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Old 12-21-2006, 03:17 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 114
"Master & Margarita" by Bulgakov
Superb read. Someone lent it to me a year or so ago and I didn't quite connect with it and put it down half-way through. Bought it recently though and this time I loved it. Incredible to think of someone writing such a book in the Stalinist Russia of the time. Needless to say it didn't get past the censors of the day. Will certainly check out some more of Bulgakov though unsurprisingly he doesn't have much of an oeuvre. Must be pretty dispiriting to know anything you write will most likely remain unpublished. Not that Bulgakov was on the face of it a political writer. In fact though he was perhaps much more subversive-here the thoughts of a kind of heir to Bulgakov, Victor Pelevin.
"The effect of this book(Master & Margarita) was really fantastic. There's an expression "out of this world." This book was totally out of the Soviet world. The evil magic of any totalitarian regime is based on its presumed capability to embrace and explain all the phenomena, their entire totality, because explanation is control. Hence the term totalitarian. So if there's a book that takes you out of this totality of things explained and understood, it liberates you because it breaks the continuity of explanation and thus dispels the charms. It allows you to look in a different direction for a moment, but this moment is enough to understand that everything you saw before was a hallucination (though what you see in this different direction might well be another hallucination). The Master and Margarita was exactly this kind of book and it is very hard to explain its subtle effect to anybody who didn't live in the USSR. Solzhenitsyn's books were very anti-Soviet, but they didn't liberate you, they only made you more enslaved as they explained to which degree you were a slave. The Master and Margarita didn't even bother to be anti-Soviet yet reading this book would make you free instantly. It didn't liberate you from some particular old ideas, but rather from the hypnotism of the entire order of things.

The above from a great interview
Old 12-21-2006, 04:49 PM
rico suave
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: lost in a romance
Posts: 815
Re: "Master & Margarita" by Bulgakov
i would say that quote you posted really says it well. To be mistical and be mistical in the realm of christianity is a subtle but inescapable fuck you to the system. And just the way bulgakov respects government and public officials as characters. Painting them as bumbling oafs, without getting into political polemics. Definitely saying more with less.

I haven't read anything else by him but I understand pets (dogs, cats, etc) are a common element.

My wife is like this margarita chick is such wish fulfillment and I'm like try being a writer in the soviet union during the 30's and see what kinds of fulfillments you'd be interested in.

have you read zamyatin? I love "We" but you have to get a good translation. His kind of subversive is much more on the literal side. But I find it just as important a distopian novel as 1984. For one its written by a russian, and second its sarcastic as fuck. Which means, just like Bulgakov, laughter becomes a weapon of freedom.
"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it."

- Mark Twain

Last edited by Strangelet; 12-21-2006 at 04:52 PM.
Old 12-22-2006, 02:50 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 114
Re: "Master & Margarita" by Bulgakov
I hadn't even heard of Zamyatin or We until a week or so ago but in that time I've noticed him quite a few times, with your post being the most overt sign-post. And with that many pointers, I think I'll have to check him out. The writer Pelevin I quoted, is on form stunning, hilarious, genius etc. An amazing imagination like no other though having read Bulgakov, I can see the influence to an extent. However Pelevin certainly his own unique self and I'd especally recommend The Clay Machine Gun, sometimes called Buddha's Little Finger ( I much prefer the first title)- my first encounter with his work. Also Life on Insects and the short story collection Blue Lantern.
And how dare Bulgakov not be deeply concerned with the heroic proletariat being led to a glorious future by its equally heroic and self-sacrificing leaders. And as for bringing up the likes of the devil, Jesus and Pontius Pilate. It hath made me mad. And as for your mentioning of mysticism, I think we should respect our authorities and consider the mind in its pure form to be illegal and off-limits. And of course watch more television.

Last edited by myshkin; 12-22-2006 at 02:59 AM.
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