Asian Writers

June is dedicated to authors with ASIAN of books in this category will be posted all month....

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Master and Margarita

Author - Mikhail Bulgakov

Rating - * * * *

It’s unlike anything I have ever read before - A heady mix of good and evil that leaves you disoriented and wishing for more. 

What is the book about

I will start with a confession – there are certain events mentioned or quoted which I had no idea about [and still don’t!] and in all probability the impact of such references was lost on me. So perhaps once I re-read it again [this is starred for a re-read] I will appreciate the book in a holistic manner.
There are three threads running in this book – Pontius Pilate [I didn’t know about him till I picked up the book and then did a Wikipedia on it] and his agonized battle with self after he sentences Jesus to death, Master and Margarita’s love story and on whom the book is surprisingly named after and the one that takes up maximum of the book space – the Devil along with his entourage as they break havoc in Moscow.
And of course there is Russia like a character in the backdrop with its imperfections that makes intermittent appearances [again requires familiarity with Russian history during Stalin’s rule] in the story.

What I liked about the book

There are three stories that seem apparently unrelated till towards the second part they all come together in a beautiful way that cannot be anticipated at the end of the first part. The best pieces in the book are but naturally of the Devil and his conglomerate of unusual characters, of which Behemoth the cat is the most appealing. The dialogues are filled with humor, laced with sarcasm and symbolism (if you get it) and the mischief brought by them is like a no sense dream replete with supernatural activities. There is an entire chapter about the devil’s ball which is a fantastic piece. One can feel that the author let go off all inhibitions when he conjured up the scenes and also demands the same from his readers – let go – and let fact, fiction and Satan lead you to bliss.

What I didn’t like about the book

As I mentioned earlier, it was slow to start with. Perhaps it was the narration; perhaps it was my lack of knowledge of history.  So the first few chapters were hard to get by. Additionally, in the first part of the book there are numerous characters that are introduced or spoken about and all the names are foreign and complicated and it gets quite complicated to follow. After a point I stopped keeping track of who’s who and just focused on the main characters.
The other part that I didn’t like is the almost Harry Potter like sequences in the second part – the broom, the mermaids and flying cars. There was time when I lapped up such fantasies but unfortunately they no longer appeal to the reader in me.
Inspite of that it’s highly recommended and if you haven’t read it, go and get the book right now.

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