize the story due to all off its complexities and “lost in translation” moments due to my lack of education in Russian history and the Russian language, but here’s a shot: The Devil visits the Soviet Union. There’s a witch who flies a broom. And a talking cat. Hilarity & satire ensure.

The tale takes place in two places:

1) Patriarch Ponds (in the Soviet Union) where the Devil – in disguise as a fancy gentleman named Professor Woland – arrives with his entourage. His crew includes a valet, a fast-talking black kitty cat, a hit man with fangs, and a lady vampire named Hella. They cause chaos with the literary elite.

2) Jerusalem where Ponticus Pilate exists (yes, that Ponticus Pilate – the man who sentenced Jesus to death) and his relationship to spirituality and a life beyond death.

There’s a magic show satirizing greed, a midnight Devil’s Ball, and women’s liberation initiated by the Devil’s mistress – Margarita – whose pastimes include flying around the world on her broom with her BFF (her maid) Natasha. The fate of the Devil & Margarita is left in the hands of Satan who needs to decide if they are evil enough to enter Hell or decent enough to enter heaven. Ponticus Pilate is back, too, and his fate is determined.

I TOLD YOU IT WAS WEIRD.

The Master & Margarita has been interpreted in many ways, but my favorite interpretation is that good and evil exist in all of us. We are more complicated than “good” or “bad” and we need to know that in order to be kind, humane, individuals. How can that be anything but the truth?

Please let me know if you pick up this incredible novel. I want you to tell me all about it and help me better understand each detail.

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