The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

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The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
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The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Set in Moscow of the 1920’s, this satirical novel recounts the dealings a writer and his mistress have with Satan. The Master and Margarita is a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, written between 1928 and 1940 but unpublished in book form until 1967. It is woven around a visit by the Devil to the fervently atheistic Soviet Union.

Mikhail Bulgakov’s devastating satire of Soviet life was written during the darkest period of Stalin’s regime. Combining two distinct yet interwoven parts—one set in ancient Jerusalem, one in contemporary Moscow—the novel veers from moods of wild theatricality with violent storms, vampire attacks, and a Satanic ball; to such somber scenes as the meeting of Pilate and Yeshua, and the murder of Judas in the moonlit garden of Gethsemane; to the substanceless, circus-like reality of Moscow. Its central characters, Woland (Satan) and his retinue—including the vodka-drinking black cat, Behemoth; the poet, Ivan Homeless; Pontius Pilate; and a writer known only as The Master, and his passionate companion, Margarita—exist in a world that blends fantasy and chilling realism, an artful collage of grotesqueries, dark comedy, and timeless ethical questions.

Though completed in 1940, “The Master and Margarita” wasn’t published in Moscow until 1966, when the first part appeared in the magazine “Moskva.” It was an immediate and enduring success: audiences responded with great enthusiasm to its expression of artistic and spiritual freedom.

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov is one of Patti Smith’s and David Bowie’s favorite books.