I have been reading The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov. At first I was really excited to finally being able to get into this classic that has been so highly appraised, but in the end I was left dissapointed. The novel is an expression of Bulgakov’s own experience, somehow masked by the mystic and supernatural events, that involve the apparition of Devil on Earth and somehow related to Faust’s theme.
The Master and Margarita is a story of Moscow in the 30’s , in a society that is afflicted by the communist regime, and by overdue bureaucracy and hypocrisy. Devil appears through the form of Woland, a black magician, who appears to not be evil, but rather a bored individual that wants to make a point, to prove something to the people. The whole aura around Woland is that it’s all-powerful, but not willing to sacrifice any bit of power to do anything in particular, thus emanating a pure laziness effect. The other characters are always surprised by what is happening, not being able to understand that the supernatural has bestowed upon them.
The novel is hilarious and uses the ridiculous at maximum: a poet running in underwear through Moscow, a witch riding a broom and destroying a flat house, a man that becomes transparent, a cat that acts like a man and many other things that bring the characters to a mind sanatorium. The general impression is that the novel is childish, without purpose and not rewarding.
The master is presented as a broken man, stripped out of his willpower, being in a mind sanatorium. It looks to be Bulgakov’s own reflection, but in my opinion, not a very successful one. Margarita however is created better, with a clear standpoint and a desire of her own. The only theme that I found interesting is the sacrifice she makes to get her lover back, by helping and siding with Satan.
Woland’s magic act is dissapointing, the tricks are just brutal and not impressive. He takes advantage of people’s lust for money, power , wealth, gives them what they want, just to turn it into dust moments later. Bulgakov is full of irony against the regime, the treatment of foreign money, and the honesty of the citizens, as they rapport to the leading regime.
Sometimes the situation are hardly comical, with Woland having a gang of rascal characters which allow themselves to do anything they please: shoot, destroy, set fire, mock and be rude to just about anyone and anything they encounter.
The Master and Margarita live a dull love story, one without details, one that is destroyed without reason, and which needs a huge sacrifice to be saved. Their death is the only pure symbolical act in the book, which transcends the characters to the next level. Here, Woland shows an angelic side, even if he is Satan.
Throughout the book, we also get to read references to Jesus’ time and Pontius Pilat, who becomes an uniting point for all characters in the book. Bulgakov has tried to make an analogy between the facts in Jesus’ life with his own, seen through the Master’s experience in the book, but my general impression is that he fully fails.
The Master and Margarita is more a tryout, full of bad humor, without essence, not impressive, and my general opinion is that it’s way overevaluated. Honestly it’s one of the worst books I read lately. No substance, no power, weak characters, no strong themes, no social interactions. I would classify it more under a children’s book, with a bit of irony for the human nature.