The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov, is a hilarious, but deep book. Although I have never read Faust this book is influenced by it. The Master and Margarita deals with what happens in Moscow when the devil comes to town for a visit. The devil comes with his gang of miscreants that include a humongous talking black cat, a pirate, a naked witch, and Korovyov the choir master. They descend upon Moscow wreaking havoc wherever they go. However, since Muscovites don’t believe in God or Satan, they have to find some way to explain all of the strange occurrences that are befalling the city. This was a great book to read after The Brothers Karamazov, because one of the themes that Dostoevsky explores in it is the struggle between science and religion. In Dostoevsky’s work, one of the prevalent fears throughout is the loss of faith of the Russian people–especially in The Demons. He sees that nihilism is becoming too prevalent among the Russian people, and Dostoevsky worries about what may happen if this trend continues. Bulgakov’s book is written in the 1930′s when the ideals of communism are in full force, and many of Dostoevsky’s fears have been realized. Despite seeing the unbelievable and the supernatural the citizens of Moscow refuse to believe, and they actively try to dispel any notions that Satan is real. The devil and his retinue are hilarious, and yet, very scary. This is a devil that seems real. He is intelligent, conniving, and ruthless; although his gang is even more ruthless, and at times have to be restrained by the devil, but not often. These characters absolutely love creating chaos and mayhem, and although it can be a bit unnerving it is nevertheless an extremely enjoyable read.
The Master, however, is one of the few who dares to not only believe, but to write a story about Pontius Pilate. His story of Pontius Pilate and Jesus is like nothing you have ever read before, and is highly entertaining. It is this story that gets him into trouble, and eventually garners the attention of the devil.
Margarita, is the women who loves the Master. She loves him so much, in fact, that she is willing to do anything for him. She goes through her own heroes journey in the book, and proves that she is willing to move heaven and hell for the love of her life.
Bulgakov masterly interweaves history with fantasy throughout the novel. The book at the same time is a scathing review on Soviet life under Stalin. It was censored in by the Soviet Union, and was not published uncensored until late in the 20th Century. Like I mentioned above what is this book really comes down to is a realization of the fears that Dostoevsky perceived to be coming more than fifty years before this novel was published. Unlike other Russian novels, which are extraordinarily verbose and lengthy, The Master and Margarita clocks in at 335 pages. So if the long novels are too daunting for you than this is a much shorter novel, and more readable than Dostoevsky. It was an enjoyable read, and a very good book, but for me it still not as good as either The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, or The Idiot. But then I am also a bit of a masochist and I really enjoy long, long well written novels. And now for the excerpt. During this scene the devil and his evil gang make their official entrance onto the Moscow scene in the form of a magic show at the Variety Theater.