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The Master and Margarita

The Master and Margarita

Written by Mikhail Bulgakov

Narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt


The Master and Margarita

Written by Mikhail Bulgakov

Narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt

ratings:
4.5/5 (241 ratings)
Length:
16 hours
Released:
Nov 1, 2009
ISBN:
9789629548292
Format:
Audiobook

Editor's Note

Surreal & absurd...

When the Devil arrives in Moscow, chaos follows. A surreal satire of Communism, Christianity, and the literati, Bulgakov’s masterpiece is also deeply moving and incredibly imaginative.

Description

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.
Released:
Nov 1, 2009
ISBN:
9789629548292
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

Mikhail Bulgakov was born in 1891 in Kiev, in present-day Ukraine. He first trained in medicine but gave up his profession as a doctor to pursue writing. He started working on The Master and Margarita in 1928 but due to censorship it was not published until 1966, more than twenty-five years after Bulgakov’s death.


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What people think about The Master and Margarita

4.3
241 ratings / 181 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    The Devil comes to Moscow over Passover. Set in 1930’s Moscow it’s a story of love and Soviet oppression of writers.
  • (4/5)
    The ending is sublimely beautiful the events leading up to it are not easy to keep track off so you'll need your wits about you. The double story or understory of Pontius Pilate was very well rendered.
  • (5/5)
    The book every Russian tells you to read.

    "let me introduce my retinue. That creature who has been playing the fool is the cat Behemoth."
  • (5/5)
    This took a me a shamefully long time to read, but it was so weird and wonderful. I love books where absurd things happen in a rational world, and this book was dreamlike and surreal like that. Totally brilliant, even if I struggled stepping into it each time because of said surrealism (and those Russian names always get me)
  • (3/5)
    In spite of my many years of experience as a reader of a wide variety of literature—from YA novels to Shakespeare and lots of stuff in between—I am a newcomer to magical realism. So new, in fact, that I had no clue there was such a thing as Russian magical realism, which apparently predates Latin American magical realism, the better-known type. I suspect that my lack of familiarity with the genre, compounded by my very limited knowledge of Russian history and literature, made this novel a rather tough task for me. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it but obviously not as much as I would have had I the proper prior knowledge.The novel defies summary. Woland (Satan) visits Moscow in the 1930s. He brings with him three henchman (one in the form of an oversized feline named Behemoth). A series of episodic adventures ensues—there is an “accidental” beheading, a theatrical séance, literary skullduggery, trips to asylums, multiple disappearances, lots of minor characters, and only a vague sense of plot coherence. And the titular duo do not become prominent in the story until the second half of the novel. Oh, there’s also a book-within-the-book: a narrative account of Pontius Pilate’s ruling on Christ’s execution. Yes, the narrative’s loose structure and multiple plot strands make it a challenge to follow. But Bulghakov’s humor is bitingly charming. I cannot even attempt to explain what the novel is about—that would require research and conversation with others who’ve read the book, neither of which I was fortunate enough to enjoy as I read it. These constraints limited the pleasure I derived from the novel, and I’m sure there’s more “there” in this confoundingly delightful book than I was able to identify. If you’re up for a challenge, you could do worse than The Master & Margarita.
  • (1/5)
    I know that it got rave reviews, that's why I purchased it, but to me it's a dud! It read like a slap-stick comedy, of which I am not fond. Every chapter introduced new characters whose names all looked and sounded like everybody else's. The best word I can use to describe it is inane. Life is too short to read a large book that you hate! Read 16/32 chapters (about 200 pages) .
  • (4/5)
    This made me chuckle frequently. It's probably the most absurd book I've ever read. I mean the protagonist is Satan... that alone tells you a lot. I probably missed a lot of the political context, and I'm convinced the book will be even better once I get to re-read it.
  • (5/5)
    Quirky and interesting. Just the publication history alone made me want to read it and was glad I did. A modern Dostoevsky mixed in with some magic realism.
  • (5/5)
    Full of excellence, yes, indeed, but not much in the way of reading pleasure. Getting through this felt like hard work. Somehow it persisted in feeling untranslated.And it's not as if I lacked all context: in addition to prior general knowledge, I'd read a book on Russian history and culture just before it. I'm not afraid of symbolism, allegory, philosophy, or ambiguity, and I usually favor fiction over nonfiction; but still, I think I preferred the straightforward language of the history book.I did, however, think the description of the witches' sabbath was both literally and figuratively fantastic.
  • (4/5)
    A wide-ranging story of the Devil's appearance in Moscow.
  • (5/5)
    One of my favorite books of all time. He's got the whole Russian thing going on, as good as Dostoevsky or Tolstoy, but also has this weird & funny side of him which makes this book quite enjoyable. Have read a few other Bulgakov's but this is by far the best.
  • (4/5)
    An enjoyable read though I think many of the levels of this novel went over my head. The social satire of 30s-40s Russian culture and people was fun and funny.
  • (5/5)
    I don't know where to start, to be honest. This book was the one that got me properly hooked on 20th Century fiction, and my copy of it bears visible witness to how many times I've read it so far. I was given it as a birthday present about 10 years ago, and did not really know what to expect from it.But as soon as I picked it up, I could not put it down again. Bulgakov's vivid language and portrayals of both 1930's Moscow and Jerusalem in the days of Pontius Pilate are so vivid that you feel like a bystander watching the action. And when you add bizarre and entertaining events like Behemoth on the tram, it makes for something quite unique.I've recommended this book to dozens of people over the years, and the ones who take me up on it seldom regret it.
  • (4/5)
    My first foray into classic Russian literature. I didn't get it but I did. There's a loose plot, but it's more of an experience. Words can't describe how much I love the surrealism in this novel. Satanic balls! A talking black cat swinging across the room on a chandelier! Witches and the Devil! Lots and lots of havoc one spring week for the unsuspecting residents of Moscow.
  • (3/5)
    I think this book would have been awesome if I had been a Russian person of that era.
    As it is, I didn't really get it. I did like the part where she turns into a witch and flies over the countryside. That pretty much ruled.
  • (4/5)
    Clever, surreal, and quietly hillarious. Loved it.
  • (4/5)
    At one point I thought I was never going to finish this book. I thought it would end up on the DNF list to languish forever, my failed last attempt at Russian literature. The sticking point was an odd one. I had enjoyed the beginning but came to a part at Griboyedov's where I just couldn't read through it. It was a wall of Russian names and for some reason it just stopped me in my tracks. I attempted to get past it a couple times then left it on the wayside while I moved on to other books.

    Something in the back of my mind kept pushing me to continue, some knowledge that it would get better. And as has happened before I was glad I did. In the end I just skipped the whole page and picked it up after it and didn't put it down again.

    Once you're passed that and on to the institution and the theatre things really come to life. At times it was a bit confusing remembering exactly who was who. Russians tend to use a lot of diminutive names which is fine if you know the people but difficult in a book. One person can be called three or sometimes more different names. But it's worth it to push on.

    There are a lot of references to various Russian people, both past and (as of the time of the book) present, and if it wasn't for the footnotes it might have been an impenetrable fence at times. Although there are a lot of timeless qualities this really was a book written for those of the time. With lots of veiled (and some not so veiled) references to the political climate of the time and things like the secret police, midnight abductions and show trials, there is a lot to the book the average reader, such as myself, just won't quite get. But even with that there is still much more to this book.

    The three main parts of the book weave together until they are inseparable: the visitation of Moscow by the devil Woland and his cronies, the tale of Pontius Pilate and finally the love story of the master and Margarita. Fantasy, history, love, religion, politics and more. There really is a bit of everything in here. But not quite enough to push it to 5 stars. I really enjoyed it but I couldn't say I loved it. There's just that insurmountable gap due of not being well-versed in Russian history, politics and culture that I think are needed to truly get every nuance. A very good book though and I'm glad I finally persevered and finished it.
  • (4/5)
    I have no idea what I think of this strange tale of the devil and the mortals in early 20th century Soviet Russia. It is an angry tale, a vengeful satire, with references not known to me so that I couldn't appreciate the finer points and details. For me, it was a wild, whirling tale, a fluttering of colors and images told in an arch tone.

    I read it slowly, taking in sections and letting them digest in my mind. I spent some time on Wikipedia looking up things like Primus Stoves and Woland, and reading about the novel itself. It does take some study to grasp a book translated from another language and written some 80 years ago.

    It's hard to run down any proper narrative thread, for there really isn't any, at least, not until well into the novel, when one finally meets the titular Master. The story comes to the reader like fluttery bits of torn colored paper collected together and laid down, adjacent and overlapping, fixed into a collage that eventually forms first one picture, then another, until the whole is apparent. Yet what the picture is, I cannot tell. It's still beyond me. I grasp the sarcastic tone, the dislike of overwhelming bureaucracy, the anger at restraint and cruelty and greed for power, money, and status, but I sense there are other layers in the book to which I am blind -- jokes, observations, philosophy and references for which I have no clue, glimpses into a time and a culture of which I know little.

    Ah well, there's no help for it. Still, I enjoyed reading the novel, enjoyed the madness of it, the resolution of it, the odd tilt of it. I'll have to put it on my list of books to reread.
  • (4/5)
    Hmmm, well. This book took me forever to read. One reason is that its just a dense book, lots of plots and sub plots and a pretty big cast of characters. Another is that Russia of the 20's and 30's is a sufficiently alien world to me that it often took extra effort and attention to figure out what was going on. There is a whole subplot involving foreign currency, another recurring motif of primus stoves- I can tell these things are important but then I have to go to the afterward or check a history text to figure out why. Additionally in places Bulgakov was writing to evade the censors so he is often oblique - for example he refers to one character having no buttons on his coat, by which we are to understand that he has recently been released from prison because apparently in Russia in the 20's prisoners had the buttons cut off their coats.

    It is funny in spots, passionate in spots, and some of the descriptions - of the witches ride for example, are weirdly magical. The book was not completed before the author's death and I think there are places where he would have edited the manuscript if he had lived to do so - some of the early scenes when the devil is making everything go awry in Moscow get a little repetitive, and could probably stand some tightening up. But still, its complicated challenging and interesting.

    I also appreciate having read it because it helps me to understand more about the history and development of magical realism and fantasy and political satire in the 20th century. It seems to connect up in my head in ways that I'm still figuring out with Kafka and Borges and Isabel Allende and Alice Walker; something about how things that can't be told flat can be told more effectively through the lens of myth and the fantastical... still pondering, but there's something there some influence or through line.

    So its a bit of a chewy hunk of beef, but there's nourishment in it if you just keep on chewing. ;)
  • (5/5)
    An amazing novel... Not for fans of realism though ;)Bulgakov's novel is strange, but delightful. When the devil himself comes to Moscow all sorts of strange occurrences ensue. This is intermixed with the lovestory of the master and Margarita, and the story of Pontius Pilate's execution of Jesus Christ.The book really gives you something to think about, and I'm sure that upon reading it again I'll find new things to consider.
  • (4/5)
    I really liked this book the first time I read it, and I really liked it a lot this time as well. The book is really well written, and is a fun read.That assessment of the book does not change. It is really a good book to read. There are also a lot of allusions that have been made in the book, and I learned (and forgot) a lot, while researching the references in the book.During my first reading, I read a lot into the book, about the fundamental nature of Man, God and the Devil. The Devil does indeed walk amongst us, along paths unknown to us, and the Devil's ways are indeed mysterious.This time, I read more about human nature, and about how the Devil pokes fun of our stuffy pompous nature. I read more into the fragile fabric of human society than into the struggle between man and God.Either way, it's a fun read!
  • (5/5)
    This book is my favourite novel. It is the only novel that I consistently re-read every year and enjoy experiencing the story every time. (I honestly don't have the desire to re-read other books that often.) I love exploring soviet society, religion and the hypocracy rampant in the book. I continue to struggle with the protrayal of mental illness, though - people who encounter the devil are often 'punished' with mental illness. It seems as though the only people at the assylum are those struck ill by the devil. While I understand that this is not a new idea, I am still uncomfortable with the presentation of mental illness as a punishment. However, I don't read books that only present ideas I completely agree with and I expect that I will continue to find time to read this book every year. Every read presents something new and reminds me of old favourite parts - I can't wait for next time.
  • (5/5)
    The devil and a few of his minions wreak havoc in 1930s Moscow. Wherever they go, chaos follows... This is the story of Faust, if Faust were a woman, brilliantly clever and in love. Margarita holds her own with Satan, exchanging her soul for awesome powers, all for the sake of the Master whom she loves, her champion, the writer of the Pontius Pilate story, told parallel to the Moscow hi-jinks. Bulgakov's novel is by turns hysterically funny, then poignant and sad. This is a glorious book, and gorgeously written, yet every part is succinctly put. Even the simple description of Satan's appearance, from his build to what he wears, is nothing short of chilling. Rollicking nonstop action and a strange, exotic locale made this, for me, an un-putdownable read - until the last few chapters, when I realized with horror I would soon be finished! I wasn't ready to say good-bye! So I dragged my feet and did my very best to make it last. Imagine my pleasure when I discovered the commentary at the end, like the juiciest of DVD extras. I found these notes, a veritable play-by-play of anything and everything relevant and interesting, infinitely valuable - I highly recommend this edition.
  • (5/5)
    'You've been invited here as a consultant, Professor?' asked Berlioz.'Yes, as a consultant.'"You're German?' Homeless inquired.'I?...' the professor repeated and suddenly fell to thinking. 'Yes, perhaps I am German...' he said.'You speak really good Russian,' Homeless observed.'Oh, I'm generally a polyglot and know a great number of languages,' the professor replied.'And what is your field?' Berlioz inquired.'I am a specialist in black magic.'Berlioz meets Prof Woland at Patriarch's Ponds, Moscow...
  • (5/5)
    Brilliant satire. Poignant and bleakly humorous. Glenny's translation is, to me, the definitive one. Far more readable than others.
  • (5/5)
    I read this novel for the second time after seeing a dramatic adaptation of it performed by a small theater company here in Chicago. This is a complex novel with three major story lines and fantastic elements including the presence of Satan and a large black cat as two major characters. The story is set in Moscow in the nineteen thirties with literature is controlled by the state. The major state literary association is chaired by a bureaucrat named Berlioz. One of the main reasons I liked the book was its fundamental literary foundation with strong influence of the Faust story and the work of Russians, particularly Gogol and Pushkin. The whimsy of naming several of the characters after famous composers, Berlioz and Rimsky for two, appealed to my musical interests. Satan prepares a fantastic ball and with the help of demons and a black Cat creates mayhem and ferocious comedy. The satire becomes more clear after rereading the novel and the other humor includes slapstick episodes and the sheer insanity of the story. Inserted into the novel is the story of Pontius Pilate and Christ as written by the poet known as the Master. With his mistress, Margarita the novel moves into a final phase that continues the fantastic elements of the story. I found the new translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky excellent as all their Russian translations have been. For those readers interested in magic and supernaturalism, Satan and Pontius Pilate with a beauty and a poet, this is the novel for you. Certainly a twentieth century masterpiece.
  • (5/5)
    ''Unhappy poet! But it's your own fault, my dear fellow. You shouldn't have treated him so carelessly and rudely. Now you're paying for it. You should be thankful that you got off comparatively lightly.' 'But who on earth is he?' asked Ivan, clenching his fists in excitement. The visitor stared at Ivan and answered with a question: 'You won't get violent, will you? We're all unstable people here . . . There won't be any calls for the doctor, injections or any disturbances of that sort, will there?' 'No, no!' exclaimed Ivan. 'Tell me, who is he?' 'Very well,' replied the visitor, and said slowly and gravely: 'At Patriarch's Ponds yesterday you met Satan.' As he had promised, Ivan did not become violent, but he was powerfully shaken. 'It can't be! He doesn't exist!' 'Come, come! Surely you of all people can't say that. You were apparently one of the first to suffer from him. Here you are, shut up in a psychiatric clinic, and you still say he doesn't exist. How strange!' Ivan was reduced to speechlessness. ' As soon as you started to describe him,' the visitor went on, 'I guessed who it was that you were talking to yesterday. I must say I'm surprised at Berlioz! You, of course, are an innocent,' again the visitor apologised for his expression, 'but he, from what I've heard of him, was at least fairly well read. The first remarks that this professor made to you dispelled all my doubts. He's unmistakeable, my friend! You are ... do forgive me again, but unless I'm wrong, you are an ignorant person, aren't you?' 'I am indeed,' agreed the new Ivan. 'Well, you see, even the face you described, the different-coloured eyes, the eyebrows . . . Forgive me, but have you even seen the opera Faust?' Ivan mumbled an embarrassed excuse. 'There you are, it's not surprising! But, as I said before, I'm surprised at Berlioz. He's not only well read but extremely cunning. Although in his defence I must say that Woland is quite capable of throwing dust in the eyes of men who are even cleverer than Berlioz.' I have read "The Master and Margarita" four or five times before, and this re-read was for the Motley Fool on-line book club.Although the Moscow of this novel is a determinedly secular society, religion is still lurking under the surface, with Ivan using an icon as a talisman and other characters occasionally crossing themselves. Professor Woland and his fellow-demons cause trouble wherever they go, highlighting the hypocrisy and inadequacies of the Soviet system. The death of Berlioz after talking to Professor Woland at the park leads to chaos at Massolit (the society of writers whose management committee he chairs) , the housing committee of the building where Berlioz lived and the variety theatre where his flat-mate worked, and drives several people over the edge and into the local psychiatric hospital.Woland and his demonic minions work on the vanity and greed of the Muscovites, tempting the women attending the variety show with the latest fashions from Paris, before showering the audience with roubles that later turned into scraps of paper, or what is even worse, into illegal foreign currency. Margarita is my least favourite character, embracing evil without a backward glance, and in my opinion getting an entirely undeserved happy ending.
  • (4/5)
    Given that the devil does not exist, what happens when you meet him? This is the premise of "The Master and Margerita" by Mikhail Bulgakov, and opens the door on a world of absurdity, contradiction and densely layered allegories. The work is very, very Russian, and highly entertaining - though it is well worthwhile seeking out a well-annotated version (such as this) if you are not intimately familiar with the slang and symbolism of 1930s Moscow.A great read.
  • (3/5)
    I appreciated this novel more than I actively enjoyed it. I loved the surreality of the story, particularly the vodka-drinking tom cat Behemoth, and the initial descriptions of Satan and his retinue as they invade Moscow society. However, I felt bogged down by the many minor characters who become tangled in the plot--I left a character list open for most of part one. I also found that I had to read a fair bit about the context of the novel to fully appreciate/understand what was happening, particularly with regard to the bureaucracies of the Soviet Union. Anyway, I don't mind reading about context, because I would rather have a literary history lesson than any other kind. I was more slowed down by the language itself. Reading in translation is often difficult for me, partly because I believe (after college classes in translation...) that translation (of literature) is kind of impossible. If you translate too literally, the language gets clunky and strange. If you translate too poetically, it becomes a completely different work. I can't read Russian, so I will probably never know whether I would have appreciated Bulgakov's prose. And I mean this with no disrespect to the translator--according to the back of the book, her translation is "brilliant." Nevertheless, I found the language difficult to navigate.
  • (3/5)
    I should disclose that I'm not a particular fan of magical realism, which no doubt coloured my reading of this Russian classic. That said, I actually found the absurdity of it really entertaining...for a while. I loved the first part of the book, when the (vividly portrayed) devil wreaks havoc all over Moscow. Eventually though, the gun-toting cat, car-driving crow, flying pig and all the rest of Bulgakov's vast menagerie wore out their welcome. The last hundred pages or so were a real slog for me. The Master and Margarita is a book that demands patience and time.