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The Master and Margarita, Mikhail BulgakovThe Master and Margarita is a novel by Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, written in the Soviet Union between 1928 and 1940 during Stalin s regime The story concerns a visit by the devil to the officially atheistic Soviet Union Many critics consider it to be one of the best novels of the 20th century, as well as the foremost of Soviet satires.The novel alternates between two settings The first is 1930s Moscow, where Satan appears at the Patriarch Ponds in the guise of Professor Woland, a mysterious gentleman magician of uncertain origin He arrives with a retinue that includes the grotesquely dressed valet Koroviev the mischievous, gun happy, fast talking black cat Behemoth the fanged hitman Azazello and the witch Hella They wreak havoc targeting the literary elite and its trade union MASSOLIT Its privileged HQ is Griboyedov s house The association is made up of corrupt social climbers and their women wives and mistresses alike , bureaucrats, profiteers, and, generally, skeptics of the human spirit The second setting is the Jerusalem of Pontius Pilate, described by Woland in his conversations with Berlioz and later reflected in the Master s novel This part of the novel concerns Pontius Pilate s trial of Yeshua Ha Notsri, his recognition of an affinity with, and spiritual need for, Yeshua, and his reluctant but resigned submission to Yeshua s execution.Part one of the novel opens with a direct confrontation between Berlioz, the atheistic head of the literary bureaucracy, and an urbane foreign gentleman Woland , who defends belief and reveals his prophetic powers Berlioz brushes off the prophecy of his death, but dies pages later in the novel The fulfillment of the death prophecy is witnessed by Ivan Ponyrev, a young and enthusiastically modern poet He writes poems under the alias Bezdomny homeless His futile attempt to chase and capture the gang and warn of their evil and mysterious nature lands Ponyrev in a lunatic asylum There, he is introduced to the Master, an embittered author The rejection of his historical novel about Pontius Pilate and Christ had led the Master to such despair that he burned his manuscript and turned his back on the world, including his devoted lover, Margarita Major episodes in the first part of the novel include a satirical portrait of the Massolit and their Griboyedov house Satan s magic show at the Variety Theatre, satirizing the vanity, greed and gullibility of the new rich and Woland and his retinue taking over the late Berlioz s apartment for their own use Apartments were at a premium in Moscow and were controlled by the state s elite Bulgakov referred to his own apartment as one of the settings in the Moscow section of the novel Part two of the novel introduces Margarita, the Master s mistress She refuses to despair over her lover or his work She is invited to the Devil s midnight ball, where Woland offers her the chance to become a witch with supernatural powers This takes place the night of Good Friday This is the time of the spring full moon, as it was traditionally when Christ s fate was affirmed by Pontius Pilate, sending him to be crucified in Jerusalem The Master s novel also covers this event All three events in the novel are linked by this.Margarita enters naked into the realm of night after she learns to fly and control her unleashed passions She takes violent retribution on the literary bureaucrats who had condemned her beloved to despair She takes her enthusiastic maid Natasha with her, to fly over the deep forests and rivers of the USSR She bathes and returns to Moscow with Azazello, her escort, as the anointed hostess for Satan s great Spring Ball Standing by his side, she welcomes the dark celebrities of human history as they arrive from Hell She survives this ordeal and, for her pains, Satan offers to grant Margarita her deepest wish She chooses to liberate a woman whom she met at the ball from the woman s eternal punishment The woman had been raped and killed her resulting infant Her punishment was to wake each morning and find the same handkerchief by which she had killed the child lying on her nightstand Satan grants her first wish and offers her another, saying that Margarita s first wish was unrelated to her own desires For her second wish, she chooses to liberate the Master and live in poverty stricken love with him Neither Woland nor Yeshua appreciates her chosen way of life, and Azazello is sent to retrieve them The three drink Pontius Pilate s poisoned wine in the Master s basement The Master and Margarita die, metaphorically, as Azazello watches their physical manifestations die Azazello reawakens them, and they leave civilization with the Devil, while Moscow s cupolas and windows burn in the setting Easter sun Because the Master and Margarita did not lose their faith in humanity, they are granted peace but are denied light that is, they will spend eternity together in a shadowy yet pleasant region similar to Dante s depiction of Limbo They have not earned the glories of Heaven, but do not deserve the punishments of Hell As a parallel, the Master releases Pontius Pilate from eternal punishment, telling him he s free to walk up the moonbeam path in his dreams to Yeshua, where another eternity awaits 1984 1362 9647443277 1385 1386 1389 20 The First Complete, Annotated English Translation Of Mikhail Bulgakov S Comic MasterpieceAn Audacious Revision Of The Stories Of Faust And Pontius Pilate, The Master And Margarita Is Recognized As One Of The Essential Classics Of Modern Russian Literature The Novel S Vision Of Soviet Life In The S Is So Ferociously Accurate That It Could Not Be Published During Its Author S Lifetime And Appeared Only In A Censored Edition In The S Its Truths Are So Enduring That Its Language Has Become Part Of The Common Russian SpeechOne Hot Spring, The Devil Arrives In Moscow, Accompanied By A Retinue That Includes A Beautiful Naked Witch And An Immense Talking Black Cat With A Fondness For Chess And Vodka The Visitors Quickly Wreak Havoc In A City That Refuses To Believe In Either God Or Satan But They Also Bring Peace To Two Unhappy Muscovites One Is The Master, A Writer Pilloried For Daring To Write A Novel About Christ And Pontius Pilate The Other Is Margarita, Who Loves The Master So Deeply That She Is Willing Literally To Go To Hell For Him What Ensues Is A Novel Of In Exhaustible Energy, Humor, And Philosophical Depth, A Work Whose Nuances Emerge For The First Time In Diana Burgin S And Katherine Tiernan O Connor S Splendid English Version Back Cover EXTRA EXTRA This review has now been immortalized in audio format Authentic Russian accent and Russian quotes are provided free of charge m staying home from work today, sick to the extreme, and it s only in that unique feverish clarity that comes with illness that I dare to even try to write about this book.This is THE book The one that all the other books are measured against The one that I ve read times since I was twelve than the number of books some people I know have read in their entire lives The one from which I ve memorized entire passages This is it, the golden standard, the masterpiece, the unattainable perfection of literature I m not even being sarcastic I mean every single word of this praise What would your good be doing if there were no evil, and what would the earth look like if shadows disappeared from it After all, shadows are cast by objects and people There is the shadow of my sword But there are also shadows of trees and living creatures Would you like to denude the earth of all the trees and all the living beings in order to satisfy your fantasy of rejoicing in the naked light You are a fool. What is this book about I wish it were easy to tell in one smartly constructed sentence, but luckily it s not It is a story of Woland, the Satan, coming to Moscow with his retinue and wrecking absolute havoc over three long and oppressively hot summer days It is a story of Pontius Pilate the equestrian, the son of the astrologist king, the last fifth Procurator of Judea who has achieved the dreaded immortality due to a single action or rather INaction and wishes nothing than for it to not have happened It is a story of love between two very lonely people It is a scaldingly witty story about the oppressive nature of early Stalin days and the rampant Soviet bureaucracy It is a phantasmagorical story of the supernatural and the mythical It has elements of humorous realism, romanticism, and mysticism It is all of the above and much As doctors the same profession that Bulgakov belonged to, by the way , we are taught to look for the bigger picture, the synthesis of facts, the overall impression, the so called gestalt Well, the gestalt here is it s a true masterpiece Manuscripts do not burnBulgakov wrote this book over a period of 11 12 years, frequently abandoning it, coming back to it, destroying the manuscripts, rewriting it, abandoning it, coming back to it He wrote it during the times when the reaction to such novels would have been the same as Woland has when hearing Master say he wrote a novel about Pontius Pilate About what, about what About whom said Woland, having stopped laughing In these times It s amazing And you couldn t find a different subjectIn these times 1930s were the time of Stalin s rule, the waves of Purges, the paranoia of one powerful man sweeping the country, the denunciations, the lies, the terror, the fear, the accusations, the senseless arrests, the nondescript black cars pulling up to the apartment buildings in the middle of the night and leaving with people who would not be heard from ever again This was a suffocating atmosphere, and the only way Bulgakov survived it was that he for reasons unknown enjoyed the whimsical favor of the tyrant This fear is everywhere, on every single page From the poor unfortunate Berlioz in the early chapters, who without much hesitation is about to contact the authorities to report about a suspicious foreigner to the unnamed people conducting the investigation of the strange Moscow events and puling the victims in for questioning to Rimskiy sending Varenukha with a packet of information for the right people to Master s terrifying and unheard story starting withthemknocking on his window and ending with him broken in the mental institution The fear is everywhere, thinly veiled And yet it is never named, even once the name of those causing the fear, never alluded to no need for it, it s obvious anyway, and besides there s that age long superstition about not naming the name of evil, which, funnily, in this novel is definitely NOT the Devil Only Margarita has the guts to ultimately ask,Do you want to arrest meYou re not Dostoevsky, said the citizeness, who was getting muddled by Koroviev Well, who knows, who knows, he replied Dostoevsky s dead, said the citizeness, but somehow not very confidently I protest Behemoth exclaimed hotly Dostoevsky is immortalThe sharp satire of the contemporary to Bulgakov Soviet life of 1930s is wonderful, ranging from deadpan observations to witty remarks to absolute and utter slapstick that, of course, involving the pair of Korovyev and Behemoth It can be sidesplittingly funny one second, and in the next moment become painfully sad and very depressing Not surprisingly in the Russian tradition humor and sadness have always walked hand in hand therefore, for instance, Russian clowns are the saddest clowns in the entire universe, trust me This funny sadness manages to evoke the widest spectrum of emotional responses from me every single time I read this book, never ever failing at this The only thing that he said was that he considers cowardice to be among the worst human vices. This book is not only the hilariously sad commentary on the realities of Bulgakov s contemporary society it is also a shrewd commentary on the never changing nature of humanity itself The humanity that Woland wanted to observe in the Variety theatre, until he came to the sad but true conclusion that not much changed in them The cowardice the vice that Pilate feels Yeshua Ha Nozri was implicitly accusing him of The greed and love of money, leading to heinous crimes like treason and deceit and treachery The egoism and vanity and self absorption just think of the talentless poet Ryukhin s anger at the seemingly lucky circumstances of Pushkin s fame, the close mindedness and complacency, the hate and bickering This is all there, sadly exposed and gently or sometimes not that gently condemned The consequences of this humanity shown in their extreme think of Ryukhin s craving for immortality and Pilate s terror at facing it And yet we see one bright light of a redeeming quality in the mankind, the one that makes even Woland cringe mercy Just think of people s reactions in the scene with George Bengalsky s head, Master freeing Pilate from centuries of doom, and most touchingly of all Margarita s unforgettable and selfless act of mercy towards Frieda All that makes us not ashamed of being human All that makes us worthy not of the light, the naked light that Woland so derisively talked about, but of peace Just peace The one who loves must share the fate of the one he loves. I love this book, love it than I could ever hope to express in words I can write endless essays about each chapter, approach it from each imaginable angle, analyze each one precisely and masterfully crafted phrase I could do it for days and yet still not pay due respect to this incredible work of art Because it has the best kind of immortality Because its depth is unrivaled Because it is the work of an incredible genius And so I will stop my feeble attempts to do it justice and instead will remain behind, like the needled memory of poor Professor Ponyrev, formerly Ivanushka Bezdomny, Master s last and only pupil, left to remember the unbelievable that he once witnessed and that broke his heart and soul And I will finish with the lines from this novel that I had memorized back when I was twelve, just as awed by this book as I am now the words that seem to pale when translated from their native Russian into English, alas And master s memory, the restless, needled memory, began to fade Someone was setting master free, just like he himself set free the hero he created This hero left into the abyss, left irrevocably, forgiven on the eve of Sunday son of astrologer king, the cruel fifth Procurator of Judea, equestrian Pontius Pilate. The Chicago Tribune wrote The book is by turns hilarious, mysterious, contemplative and poignant, and everywhere full of rich descriptive passages Hilarious and contemplative my ass, CT This book is an interminable slog.Look, here s the deal I get that this book satirizes 1930s Stalinist Russia, and I get that for some this earns The Master and Margarita a place on their works of historical importance shelves But for me, it earns nothing I mean, let s just call a spade a spade, shall we There are articles in the Journal of Biological Chemistry that have successfully held my attention than this Bulgakovian bore Exhibit A To start, the characterization in this book is near zero Although there is a point where some barely discernable personality traits become apparent in one or two of the characters, by the time the reader makes it this far the show is nearly over And if by curtain call the reader discovers Woland and his retinue to be even remotely interesting, it is not because of careful character construction It s like the end of a really stuffy dinner party when you begin making your parting rounds The thrill is in the palpability of finally being free of these people Toodle oo And what is the author s intent here, to single out the literary bureaucrats and the nouveaux riche If so, the demographic is not effectively targeted The Faustian demon who comes to wreak havoc across Moscow does so seemingly at random, with little adherence to agenda Bartenders, ticket sellers, poets, little old ladies they are all ambushed It is clear someone needs to take a lesson from Omar Little, who ain t never put no gun on no citizen Whatever I m tired of even writing about this book Before we part, though, I ll leave you with several examples of yet another unworthy aspect of this novel its ridiculous sentences Here are some of my favorites To tell the truth, it took Arkady Apollonovich not a second, not a minute, but a quarter of a minute to get to the phone. I ask this question in complete earnestness is this supposed to be funny I have absolutely no idea Quite naturally there was speculation that he had escaped abroad, but he never showed up there either. Huh The bartender drew his head into his shoulders, so that it would become obvious that he was a poor man. Yeah, I give I don t even pretend to understand what this means Anyhoo, hey it s been a pleasure meeting you all we should do this again soon Toodle oo Soviet Ghost StoriesStories, stories, all is stories political stories, religious stories, scientific stories, even stories about stories We live inside these stories Like this one in The Master and Margarita The story that we can or less agree upon we call reality But is it real Story making and telling is what we do as human beings Through stories we create meaning out of thin air, in the same way that plants create their food from light, and usually with about the same level of casual unconsciousness We then learn to share meaning and thereby create language and societies We call this culture and have little idea what it means or how it works.What happens when stories, particularly stories about stories, are inhibited or forbidden The most important result society goes mad And that part of society which becomes most mad is that of the professional story tellers who, because they are the carriers of the essential human and cultural talent, become less than human They are unable to tell the stories needed by the rest of us and enter a dream like state of inexplicability and meaninglessness The Master and Margarita is obviously a satire, a purposeful distortion of language to demonstrate its corrupt use It is also obviously meant to recall the necessity for religious stories in a society that has degraded and mocked them But for me the book is less about the corruption of Soviet society and its attitude toward the Christian religion and about the even fundamental beliefs that are the unspoken tenets of story telling, that is to say, the philosophy of literature In an important sense, literature is indistinguishable from religion Religion cannot exist without it but it is likely that literature could exist without religion Literature precedes religion Bulgakov notices this in his story of Christ before Pilate These good people, the prisoner began, hastily added Hegemon and continued learnt nothing and muddled up all I said In general, I m beginning to worry that this muddle will continue for a very long time And all because he records what I say incorrectly This is a direct attack on the veracity of the gospel of Matthew Bulgakov here implicitly contrasts religion against literature in his expanded and reinterpreted version of the biblical story of Jesus s condemnation and death and he comes down decisively for literature as the fundamental mode of thinking The only thing beyond a text is another text.This is not to say that literature should cause trouble for religion The use of language is itself a religious experience even when it is used to parody religion as in Bulgakov s Communion of Sinners Ball and demonic Eucharist Literature, consequently, exists as a spiritual and social rather than a material and merely sensory process Materialism, of a Marxist, Capitalist, Scientific or any other sort, tells a story that cannot account for where its story comes from Its causes cannot be enumerated and accounted for Such a story is deficient and incomplete.Stories do not appear to be in nature but they do comment upon nature It is not inaccurate to say that they come from elsewhere And it is this elsewhere that is both the source and guarantor of the integrity of the stories that get told Without the existence of this infinitely fecund elsewhere, the realm of the spirit, there is no way to verify the stories we tell ourselves As Bulgakov has a psychiatrist point out to one writer,People can go around telling all sorts of stories But you don t have to believe everything It is this spiritual elsewhere that Bulgakov has intruding on and disrupting Russian civil society In time honoured fashion, the intruders are portrayed as devils who are able to exploit the presumptuous conceits of this society, especially those of the literary elite of the MASSOLIT, the state run literary guild It is the writers who sense this intrusion first and it is they who are quite properly driven mad or to their death by it Bulgakov s demonic characters are up front in their challenge to cultural reality They make a reductio ad absurdum by denying the reality of language and the society and the culture associated with itThe seductive mystics lie, there are no Caribbean Seas on earth, and desperate filibusters do not sail them, and a corvette does not give chase, and cannon smoke does not spread above the waves There is nothing, and never was there anything eitherThis challenge of course passes over the heads of the Soviet Citizenry.From the writers, the plague induced by constrained and distorted story telling spreads to minor government officials The local housing officer is the first casualty and he instinctively recognises the problem,Comrades We ve got unclean spirits in our buildingAnd he s right the spiritual cannot be excluded, only deformed, by telling a story that denies the spirit Such denial is patently a confirmation of what is being denied.It is through entertainment, 1930 s stage vaudeville, that the condition is spread through the wider population The presumably hidden or at least repressed culture of Soviet consumer society is shown for what it is impressed as deeply as in any capitalist society by the linguistic distortions of brand names and wealth without purpose The watching mass has no idea that it is being shown itself, literally exposed, in all its mendacious cupidity.Even love, ultimately the cohesive force of marriage and family as well as society, is a product of language It appears from that spiritual elsewhere,as a murderer leaps out from under the ground in a side streetfor the Master Love may start with a look but it doesn t progress beyond fantasy unless the look is the beginning of a shared story, interpreted by Margarita as an eternally fated event The object that keeps them together while apart is of course the manuscript of the Master s book, an alternative gospel.If the medieval troubadours are not enough evidence of the cultural determination of the meaning of love, surely the varieties of love articulated in Shakespeare s Sonnets, and accepted by generations since, clinch the case Any society that attempts to limit what love, in all its variants, might mean is doomed by its own contradictions and not just the Soviet variety But it is Bulgakov s conception of divine love that I find the most disturbing aspect of the piece.Any theologically aware person must at some point confront the problem of evil Evil demands a story The monotheistic religions subscribe to the story line that not only the Creator but his creation are good How then does the obvious evil in the world come about The existence of evil is typically explained with one of several largely inadequate theories Evil is a spontaneous development of a rebellious force against the goodness of God and His works Evil is not an autonomous force but merely the localised absence of the divine within creation Evil is actually inherent in a world that was formed by a subsidiary god.This last theory has a number of designations but is usually associated with the third century CE Persian Mani So called Manichaeism is the perennial thinking persons solution to the problem of evil since it accounts for the available facts of life without the need to invent a number of questionable metaphysical entities It needs only one such beast the flawed demiurge, a satanic figure who made a few mistakes in the way he shaped the cosmos and we have been dealing with the consequences ever since.It becomes apparent in The Master and Margarita that Bulgakov rejects all the classical theological explanations for evil, especially Manichaeism But the resulting theology is not easy to digest He suggests that what appears as evil, the work of Satan in the world, is in fact the disguised work of God Bulgakov s contemporary, Carl Jung, termed this the Shadow and conceived it as an integral part of the divine In The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov echoes Jung exactly in Satan s criticism of the evangelist Matthew Would you be so kind as to give a little thought to the question of what your good would be doing if evil did not exist, and how the earth would look if the shadows were to disappear from it After all, shadows come from objects and people In other words God is Satan Satan is God And God Satan cannot be avoided or escaped Even within evil, God is present He is present among the atrocious evil doers of his demonic ball among the crass bureaucrats and proletarian graspers in the audience of the Black Magician among the scammers and players of the system who try to get one up on their fellow citizens in Pilate and in Judas And presumably God is present and active therefore within and through Soviet society despite official protestations to the contrary The idea of Soviet Moscow as Paradise Lost is perhaps the greatest irony truth that Bulgakov expresses in the book Of course Bulgakov does not make a theological argument He tells a story But in this story Satan as well as his devoted angels transform suddenly into their opposites, caring agents of human well being then into clownish Loki or Coyote trinitarian figures whose function is to play the fool with social institutions There is no logic that can capture this divine turnaround from evil to love and play But there is a narrative in which it can be described, and, on the basis of that description, be believed Bulgakov s technique, as well as the substance of his story, is not very different from, for example, the story of Exodus in which the God of Israel both allows the imprisonment of his people and then saves them from the situation he allowed to happen The story also presents an alternative account of creation itself as a text produced and protected by Adam and Eve, a couple which is bound together by it Going beyond biblical bounds, religion itself is accounted for by the Master, the new Adam Of course, when people have been completely pillaged, like you and me, they seek salvation from a preternatural force And he is immediately corrected by Margarita, the new Eve with eminent practicality,Preternatural or not preternatural isn t it all the same I m hungry The theme, almost a running joke, is clear The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away Blessed be the Name of the Lord The situation is dire but not hopeless Exile from the Garden means freedom as well as toil This is a theme that demands great faith to assert More than I have had at times certainly. Sympathy for the Devil His name is God Not Lucifer,not Satan,but God Satan is God in a bad mood God in a bad mood lays our souls to waste As heads is tales Just call me LUCIFER cop is to criminal as God is to Lucifer God in a good mood plays games with us What s confusing you is just THE NATURE OF MY GAME This song has a direct tie to the book, the Master and the Margarita , is about all the history tragedies with points throughout time The man he is describing is the devil.The devil is asking for sympathy because he claims the reason he is not to blame is because the devil does not make you do anything He simply sets the stage, which is the nature of his game Look up those points in time You should know most of them from history Someone said His name the devil humanity A masterful song for a masterpiece Please allow me to introduce myselfI m a man of wealth and tasteI ve been around for a long, long yearStole many a man s soul to waste And I was round when Jesus ChristHad his moment of doubt and painMade damn sure that PilateWashed his hands and sealed his fate Pleased to meet youHope you guess my nameBut what s puzzling youIs the nature of my game I stuck around St PetersburgWhen I saw it was a time for a changeKilled the czar and his ministersAnastasia screamed in vain I rode a tankHeld a general s rankWhen the blitzkrieg ragedAnd the bodies stankPleased to meet youHope you guess my nameAh, what s puzzling youIs the nature of my gameI watched with gleeWhile your kings and queensFought for ten decadesFor the gods they madeLet me please introduce myselfI m a man of wealth and tasteAnd I laid traps for troubadoursWho get killed before they reached BombayPleased to meet youHope you guessed my name Who who But what s puzzling youIs the nature of my game, get down, babyPleased to meet youHope you guessed my nameBut what s confusing youIs just the nature of my game JUST AS EVERY COP IS A CRIMINAL AND ALL THE SINNERS SAINTS AS HEADS IS TAILSJUST CALL ME LUCIFER Cause I m in need of some restraintSo if you meet meHave some courtesyHave some sympathy, and some taste Use all your well learned politesseOr I ll lay your soul to wastePleased to meet youHope you guessed my nameBut what s puzzling youIS THE NATURE OF MY GAME mean it, get down Tell me baby, what s my nameTell me honey, can you guess my nameTell me baby, what s my name tell you one time, YOU ARE TO BLAME . 12. Love leaped out in front of us like a murderer in an alley leaping out of nowhere, and struck us both at once As lightning strikes, as a Finnish knife strikes She, by the way, insisted afterwards that it wasn t so, that we had, of course, loved each other for a long, long time, without knowing each other, never having seen each other I experienced this magical novel as an unrivalled ode to love and reveled in its delectable burlesque and hilarious scenes It knocked me off my feet and pointed me to read Goethe s Faust Somewhere around 1930, the devil and his cronies descend on Moscow, putting the entire city on edge by their diabolical humor and ditto magic tricks The authorities can only look on, powerless Before the arrival of the devil, a Master wrote a novel about Pontius Pilate this serene novel within the novel is entirely integrated in the story , which was dismissed by the regime, therefore sending the Master into a mental asylum Margarita, the Master s clandestine lover, makes a pact with the devil to save her companion writer If she agrees to act as a hostess at the witches Sabbath of the devil naked the devil will free her master, and Margarita and her Master will be together for all eternity and live happily ever after.By far one of the most brilliant novels I have ever read, these insipid sentences were all I was capable of writing about this astounding and greatly allegorical novel when I got a few lines in a free newspaper 10 years ago in order to promote reading, and specifically to lure hence the revealing of Margarita s nakedness readers into reading what has been thematized by the paper as former cult books now The Master and Margarita is strongly established amongst the greatest Russian novels of the twentieth century My copy has been residing with friends for 11 years now, and noticing write ups on it popping up this forum almost every day, I am craving to revisit it Paintings by Danila Zhirov A poet Homeless , as he calls himself, and a magazine editor, his gruff boss, Berlioz, are having a conversation, in a quiet, nondescript Moscow park, just before the start of the Second World War Drinking, just harmless sodas, and discussing business, ordinary right That s the last time in this novel, it is An apparition appears in the sky, weird and unbelievable, a frightening seven foot transparent man, is seen floating above their heads, but only Berlioz spots it, he s obviously, the editor, a very sick man Later a foreign, debonair stranger, joins them on the next bench, they start an uncomfortable, lively, rather dangerous conversation about Jesus in the days of Stalinist Russia , if he really existed The newcomer, a self described black magic expert, tells the others, he saw Pontius Pilate and Jesus, personally Naturally his startled companions, look at him with a little disbelief, the two close friends , think Professor Woland the name is discovered afterwards must be a spy or crazy, either way, authorities should be contacted immediately Tragic results follow soon after, a wild, long, thrilling, death defying chase, through many city streets, ensues, strangest of all, a giant black Tom cat , who walks on two legs, and tries to get on a streetcar, but the heartless conductor, says no cats, refuses entry But Behemoth , the big cat s name, does manage to get on the streetcar, they re very intelligent, resourceful, demanding animals What the devil is going on The charismatic professor, and his talented entourage, give the best magic show, on stage, ever seen in Moscow, by an astounded audience, it s so spectacular, incomprehensible and not explainable, that all the city wants to go also Still ticket lines are numerous blocks in length, and growing, too bad you missed it Meanwhile a married woman, Margarita, having an affair with an obscure, poor author, writing a novel, she calls him Master , you guessed right , the book is about the Roman Governor of Judaea, Pontius Pilate Mirroring Bulgakov s life, the manuscript is banned Countless, funny adventures follow, involving soaring humans, flying without a vehicle, the joys and terrors, looking down, you can imagine, and the destruction of fragile property, everywhere men disappear, creepy events happening all around the vast city , and in the countryside The highlight is Satan s loathsome Ball, presided over by the stunned Margarita, as the incredibly reluctant Queen, attended mostly by the dead eerie, bizarre and grotesque, to say the least A dream like, unworldly, vague, melancholic atmosphere permeates Flamboyant, imaginative fable, a real classic.