The Devil comes to Moscow, but he isn't all bad; Pontius Pilate sentences a charismatic leader to his death, but yearns for redemption; and a writer tries to destroy his greatest tale, but discovers that manuscripts don't burn. Multi-layered and entrancing, blending sharp satire with glorious fantasy, The Master and Margarita is ceaselessly inventive and profoundly moving. In its imaginative freedom and raising of eternal human concerns, it is one of the world's great novels.
(P)2009 Naxos Audiobooks
from Literary Exploration
I’m going to be honest; I have no idea how to review a book like The Master and Margarita. I was looking forward to reading another Russian classic but I don’t think anyone can be fully prepared for a book like this. The whole book is based around a visit by the Devil to two passionately atheistic Russians. While this is an overly simplified synopsis it really is basis of the entire book; if I really want to write a fully detailed overview of this book it would include a black cat, an assassin, a naked witch, Jesus and Pontius Pilate in one very bizarre novel. I read this book about a week ago but I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, there is a lot going on within the book to really be able to give this a review that would give it justice.
To simplify this book I’m going to break down the book into three different elements; the Professor’s talk with the Berlioz and Bezdomny, the section involving the Master and his lover Margarita and lastly the novel about Pontius Pilate. At first glance all these sections may seems like they don’t link together, but when the Professor or the devil challenges the two’s concepts of atheism the conversation leads to the book about Pilate which happens to be a novel written by the Master and the book comes together in a weird, philosophical novel with shades of slapstick comedy.
I tend to write short reviews because I don’t want to spoil novels and want to write easy, accessible reviews; so if I write anything more about the plot I would have to write a lot, too much for a short review so I’m going to stop talking about the book and start talking about my opinions of it. While reading this novel I was completely absorbed in the writing, but this meant I continued reading without stopping to really think about the book. In the end my head was swimming with so many thoughts of this book I wasn’t sure how I felt. Now that I’ve sorted my thoughts all I really can say it’s one of those books you just have to read to fully understand the effect of it.
While it took me a while to fully sort my thoughts of this book, I really did enjoy it. It’s one of those books like Slaughterhouse-Five where you can’t really rate or review it until you have had a good long think about all the concepts this book is trying to get across. I highly recommend experiencing this novel; it is like nothing I’ve ever read before. The wacky nature of this book will keep you reading but the philosophical ideas will help you enjoy this novel. I don’t think any review will ever do justice to this classic; especially not mine so my only advice and the only thing you really need to know about this book is ‘Just read it.’
Julian Rhind-Tutt is brilliant - I cannot imagine a better match between narrator and story. Bravo.
They're all wonderful; villains and heros alike.
I certainly will after this experience!
Great story, great reader - simply a lot of fun to listen to. Don't be put off by the fact it is a classic - you will enjoy the humor.
The story line(s) for this book was/were way too eclectic and hard to follow. Several times it really didn't make any sense at all. If I had known it was structured in this manner, I would certainly have not selected it.
Very dissatisfied with this read. Never made it through the first part before giving up (and I never give up on a good book).
The Devil visits 1930's Moscow and raises holy hell with the Stalinists. He and his helpers aren't evil, just zany, providing biting satire along with madcap antics. This is good writing, with lots of poetic images in the prose. Underneath it all is a celebration of a human spirit that can't be crushed.
There's a love story mixed in too, written straight. Plus there are long sober sections on Pontius Pilate and Jesus, providing Bulgakov a way to compare the Soviet State with the Roman Empire. A Polish friend said this was the part he liked the best -- how Pontius Pilate weighed his options is how Poland had been ruled.
The book is NOT a difficult read or listen, but there are a lot of things that those of us in current-day America wouldn't normally get. Bulgakov's use of odd justapoxitions of events can seem disorienting to us, until we put it in the backdrop of the Expressionist movement of the time, with its exaggerated colors and ordinary things displayed out of context. (The Penguin hardcopy book uses an example for its cover.)
The satire may be hard for us to recognize too, but that's part of the book's value, figuring out why this book couldn't be published for decades and why it became so wildly popular in Eastern Europe when it was. Fortunately, there are excellent on-line resources that help explain.
The 2005 Russian TV mini-series is an excellent supplement too, all eight hours of it. The quality of the this production is much better than you expect from TV. (There are more naked ladies in this show than you can shake a stick at, so you may want to be selective about who you watch it with.)
The narration of the Naxos audiobook is wonderful. Some other negative reviewers just may not like to have fun.
The book is complex and require full attention, and the narrator dancing around with his heavy British accent on Russian characters. He increases his audio-volume and shout unexpectedly, you can imagine how inconvenient that is while you do your cardio and someone, suddenly SHOUT in your headset, must stop the cardio and turn down the volume (unprofessional) he is trying to perform, and its makes the book impossible to listen. Why in this website they never sample when narrators read a dialogue because that when we can see how horrible they are. It should be flat reading Like Jeremy iron in Alchemist.
Before I address the story itself, I'd like to make a few comments about the performance.
Have you ever watched a Guy Richie film and thought to yourself, "Man, if only the narrator were more shrill!"?
While reading Anna Karenina or War and Peace, have you ever thought to yourself, "If only I could imagine every character speaking with a Cockney accent!"?
If the above resonates with you at all, then I've great news! This performance is for you!
Why do Russian accents with Russian characters when British accents just make everything better all the time!?!
Now, with regards to the story itself:
I didn't get it. I mean, many people on here seem to think that it's the most cleveristest social satire ever, but if you didn't grow up in Soviet Russia, and haven't the inclination to immerse yourself in its clusterfuckedupitudity just to get what Bulgakov is subtlety getting at, then I'd suggest you read The Trial or Catch-22 (both in the "bureaucracy be cray" category) instead.
p.s. It seems that having your book banned or repressed automatically gives the literary crowd a raging hard on. I mean, I really, really, wanted to like The Satanic Verses, but I've yet to get through it, so maybe it's me (and if life has taught me anything, it's that it probably is).
This is an excellent book. Loved the story from beginning to end. The Narrator (and this is a small point admittedly) has an English accent. I normally enjoy listening to a narrator with an English accent, but this book is set in MOSCOW. It is very odd to hear Russian characters speaking like chimney sweeps from Charles Dickens.
Other than that, it is well worth the credit.
Geeky painter girl who loves all things Whedonverse. Audio book addict. :D
I've started listening to this book several times. Perhaps it is better read in physical book form? The narrator does a good job, but the story seems too whimsical/symbolic/incoherent for me to follow anything meaningful. Maybe I'll be ready for it some time in the future.
Rarely do I give up on a book, but this one is a rarity. More than half way through, I discovered I was mentally dozing off and had absolutely no desire whatsoever to rewind and catch up. The whole thing just felt flat out foolish. Does Audible give refunds?
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