(P)2009 Naxos Audiobooks
If, like me, you were perplexed by Gogol (nose?? overcoat??), you will probably be even more befuddled by this novel that includes Satan, Pontius Pilate, and housing issues in post-Revolutionary Moscow. I felt as if I were somehow missing information critical to enjoying the work, as if it were a long inside joke that other people seem to appreciate enormously, but which left me puzzled and unmoved. I could never have gotten through the book without Julian Rhind-Tutt's oustanding narration. Not only did he help sustain my interest when it flagged, but his different voices helped me track who was who in the panoply of generously-named characters, with their longs surnames, patronymics, and nicknames or aliases (always more difficult when you don't have the printed page for reference). Rhind-Tutt has a lovely range of expression, uses pacing and variations in tone to advantage, and does a terrific silky Satan.
The Master and Margarita lurches violently between different tones farcical, romantic, surreal, tragic, and back again). I enjoyed parts of it more than others. The chapters that actually deal with the eponymous Master and Margarita and their pact with the devil and his minions are wonderful: poetic, intellectual and comic, often all at the same time. Unfortunately, it takes a long time to get to these sections, as much of the novel consists of farcical satire on various comical minor characters who are probably funny if you are familiar with life in 1930s Moscow, but merely feel like a lot of irritating wittering if you're not. I found myself frequently wanting to hit the chapter skip button.
Still, this may be just a matter of personal taste, and if anyone can get you through the more irksome chapters, it's Julian Rhind-Tutt, whose performance is quite brilliant, capturing the mixture of tones extremely well, injecting a scabrous nastiness into the farcical scenes, and giving the Devil a wonderfully lugubrious smugness.
The ending is spellbinding and I'm glad I persisted with this audiobook. It's a slog sometimes, but it's worth the journey.
Word loving college student with a 2+ hour daily commute, who sadly had to learn to accept that reading and driving are plainly incompatible
The core of this piece is satire, marking a path of wanton destruction through Moscow as Satan and his delightfully hooligan entourage parade from one scene to another causing chaos and watching the aftermath in the name of...well, why the hell not? There is also a love story as well as retelling of the history of Pontius Pilate.
Marked with numerous interesting characters, Bulgakov creates a readable if somewhat uneven tale. The title characters are introduced about halfway through the novel and are an attempt to create some sort of deeply affecting love story, that I don't consider all that effective given that it is pretty much the sole aspect of their personality we see is them pining for one another. However, title characters or not they are not there often and rarely without Woland or his minions at their side in order to make things interesting. The satire is effectively humorist and blasts Soviet greed well, but then greed is a very easy thing to parody.
The most interesting aspect of the novel for me were the moments when we are given a metafiction/history written by The Master. The language is wonderful and the imagery is perfectly evocative and I truly wished I had the option of reading more.
The narrator, which is quickly becoming the make or break factor of every audiobook I purchase, is, to my mind, remarkable. While the accents are all variously British, they are unique and he endows every character with a certain uniqueness and charisma (or lack thereof if the book should call for it) and should be beloved by all. I can't honestly understand the negative marks throughout the rest of audible. If you want a boring consistent drone of a voice, I think you are better listening to an automation than a legitimate audiobook.
Additionally, the translation (Michael Karpelson, 2006) is my personal favorite and has the most personality (the others I have read are much more dry in their translation and it shows heavily in the dialogue). This book was left incompletely edited when the author died, not being all that well acquainted with the rest of his work, which would explain some of the issues, but issues or not this book is a delightful read with a solid narrator.
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
A complete acid trip of a novel. My favorite part was the conversation between Pilate and Yeshua Ha-Nozri (Jesus). Well, I also dug Behemoth's penchant for guns, chess and vodka. This is one of those dream-like novels requiring the reader to spend years unwrapping. Its truth comes briefly during those dangerous, full-moon moments between sleep and wake.
Bulgakov's imagination is incredible. This is Faust on steroids. The basic plot line revolves around the devil coming to Moscow in the Stalin era. If you can accept that as the premise, you'll enjoy this highly entertaining, often laugh-outloud funny book. Despite the sometimes outrageous scenes, the book will also make you think about such issues as good and evil, Pilate vs. Jesus, Soviet secret police, etc. No wonder my Russian friends tell me this is the most popular novel among today's Russians.
Julian Rhind-Tutt is just fantastic as a reader. He has a different voice for the many different characters, making it easy to follow a Russian story where everyone seems to have at least three different names.
What a superb novel, and what a truly outstanding performance. Never a dull moment. Post romanticism at its best. The whole thing a kind of creepy Chagall window.
To me, this book is so brilliant and magical that I wasn't sure any narrator could do it justice. However, the narrator captured the spirit and exuberance of this book and brought it beautifully to life. I know it shouldn't be possible to have a favorite book, but this is mine - the best novel ever written. Bulgakov is a genius and the reader, Julian Rhind-Tutt, is absolutely wonderful.
This novel is one of the great works of fiction. It exists on many layers and moves from tragedy to comedy in a seemless fashion. The audio version could be better, but it is very difficult to translate from the Russian. Still, a great way to experience this masterpiece.
This novel is without a doubt one of the finest gems of the 20th century, as others have written. But I wish to highlight this audiobook's narrator, who brings the spoken word performance to a new art form, creating exactly the right voice for each of the more than one hundred characters large and small that speak as the multi-layered story unfolds. My favorite is the urbane and mocking Professor Wolland (the Devil in disguise), but close seconds are the members of the Devil's entourage, Azezello, Behemoth (the giant cat) and Koroviev, the 7-foot-tall "former choir director." Julian Rhind-Tutt, an accomplished British character actor, provides proof that there is such a thing as performing a text. Brilliant! And one of my favorite reasons that I'm glad Audible exists.
This went to my top five favorite audiobooks by the first twenty minutes, absolutely wonderful reading of this weird, funny, scary, profound satire/whatever it is. The dryly sarcastic narrative voice is pitch-perfect, the huge cast of characters wonderfully done. Not often a book this good gets and equally great performance. Fantastic!!
"Good fun but a bit too long for me"
I enjoyed this book - particularly the narration which is a real tour de force and makes the book for me - but I confess that I did find it rather long and tending to go around in circles towards the end. It is also quite difficult to keep track of all the multifarious characters with strange Russian names and I did get quite confused at times! Some brilliant and laugh out loud funny set pieces though particularly in the first half which the narrator really brings alive - I can see why the book is regarded as a masterpiece.
Overall, four stars for me.
"Great reading of a fabulous book"
A number of people have named this to me as their 'favourite book'. It would certainly feature in my top ten; it is a rich work that rewards careful reading and consideration but can also drag you along with its surreal story.
The reading is excellent, and the narrator conveys the air of mystery and fear that pervades the Moscow of the novel.
I have read the translation by Michael Glenny (as opposed to this one by Michael Kabulson). There are some things that sounds better me to in the Glenny translation - for example the transaltion of Ivan Bezdomny to Ivan Homeless, just sounds a bit wrong. However, this is a minor point, and there is no other translation available on audible.
Overall, a fantastic book and a great reading.
This novel is a rare experience - compelling, moving, bizarre and enlightening. One of those novels where you find yourself wondering "how can anyone write this kind of thing?" There will be times where you find yourself shrinking from the savagery and times when you find yourself laughing out loud. Julian Rhind-Tutt's performance is just about perfect.
What a captivating story this one is. I loved it from the fist hour to the last. Thanks Julian for telling this story in such a lively manner. All the characters were really a joy to listen to.
I'm sure I will listen to this audiobook more often.
The story is witty, sarcastic and funny with a dark undertone.
This is one of my favorite stories to read/listen.
I read the book many times myself and now somebody reads it for me :-) It is a wonderful story full of wit and fantasy, breathing with an absurd atmosphere of first-half-of-the-last-century Russia. Very well narrated. I can only recommend!
"Worth a listen"
Well written and captivating book - though I think would be all the more enjoyable if I had a more complete grasp of Russian history at this point, the broad strokes of the satire I get, but I am sure some of the more subtle nuances are being missed by me. On the whole, interesting, vivid and colourful, worth a listen.
"BULGAKOV IS THE MASTER"
This book is a great work and is well read. At times it could make a cat laugh. The Pontius Pilate passages are vivid and moving. The work is imaginative interesting and original. Listen and be entertained. When you think about the context in which it was written it makes this both a brilliant and a also brave classic.
"Outstanding reading of a quirky classic"
A enjoyable surreal, bizarre and comic story. God and the devil, human foibles, love, greed, good vs evil in 30s Moscow - and the Jerusalem of Jesus Christ. Julian R-T gives an outstanding, clear and well characterised reading. For me he made some of the weird antics believable, chilling and comic (sometimes combined). A book worth a second reading particularly after digesting some research on the context of the book's production and how it has been interpreted. Like all great books it can be read on many levels.
Reading the book for the first time I was not quite sure what to expect, although I had some knowledge of the periods in which it was set. I was therefore quite shocked at the outset when certain violent events involving a prediction actually happened (I won't say more as this would be a spoiler). Woland's ball was also a marvellous set piece.
Quite a long book so pacing is important.
A quirky, comic read. Chilling in places, with serious undertones. Outstanding performance by Julian R-T.
"A dazzlingly inventive book"
This book is quite amazing. Despite the fact that I didn't care too much about the characters - or even the narrative arc - it was interesting and gripping.
I'm so glad I chose to listen to the audiobook as Julian Rhind-Tutt's performance is absolutely fantastic. I have never listened to a book with a better read. Worth it for that alone.
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