Mikhail Bulgakov’s ‘The Master and Margarita’ is a dark, satirical comedy set in 1930s Moscow. It’s uniquely bizarre, brilliantly funny and like nothing I’ve ever read.
For Stones fans out there (aren’t we all?) — important things first: The Master and Margarita is Mick Jagger’s favourite book. Marianne Faithful gave him a copy in 67′ (the book was published in 66′, 30 years after Bulgakov’s death). Jagger went on to write ‘Sympathy for the devil’ soon after reading the book and it shows…
Just compare the opening lyrics of ‘Sympathy’…
Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste..
…with the first words of the devil (Professor Woland) when he shows up at Patriarch Ponds…
“Please, excuse me,” he said, speaking correctly, but with a foreign accent, “for presuming to speak to you without an introduction . . . but the subject of your learned discussion is so interesting that . .
As well, the novel’s parallel story of Pontius Pilate inspires the next verse:
And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
So now we know!
There’s lots of info online about the book so no need for spoilers here! Just to say it’s an unforgettably absurd book that deserves to read if only for the demonic talking cat.
Some may enjoy digging into the book’s philosophical layers (good vs evil, light vs darkness, freedom vs bondage, the nature of man, religion etc) but for the rest of us the book stands as terrifically comic, surreal fiction. It’s quite a ride — highly recommended.