Sunday, 28 September 2008

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

This mixture of Stalin-era Moscow, Pontius Pilate and Satan's black arts ought to be disastrous but is enchanting, keeping the reader engaged and entertained for every page. Margarita is a marvellous heroine, her courage redeeming the cowardice shown elsewhere, and the fables spun around her and around Yeshua are resonant but not heavy in their satirical effect, The ambiguity of the end of the lovers' story is undercut by the sense of continuity given by Ivan's memories through the epilogue. Other writers who have used Satan as a character have struggled to balance him against the "good" characters, but Bulgakov's characterisation is never less than fascinating, so no one character dominates the narrative.

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