Fantasy & Beyond

A Book Forum for Speculative Fiction

Discuss SFF books and authors here.
I'd heard of the book before reading it, it gets mentioned a lot, but I was never really minded to read it until I came across a small volume called something like 100 Must-Read Fantasy Novels (I'm not really a fan of the terms must read or best. It's very subjective. What I may find brilliant and essential someone else may feel totally different about, in my experience mostly people do when I love something). With this one I did give it a shot to read all of the books in it. I gave up at some point in the M's. The books were mostly older and not easy to find, and I found myself violently in disagreement with the authors in terms of the chosen books must-read qualities.

Anyway The Master and Margarita was one that I agreed about. The book was written and published in some forms well before 1967. Bulgakov himself died in 1940, and the book was written between 1928 - 1940. It circulated in a number of formats, some censored, some not until 1967 when it was more widely published as a novel and outside of the Soviet Union. It's been fairly influential. Most notably for being Mick Jagger's inspiration for Sympathy for the Devil.

The book itself is a mixture of many things: religion, politics, art, life in the Soviet Union during the time in which it was written, there's also a lot of mythology and you can't forget the gun toting, human sized, vodka swilling cat Behemoth. If people remember nothing else about the book, Behemoth tends to stick in the mind.

Given the amount of things going on in this book, and the author's life and mind in general, it's not surprising that it took twelve years to write. A lot of it seems dreamlike and there is a lot of autobiographical work in it. One of the most beautifully written parts and something that stayed with me was the Spring Ball of the Full Moon. There is no way any of that could have been real, yet it seems to have been inspired by an actual lavish event The Spring Festival Ball at Spaso House in 1935, something that Bulgakov attended, and it left a lasting impression on him.

It isn't what I'd call an easy to read book on a number of levels, but it is fascinating, beautifully and lovingly written and as I said it was one of the better recommendations from that must read guide.

It's a shame that Bulgakov did die when he did, because had he had the time, I think he could have given readers many truly great moments.
DrNefario liked this