The Master & Margarita
On the 50th anniversary of its publication, The Master & Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov was re-released in a newly revised translation. Bulgakov actually died in 1940, but the book wasn't published - in a highly censored version - in 1966. In brief, The Master & Margarita is magical realism in Moscow. Interweaving the tale of the Devil (named Woland) visiting Moscow during one summer with critiques of the Soviet Government and flashbacks to Pontius Pilate's trial of Christ, no plot summary can do this story justice. Woland, among other adventures, seeks out Margarita. Margarita a woman who loved the Master, and the Master is languishing away in an asylum for after burning his manuscript, a novel about Pontius Pilate. The devil's visit to the officially atheist and communist Soviet Union leads to a fascinating commentary-slash-satire regarding religion, greed, corruption, and bureaucracy. I loved the magic within the story, and the flashbacks to Jerusalem were fantastic. The absurdity of the plot was infused with a very real commentary on Soviet Russia, and I am so glad I read it. To give you a taste, the start of Book II begins with the only dip into first person narration:
Follow me, reader! Who told you that there is no true, faithful, eternal love in this world! May the liar's vile tongue be cut out! Follow me, my reader, and me alone, and I will show you such a love.
The only gripe I have is that I couldn't keep track of all the Russian names, but as the story winds on (and more people die), it became easier. A surrealistic tale of the Devil wrecking havoc in Soviet Moscow interspersed with the thoughts of Pontius Pilate when he sentences Jesus Christ to die turns into a magnificent story in the hands of Bulgakov.