May 6, 2008

The Master and Margarita

I STARTED writing a small review of this book on my Facebook `Books' application, but then realised I had a lot to say about it. And one of the small book-review applications on Facebook is not a good place for a book such as this. (Which is actually a sad indictment of all my other book reviews there. Have to get them out here sometime.)

I heard about this book some time back, while I was in Malaysia I guess, as part of a controversy--a Russian film adaptation had been made, and was being denounced by religious groups there as being demonic because it showed a witch on a broomstick (and other things). If they had read the book, they would have seen how ludicrous that is.

It's a very complex book, hard to describe. I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone who loves to read, though. The editorial review on the book's page certainly does it a lot of justice.

Having read it a long time ago, I'm fuzzy on the plot details, but I do remember this: I found the book absolutely gripping, right from the first chapter. It's a story about Yeshua (Jesus Christ) in Jerusalem shortly after he was denounced by Judas Iscariot and brought before Pontius Pilate; the Master (a persecuted and marginalised writer in Soviet Russia), his faithful lover Margarita, and the Devil, Woland. That is certainly a wide-ranging story. And the plots are mixed in such a way that blurs the distinction between story and story-teller.

Bulgakov's imagination is certainly gripping. The characters and antics he dreams up are surreal and, at times, chilling. Woland comes to Moscow with his retinue of disguised demons; wreaks havoc on the Soviet literary establishment and high society; tempts Margarita with the promise of complete freedom from society's rules and boundaries; and in the process causes the Master and Margarita to be reunited, and their mutual story about Yeshua to be completed as they ride off, the Master healed after all his years in the wilderness, and Margarita finally at peace by his side.

Seriously. Read it. Update: read it with U2's Until the End of the World playing in the background.