Book 33: The Master & Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov

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 . .

Aha!

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.

7 thoughts on “Book 33: The Master & Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov

  1. I’m going to be judge-y and say, I’m surprised that Jagger reads! Ha! 😀, well the Stones did write a few good song lyrics so I’ll assume he’s into literature.

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  2. Holy crap I didn’t realise Sympathy for the Devil/Master and Margarita connection. I actually had this book and couldnt get into it and so I gave it away. Thanks to this cool review and the Rolling Stones connection I will get it from the library for a re-try. That has to be one of the best Stones songs in my opinion. It sounds really good!

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    1. One of the great tracks!…the connection puts a twist on the book I didn’t expect while reading (only found out about the connection after!). Perhaps you had a dud translation first time round? Or maybe just not right…

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      1. It was in Poland and a translation from Russina into English that was a bit weird and stilted, in a formal kind of way of speaking, it put me off. I will try and find a better translation here.

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