Synopses & Reviews
The underground masterpiece of twentieth-century Russian fiction, Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita
was written during Stalin's regime and could not be published until many years after its author's death.
When the devil arrives in 1930s Moscow, consorting with a retinue of odd associates — including a talking black cat, an assassin, and a beautiful naked witch — his antics wreak havoc among the literary elite of the world capital of atheism. Meanwhile, the Master, author of an unpublished novel about Jesus and Pontius Pilate, languishes in despair in a psychiatric hospital, while his devoted lover, Margarita, decides to sell her soul to save him. As Bulgakov's dazzlingly exuberant narrative weaves back and forth between Moscow and ancient Jerusalem, studded with scenes ranging from a giddy Satanic ball to the murder of Judas in Gethsemane, Margarita's enduring love for the Master joins the strands of plot across space and time.
The devil, disguised as a magician, descends upon Moscow in the 1930s with his riotous band, which includes a talking cat and an expert assassin. Together they succeed in comically befuddling a population which denies the devil's existence, even as it is confronted with the diabolic results of a magic act gone wrong. This visit to the capital of world atheism has several aims, one of which concerns the fate of the Master, a writer who has written a novel about Pontius Pilate, and is now in a mental hospital. Margarita, the despairing and daring heroine, becomes a witch in an effort to save the Master, and agrees to become the devil's hostess at his annual spring ball. By turns acidly satiric, fantastic, and ironically philosophical, this work constantly surprises and entertains, as the action switches back and forth between the Moscow of the 1930s and first-century Jerusalem.
About the Author
Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940) was born and educated in Kiev where he graduated as a doctor in 1916. He rapidly abandoned medicine to write some of the greatest Russian literature of this century. He died impoverished and blind in 1940 shortly after completing his masterpiece, The Master and Margarita.