The Master & Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov

It’s been a while since I wrote here and the reason is that I haven’t been reading that much during the last two months. After finishing Dracula I spent approximately 3 weeks reading The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K Rowling) and although I enjoyed it quite a lot I just didn’t have enough to say about it for a full review. I wrote a brief review on Goodreads if anyone’s interested.

What I’ve spent the last two weeks reading is probably my first exposure to Russian literature ever – The Master & Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. This is probably the weirdest book I’ve read this year and this isn’t likely to change before the year ends. I’m not sure I can do it justice here, in fact I know I can’t but I can try.

No one ever told me The Master & Margarita is magical realism. In fact I knew very little of the novel going in, except the devil would be there somewhere and that there was a cat character in the book (although in comparison to a lot of other books with cats, this one isn’t actually a “nice” character). So I had a lot of fun making my way through this weird, nonsensical and sometimes absurd world. A lot of things were just so odd, and then there were things that were scary rather than odd (or scary because of their oddness?). I have a weird fear and fascination with being stuck in another dimension – think Coraline a la Neil Gaiman. So when the absurdities in the novel piled up and sort of took over the ordinary Moscow it felt like this other dimension started to melt into the original dimension, does that make sense? This “blurring of the lines” both frightens and fascinates me. I haven’t really realized how much it frightens me until now, but yeah there’s that.

To be honest the magical realism aspect of the story gives me Alice in Wonderland vibes. The story telling is somehow similar to Lewis Carroll in the way that nonsensical is the best way to describe it, and the feeling of falling deeper and deeper into Wonderland where things just don’t make sense and are.. odd/crazy/twisted – that’s basically this book except it’s darker. A dark Wonderland, so if you’re into that – go for it! I do think the magical realism will put some people off though, although it was definitely my favorite aspect of the novel.

There were parts of the book that I didn’t understand, specifically parts I didn’t understand the meaning off – why they were included in the story at all, or what actually happened to some of them. It isn’t hard to read although following the characters – keeping them apart, is somewhat difficult at first. I learnt to just go along and I mostly understood who everyone was, even if all the names sound similar. I do think there are layers here that I just didn’t pick up, and that it’s the type of book that would really be rewarding to reread. Which I plan to do some day in the future.

I guess that’s about all I had to say about it. Definitely very weird, but I kind of loved that. Not the easiest to follow the characters, but you get used to it. The story had such richness in details that I believe a second or third reading would give even more enjoyment to the reader. I highly recommend it to anyone open to travel to Bulgakov’s rather chaotic and twisted world.

Nayu

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