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Falselogic
08-01-2013, 08:47 AM
Welcome to the inaugural Talking Time Book Club! Our book for the this month is Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. A little bit about the book and its author

Mikhail Bulgakov was born on May 15, 1891, in Kiev, at that time in the Russian Empire. He was one of seven children (the oldest of three brothers) of Afanasiy Bulgakov, an assistant professor at the Kiev Theological Academy, and Varvara Mikhailovna, a former teacher. Both of his grandfathers were clergymen in the Russian Orthodox Church.[3] Afanasiy Bulgakov was born in Bryansk Oblast, Russia, where his father was a priest, and he moved to Kiev to study in the academy.[4] Varvara Bulgakova was born in Karachev, Russia.[5] Friendship, respect, and mutual love reigned in Bulgakov's large family and happy home. From childhood Bulgakov was drawn to theater. At home, he wrote comedies, which his brothers and sisters acted out.

In 1901 Bulgakov joined the First Kiev Gymnasium, where he developed an interest in Russian and European literature (his favourite authors at the time being Gogol, Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Saltykov-Shchedrin, and Dickens), theatre and opera. The teachers of the Gymnasium exerted a great influence on the formation of his literary taste. After the death of his father in 1907, Mikhail's mother, a well-educated and extraordinarily diligent person, assumed responsibility for his education. After graduation from the Gymnasium in 1909,[7] Bulgakov entered the Medical Faculty of Kiev University, which he finished with special commendation. He then took a position as a physician at the Kiev Military Hospital

In February 1919 he was mobilised as an army physician by the Ukrainian People's Army and assigned to the Northern Caucasus. There, he became seriously ill with typhus and barely survived.[8][9] In the Caucasus he started working as a journalist, but when they were invited to return as doctors by the French and German governments, Bulgakov was refused permission to leave Russia because of the typhus. That was when he last saw his family; after the Civil War and the rise of the Soviets most of his relatives emigrated to Paris.

After illness Bulgakov abandoned his career as a doctor for that of a writer. In his autobiography, he recalled how he started writing: "Once in 1919 when I was traveling at night by train I wrote a short story. In the town where the train stopped, I took the story to the publisher of the newspaper who published the story".[8] Though his first fiction efforts were made in Kiev, he only decided to leave medicine to pursue his love of literature in 1919. His first book was an almanac of feuilletons called Future Perspectives, written and published the same year. In December 1919 Bulgakov moved to Vladikavkaz. He wrote and saw his first two plays, Self Defence and The Turbin Brothers, being produced for the city theater stage with great success.[7][8]


After travelling through the Caucasus, Bulgakov headed for Moscow, intending "to remain here forever". It was difficult to find work in the capital, but he was appointed secretary to the literary section of Glavpolitprosvet (Central Committee of the Republic for Political Education). In September 1921 Bulgakov and his wife settled near Patriarch's Ponds, close to Mayakovskaya metro station on Bolshaya Sadovaya street, 10. To make a living, he started working as a correspondent and feuilletons writer for the newspapers Gudok, Krasnaia Panorama and Nakanune, based in Berlin. For the almanac Nedra, he wrote Diaboliad, The Fatal Eggs (1924), and Heart of a Dog (1925), works that combined bitter satire and elements of science fiction and were concerned with the fate of a scientist and the misuse of his discovery. The most significant features of Bulgakov's satire, such as a skillful blending of fantastic and realistic elements, grotesque situations, and a concern with important ethical issues, had already taken shape; these features were developed further in his most famous novel.

Between 1922 and 1926 Bulgakov wrote several plays (including Zoyka's Apartment), none of which were allowed production at the time.[7] The Run, treating the horrors of a fratricidal war, was personally banned by Joseph Stalin after the Glavrepertkom (Department of Repertoire) decided that it "glorified emigration and White generals". In 1925 Bulgakov divorced his first wife and married Lyubov Belozerskaya.

When one of Moscow's theatre directors severely criticised Bulgakov, Stalin personally protected him, saying that a writer of Bulgakov's quality was above "party words" like "left" and "right".[10] Stalin found work for the playwright at a small Moscow theatre, and next the Moscow Art Theatre (MAT). On October 5, 1926, Days of the Turbins, the play which continued the theme of The White Guard (the fate of Russian intellectuals and officers of the Tsarist Army caught up in revolution and Civil war)[6] was premièred at the MAT[7] Stalin liked it very much and reportedly saw it at least 15 times.

In the late 1930s he joined the Bolshoi Theatre as a librettist and consultant. He left after perceiving that none of his works would be produced there. Stalin's favor protected Bulgakov from arrests and execution, but he could not get his writing published. His novels and dramas were subsequently banned and, for the second time, Bulgakov's career as playwright was ruined. When his last play Batum (1939), a complimentary portrayal of Stalin's early revolutionary days,[12] was banned before rehearsals, Bulgakov requested permission to leave the country but was refused.

In poor health, Bulgakov devoted his last years to what he called his "sunset" novel. 1937-1939 for Bulgakov were stressful years as he veered from glimpses of optimism, believing the publication of his masterpiece could still be possible, to bouts of depression, when he felt as if there were no hope. Bulgakov died on March 10, 1940

The Master and Margarita (Мастер и Маргарита), which Bulgakov began writing in 1928 and which was finally published by his widow in 1966, twenty-six years after his death, led to an international appreciation of his work. The book contributed a number of sayings to the Russian language, for example, "Manuscripts don't burn" and "second-grade freshness". A destroyed manuscript of the Master is an important element of the plot. Bulgakov had to rewrite the novel from memory after he burned the draft manuscript.

The novel is a critique of Soviet society and its literary establishment. The work is appreciated for its philosophical undertones and for its high artistic level, thanks to its picturesque descriptions (especially of old Jerusalem), lyrical fragments and style. It is a frame narrative involving two characteristically related time periods and/or plot lines: a retelling of the gospels and a description of contemporary Moscow.

The novel begins with Satan visiting Moscow in the 1930s, joining a conversation between a critic and a poet debating the existence of Jesus Christ and the Devil. It develops into an all-embracing indictment of the corruption, greed, narrow-mindedness, and widespread paranoia of Soviet Russia. Published more than 25 years after Bulgakov's death, and more than ten years after Stalin's, the novel firmly secured Bulgakov's place among the pantheon of great Russian writers.

Share your thoughts, feelings, insights, questions, etc. here as you read

Karzac
08-01-2013, 09:24 AM
So I'm about forty pages in, just finished the third chapter. Question for anybody reading the P&V edition: are you reading the endnotes? I am.

Behemoth
08-01-2013, 12:32 PM
So I'm about forty pages in, just finished the third chapter. Question for anybody reading the P&V edition: are you reading the endnotes? I am.

Yes, and I encourage everybody else to do likewise. The end notes provide all sorts of contextual and historical insights that are nigh-essential.

Behemoth
08-01-2013, 12:37 PM
Double post.

One thing that's struck me as I do this re-read is how much The Satanic Verses must have been influenced by The Master and Margarita. I'd love to do a re-read of that book after this one as a sort of comparative analysis.

Karzac
08-01-2013, 12:47 PM
The thing that's striking me the most right now is how much Good Omens must have also been influenced by this book. Not as erudite an observation, but I've never read The Satanic Verses. Although my brother's reading that book right now. Oh no! Confluence of books about the Devil! This is going to be bad.

taosterman
08-01-2013, 01:29 PM
Yes, and I encourage everybody else to do likewise. The end notes provide all sorts of contextual and historical insights that are nigh-essential.

I read an edition without them and the book just felt like a bunch of random shit, what with me not being schooled in Russian folklore, so yeah, read the endnotes. I might join up on this if I can get my hands on a P&V edition quickly enough, I really need to reread this book.

Little Sampson
08-01-2013, 02:35 PM
I read this a couple of years back and loved the hell out of it, I have a long car ride coming up tonight, so it seems like a perfect time to start it again. I will also be reading the P&V translation and also would like to stress that reading the endnotes is important.

Droewyn
08-01-2013, 05:36 PM
Two chapters in. I like how Yeshua shies away from the man with the whip and is very careful to address Pilate correctly so he won't be hurt. It makes him seem a lot more human than I'm used to him being represented as being.

Karzac
08-02-2013, 07:21 AM
Agreed. And I like that he's like "Seriously, I just met this Matthew dude and he started writing stuff and I was like whoa dude what are you doing?"

Din
08-02-2013, 03:59 PM
I read this book a couple of years ago. Absolutely loved it. The historical context and some of the parallels to Stalin's rule alone make it a really, really fun read.

Pajaro Pete
08-02-2013, 04:13 PM
So far I love it. Chapter 5 is a bit rough to get into, but everything else has been solid.

The footnotes are amazing and fantastic and you should read them.

Falselogic
08-02-2013, 06:58 PM
I'm at chapter 4. Enjoying the book so far.

I always enjoy reading various people's interpretations of the Passion...

shivam
08-03-2013, 09:34 AM
Picked up my copy last night. Looking forward to this.

Lady
08-03-2013, 01:03 PM
I'm not reading the P&V edition, so my question is at what point do you think you would be lost in the cutural references without the end notes?

Falselogic
08-03-2013, 01:05 PM
I'm not reading the P&V edition, so my question is at what point do you think you would be lost in the cutural references without the end notes?

I'm not very far into it but aside from one or two notes most of it has not been very enlightening about Soviet culture. (The two that come to mind so far are the abbreviaton of names Moscow Literature Club to Mosclit and then the turning on of lamps reference)

Din
08-03-2013, 01:33 PM
Yeah. From what I remember, the first half of the book, while it has a few references to Russian culture that your typical English speaking person would hone in on, it isn't too hard to understand until you get to the second half, which really ups the ante on the symbolism and cultural references, and you can get lost if you're not careful. Even so, so long as you pay careful attention to the end notes, you'll still be able to follow the main plotline and get the gist of most of what's happening.

Falselogic
08-03-2013, 01:50 PM
I'm not reading the P&V edition, so my question is at what point do you think you would be lost in the cutural references without the end notes?

Does your version not have ANY notes? If that is the case I'm sure there is a site around somewhere that is the equivalent of Cliff Notes that might help with that sort of thing?

Lady
08-03-2013, 03:32 PM
It has a timeline that compares the author's life with "literary context" with historical events

Violentvixen
08-03-2013, 05:17 PM
It has a timeline that compares the author's life with "literary context" with historical events

I've got this version too, oh well.

Karzac
08-04-2013, 05:56 AM
One little touch I'm really liking is the frequency of idiomatic uses of "devil." "Devil knows where," "what the devil," "devil take him" - stuff like that has come up a bunch. I suppose it could be a translation thing, but I have to imagine that it's purposeful.

Loki
08-04-2013, 06:58 AM
It's purposeful.

Droewyn
08-04-2013, 02:54 PM
So what I'm getting here is if a mysterious figure appears and asks you if you believe in the devil, you say yes!

Falselogic
08-04-2013, 03:22 PM
Anyone understand why the Poet decided to go swimming whilst hunting down the Professor? Is he just crazy now?

Droewyn
08-04-2013, 03:42 PM
I was assuming he was being mentally fucked with. He could be genuinely crazy, though, I suppose.

Karzac
08-04-2013, 07:25 PM
From what happens later, I'm pretty certain it's just a case of the Devil fucking with him.

Falselogic
08-04-2013, 07:55 PM
From what happens later, I'm pretty certain it's just a case of the Devil fucking with him.

I hadn't decided if it was him falling apart or the devil doing it.

Karzac
08-04-2013, 08:28 PM
Maybe it's a bit of both?

Loki
08-05-2013, 08:28 AM
Guys I really like this book guys. Thank you for introducing me to it. I had never heard of it before.

shivam
08-05-2013, 06:11 PM
finished the first chapter at lunch. these russians knew how to set a scene pretty well.

Why'd you choose this book, falsie?

Falselogic
08-05-2013, 09:54 PM
finished the first chapter at lunch. these russians knew how to set a scene pretty well.

Why'd you choose this book, falsie?

I'd heard good things from people about it and then I heard a couple of podcasts mention the book (one of which was Lapham's Quaterly's.) My Russian lit is spotty and I didn't want to read War & Peace

shivam
08-05-2013, 11:15 PM
I actually started war and peace while waiting for my copy of this to come, and it's incredible.

Violentvixen
08-06-2013, 08:08 AM
I'm one chapter in as well, the characters already have nicely defined personalities and I'm curious to learn more about them. Looking forward to this.

valhalladeath
08-09-2013, 12:22 PM
Finally got around to starting this, and I would have to say I am enjoying it. Not sure if it's the translation, but I am finding it extremely easy to read when compared to other classics of the same era.

Lady
08-12-2013, 07:01 AM
I love the way events just segue one into another. It's like an episode of Mr. Show where they zoom into the small tv in the background of the set and that sets up the next skit.

Falselogic
08-12-2013, 08:34 AM
I'm about 1/4 of the way through and am enjoying it as well! Bulgakov does a great job of making his Devil seem so reasonable and the people whose lives he is ruining seem awful!

Droewyn
08-12-2013, 08:58 AM
Close to halfway in and we get to meet the first of the title characters! His backstory is NOT AT ALL autobiographical or otherwise related to the author's life.

Karzac
08-12-2013, 09:09 PM
Almost done Book 1. I'll post some deeper thoughts tomorrow.

Falselogic
08-14-2013, 08:53 AM
Close to halfway in and we get to meet the first of the title characters! His backstory is NOT AT ALL autobiographical or otherwise related to the author's life.

Are you talking about the Master? I just got to him as well. Is he really a stand in for the author? Seeing as I don't know anything about the author I can't say.

Behemoth
08-14-2013, 09:05 AM
Are you talking about the Master? I just got to him as well. Is he really a stand in for the author? Seeing as I don't know anything about the author I can't say.

He burned the original manuscript of The Master and Margarita and had to rewrite it from memory. The character of Margarita was also apparently inspired by his third wife.

Karzac
08-14-2013, 02:02 PM
Just started Book Two and I'm still loving it. As others have mentioned, the way Bulgakov describes the ridiculous situations occurring in the book is just amazing. Characters are appropriately stunned when insane things happen, but it's done in a very believable way. Nobody lingers on the hows and whys of what's going on, because they're too freaked out and too much stuff is going on. "An Unquiet Day" is the best example of this. The way the bookkeeper just takes everything in stride, hoping that the next place he visits will make sense, while everything continues to fall apart around him is great.

Grignr
08-15-2013, 04:15 AM
Got a bit of a ways into Book Two last night. I was not expecting the story to turn into raunchy Kiki's Delivery Service.

In general, I've enjoyed this book so far, but when it switches characters every chapter, especially after introducing characters with three names but then just addressing them by their first two, my brain takes a minute to catch up. It doesn't help that the last name tends to be a familiar composer name yet that's the one that is dropped. I end up just remembering the character's job instead.

Teaspoon
08-15-2013, 07:06 PM
I am a little bit reminded of "The Gospel According to the Son", only this is many-fold better and more thoughtful.

I'm glad at being pushed to read this; maybe it'll get more complicated later on (I'm still in the first book) but this is actually one of the more accessible Russian books I've read. While still being properly fraught, of course.

Grignr
08-17-2013, 05:15 PM
If you didn't know that a primus stove (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primus_stove) is like those little butane camping stoves, well, it is. And when it burns paraffin, that's kerosene, not paraffin wax.

Maybe everyone else goes camping with their primus stoves but I had to go look it up.

shivam
08-19-2013, 11:28 AM
Also, i fucking love the russian attitude of 'life, what are you gonna do' that pervades the whole thing.

Falselogic
08-19-2013, 11:29 AM
From now on when someone asks me something and I have to answer in the negative I will add, "who do I look like Pushkin?"

Karzac
08-19-2013, 12:01 PM
Also, i fucking love the russian attitude of 'life, what are you gonna do' that pervades the whole thing.

Agreed. The fact that, while the characters are horrified at certain events they take most of it in stride, is probably the biggest indictment of the Soviet Union in the book.

Lady
08-19-2013, 09:43 PM
Question for those reading the P&V version: in the chapter News from Yalta, a photo telegram is sent; do the footnotes say anything about the specific technology?

and what name do they call the assistant?

Grignr
08-20-2013, 03:45 AM
The "photogram" is a "super-lightning telegram" with a footnote that just says this is an exaggeration of lighting telegrams, which did exist.

"False Dmitri" is exclaimed in reference to Gregrory Otrepev, a monk who pretended to be prince Dmitri.

Falselogic
08-21-2013, 09:39 AM
Is everyone done with Part 1? If you havent please comment or after 12 hours or so I'm going to open up discussion on the first half of the book

Behemoth
08-21-2013, 11:55 AM
This is jumping the gun somewhat, but I forgot how awesome the ball is. It might be my favorite part of the book.

For those of you without access to end-notes, let me know if (when you get there) you want some background on who's who.

Falselogic
08-21-2013, 11:56 AM
This is jumping the gun somewhat, but I forgot how awesome the ball is. It might be my favorite part of the book.

For those of you without access to end-notes, let me know if (when you get there) you want some background on who's who.

I'm just starting it now!

Lady
08-21-2013, 09:12 PM
Is everyone done with Part 1? If you havent please comment or after 12 hours or so I'm going to open up discussion on the first half of the book

man I got like 2-3 chapters left of p1

ok done

boyonion
08-22-2013, 04:56 AM
I'm about to make a book order from Indigo, so I might jump on board with this in the next couple of weeks.

Lady
08-22-2013, 10:23 PM
I read the first margarita chapter; ho boy it was gr8

Behemoth
08-25-2013, 12:58 PM
Done! As is my wont, I went back and read the introduction after I'd finished, and it is very much worth reading, for those of you with the P&V translation that may not have done so.

I don't tend to reread books (given that I have so many books yet to read), but rereading this one really reminded me how much I love this book, and it had a much bigger impact on me than the last time I read it. I'm not sure what book it bumped off, but it's now in my top ten. I'm excited to everyone else's thoughts on it.

Falselogic
08-25-2013, 03:20 PM
I have about four more chapters left.

I'm having a hard time seeing where this is all going...

Violentvixen
08-25-2013, 04:42 PM
Book two is delightful madness so far!

Droewyn
08-26-2013, 08:36 AM
I finished over the weekend!

Falselogic
08-28-2013, 01:23 PM
Finished it! Can't wait to talk about it with you all in a few days!

Violentvixen
08-28-2013, 06:30 PM
Somebody had this on hold at the library so I wasn't able to renew it and had to plow through the end today. I know I missed a few details here and there but I finished it!

Karzac
08-29-2013, 06:44 AM
Finished it yesterday. Gonna read the introduction today and then return it, because it's ten days late and I'm dumb about renewing books at the library.

Falselogic
09-01-2013, 07:18 AM
*SPOILERS*

Okay! It's September 1st! I hope you finished the book! If not beware cause you are now in Spoiler country! Let's be nice for the people of the future and but a SPOILER warning at the top of your post like I have so readers can skip over if they want!

What did you all think? Of the book, the writing, the story?

Why did the Master need to free Pontius?

Were Woland and his friends real?

How come the interactions people had with Woland seem more like dealing w/ force of nature than dealing with evil incarnate?

Who is the main character?

Falselogic
09-02-2013, 02:02 PM
*SPOILERS*

So, no one has finished the book? I'm just going to be talking to myself?

Karzac
09-02-2013, 02:06 PM
I have finished the book. Give me a minute to collect my thoughts.

Grignr
09-02-2013, 05:30 PM
SPOILERS FOR EVERYTHING

I have to admit that by Hell Night when all the Satanic buddies are named and described, I'd forgotten which buddy had been doing what in Book 1. Other than the cat. The cat was easy to remember.

OK, some general thoughts: Book 1 is episodic Russians-get-what-they-deserve by being greedy fools, mostly Russians that pissed off Bulgakov as an author/playwright, by acting like their normal selves in front of Woland & Friends. In Book 2, Woland & Friends take a liking to Margarita (because she's hot? because she's faithful to the Master (and his book)? Because she's willing to break with her posh/legal/loveless marriage and give it all up for sinful love? Because she's brave?) and take her under their wing and reward her and the master with a bittersweet ending. Meanwhile, Pontius Pilate keeps popping up.

But let's ponder a little deeper than the surface self-insert-revenge-fantasy level.

The first Pontius Pilate chapters are implied to be a fantasy experienced by the two literary guys in the park. However, the chapters match perfectly with the content of the Master's book, yet are claimed to be first-person experience right after the dream sequence. So it's possible that the Master is so in sync with Pontius he's getting his story exactly right (and drawing the attention of supernatural forces) or those forces are somehow his muse. Anyway, the Master is the perfect person to free Pilate at the end because he's had his own persecution experiences and he's got some link into Pilate (though this predates his persecution), and somehow feels that Pilate is reaching towards an enlightenment he didn't fight for when he had the chance.

RE: Woland and friends: They're real (enough), the Russian attempts at explaining their actions fail to explain the teleportations, though most of the doings are ultimately illusions. They are more like the Addams family than pitchfork demons, but zipping people to the high places of the earth and teleporting them to different cities isn't that different, and tempting people into small transgressions (see Screwtape Letters) is also typical. Plus (like with Pilate) there's the idea that the full truth didn't get out, that we see an accepted version of history, and the novel shows how those accepted versions get created to fit the needs of the authorities.

Main Character: Obviously Behemoth because he's so awesome.

estragon
09-02-2013, 07:55 PM
Who is the main character?

This is an inappropriate question because it assumes there is a main character.

The novel is set up in a way to play the idea that there should be a main character. Note how well the scene is set is in the first chapter, creating the suggestion you're about to experience a novel that follows the kind of pre-modernist plotting/structure that would necessarily include a clear main character (or characters). You can see an example of this technique still working in Violentvixen's reaction below, and I had a similar feeling after chapter one:

I'm one chapter in as well, the characters already have nicely defined personalities and I'm curious to learn more about them. Looking forward to this.

However, right after that he pulls the rug out from under you and you're taken into the Pilate chapter, and then one of the two individuals you're set up to be curious to learn more about dies. Next, until over the halfway point, you are then taken through a sequence of characters, never lingering too long with any one of them. Neither of the title characters are even "main characters," and Bulgakov even jokes about this in a the 4th wall breaking chapter title that draws attention to how late Master appears in the novel.

To look for a main character is to ignore Bulgakov's playfulness and experimentation with the structure of the novel.

Behemoth
09-02-2013, 08:42 PM
Put me in the camp that doesn't consider the book to have a "main" character per se. That said, if you held a gun to my head I would say that Margarita is the main character - the reader spends a great deal of time with her, and she seems to be the most autonomous (she even orders the demons around that pester and plague the other characters). Contrast her character with that of the Master, who doesn't do much of anything during the events of the book (except for freeing Pilate at the end). Of course, I could also see the arguments that the Master, Pilate, Woland or even Homeless is the main character.

I also believe that the demons were real within the context of the novel. Their playful, petty evil was an interesting contrast to the pervading, unspoken evil of the Stalinist regime that permeated the book. Entities as cartoonishly evil as the demons "will evil but continuously do good," to paraphrase the quote from Faust at the beginning. It takes a man-made regime like that of Stalin to really screw people over.

Grignr
09-03-2013, 03:31 AM
They're more angels (fallen or otherwise) as "adversaries" that tempt as a test, which is also what you see in Job/Matthew, "temptation in the wilderness"-style ( or at least temptation in the privacy of your office). Although Behemoth is more manic Bugs Bunny and there's some Addams family in the gang, too. Mostly, the worst they do is burn down your house.

They do pretty much straight out kill the Baron guy, but that's notable in the exception.

Margarita gets a good chunk of the book as the viewpoint character and in role where her actions are driving things, so she's the "main character" for that section of the book. The other saps who serve as single-chapter viewpoints mostly just see things coming and get steamrolled.

Behemoth
09-03-2013, 07:52 AM
Yeah, what was the deal with the Baron? Why did he in particular deserve death? I found that part a little confusing.

Similarly, did the real identity of Koroviev make sense to anybody? It said that he was a knight that was cursed for having made a blasphemous pun (or something along those lines). I was expecting there to be a corresponding end note that would provide some more color, but there wasn't.

Falselogic
09-03-2013, 08:50 AM
I'm pretty sure convincing arguments could be made that place Woland, Koroviev, or Homeless as the protagonist

estragon
09-03-2013, 09:23 AM
I'm pretty sure convincing arguments could be made that place Woland, Koroviev, or Homeless as the protagonist

Then you should make one!

But an argument about who is the protagonist of this book should probably also mention why it matters at all (in other words, what's the point of identifying a protagonist in a book like this that is structured to suggest that there isn't one).

Are you just looking for a protagonist because you go into novels assuming there will be a protagonist? If so, it's probably not worth it. If there's something beyond that, tell us what you think. It's probably interesting.

Violentvixen
09-03-2013, 11:10 AM
You can see an example of this technique still working in Violentvixen's reaction below, and I had a similar feeling after chapter one:



However, right after that he pulls the rug out from under you and you're taken into the Pilate chapter, and then one of the two individuals you're set up to be curious to learn more about dies. Next, until over the halfway point, you are then taken through a sequence of characters, never lingering too long with any one of them. Neither of the title characters are even "main characters," and Bulgakov even jokes about this in a the 4th wall breaking chapter title that draws attention to how late Master appears in the novel.

To look for a main character is to ignore Bulgakov's playfulness and experimentation with the structure of the novel.

Haha, yep.

I think Ivan is the character I feel the reader is supposed to identify with in the first chapter, and by book two you're supposed to identify with Margarita. Ivan is the one who fights it and fails and is remade, Margarita is simply a female version of the "new" Ivan. She's already been broken by losing the Master and is simply ready to go along for the ride.

That's my take, anyway.

Really, really, random question: I thought Margarita was a Spanish name, is her name something different in Russian or do they have that nickname as well? It doesn't sound Russian to me.

Falselogic
09-03-2013, 11:28 AM
Then you should make one!

But an argument about who is the protagonist of this book should probably also mention why it matters at all (in other words, what's the point of identifying a protagonist in a book like this that is structured to suggest that there isn't one).

Are you just looking for a protagonist because you go into novels assuming there will be a protagonist? If so, it's probably not worth it. If there's something beyond that, tell us what you think. It's probably interesting.

I asked the question to stimulate conversation. It seems to be working.

upupdowndown
09-03-2013, 11:49 AM
I hope this FC keeps on for a bit, I have the book but I haven't made much headway because as it turns out, muscle relaxerzzz play merry hell with my reading comprehension

Falselogic
09-03-2013, 11:51 AM
I hope this FC keeps on for a bit, I have the book but I haven't made much headway because as it turns out, muscle relaxerzzz play merry hell with my reading comprehension

This thread will remain open through September! Is that enough time Grandpa?

Karzac
09-03-2013, 12:52 PM
I think Homeless is at least supposed to be the audience cypher, if not necessarily the protagonist. The book starts and ends with him and our images of Woland, Koroviev, Behemoth and Pilate are defined by him.

Behemoth
09-03-2013, 01:08 PM
On a completely unrelated note it's weird to see what I've come to identify as my "name" come up without referring to me.

Falselogic
09-03-2013, 01:09 PM
On a completely unrelated note it's weird to see what I've come to identify as my "name" come up without referring to me.

I was going to ask about it but thought it might be rude...

estragon
09-03-2013, 03:20 PM
I asked the question to stimulate conversation. It seems to be working.

Yes, that was clear. And I answered it in response to your attempt to stimulate conversation.

Droewyn
09-04-2013, 05:08 AM
I like that Woland is less... well, satanic... and more of a trickster. He reminds me of how Odin would visit human habitations in disguise to see whether they were abiding by the laws of hospitality (and then punish/reward accordingly). He's certainly not some monster under the bed bent on corrupting the innocent. He also seems very protective of Margarita. And the Master too, I guess, but it felt like it was more by association with her than on his own merits.

Also! Margarita is awesome. I love how she's all "If I become the Queen of the Witches and preside over the Devil's ball I can see my love again? I'M GAME LET'S DO THIS." And she's not punished. She's not corrupted, she's not so much as implied to have been negatively affected by her association with Woland. God even rewards her for her actions. Hell, she's not even slut shamed; she spends half the book starkers, and she's one of the most chaste characters in it!

Grignr
09-04-2013, 05:18 AM
On a completely unrelated note it's weird to see what I've come to identify as my "name" come up without referring to me.

That's why I said you were the main character!

More thoughts on the Pilate novel-in-novel bits:

It doesn't appear that the Master is actually writing Master & Margarita himself, since there's no Spaceballs moment where Margarita catches up to herself reading the novel (but maybe those parts burned before she could read them?). However, the fact that the framing book and the book-within-the-book both contain the same Pilate chapters does link the literary critics commentary against the (fictional) Pilate book back to M&M.

The first Pilate flashback is exactly the same as the Master-written Pilate chapters. Did those first flashback chapters actually match up with what the poets experienced in their dream? Since this isn't a Nolan film, probably, and their description seems to match the text we saw. Chronologically, the Master would have written (and burned ) his book by this point, so Woland & crew could have read the novel, but it's spoken aloud as a story and causes the poets to fall into a dream-like state. Maybe Bulgakov hadn't planned on it being a novel-in-a-novel at this point in the book?

The use of unfamiliar names for the Pilate portions could (a) be a way to sneak the subject matter past censors, but (b) more likely is indicating that this isn't going to follow the official version or use the "Roman"-ized names from the winner's version of history and something closer to the names the locals used. If this were a Borges story, I'd say it was reason (a) for the Master-chapters and (b) for the initial dream episode, but it's not, so probably (b) for all of it.

Lady
09-09-2013, 07:09 AM
Really, really, random question: I thought Margarita was a Spanish name, is her name something different in Russian or do they have that nickname as well? It doesn't sound Russian to me.

Wikipedia says she's Маргарита, which is basically "Marharita" The wiki page for Margaret says the name exists in several languages.

This was such an awesome book. I need to read it again so I can follow it better. Hopefully with footnotes.

To me, Woland seemed to be a grudging emissary of God. He's like your brother that rolls his eyes at you and sighs but helps you anyway, but he's going to do it his own way. (and maybe burn down your house)

Falselogic
09-23-2013, 11:45 AM
Any last thoughts? Conclusions?

The thread closes in just over a week!

Gunther, an Otter
09-24-2013, 10:35 PM
My impression of the first half was thinking about how much it sort of reminded me of Dracula's second half. THERE IS GOINGS ON, but the rational world has no way of reconciling that so they flop along helplessly. Then things get all twisted when the one guy in the know "THE MASTER" is in an Asylum and no one but another inmate is listening. Because that is what you do with people who start wailing that The Devil has shown up to make troubles.

If the Book has a Protagonist it is Probably ACE OF DIAMONDS, because Everytime I think of his name I hear electric guitars. He is the main character because while he only shows up twice his keen nose and uncanny detective intuition undoubtedly matches up with us, the readers' unravelling of the events of those days.

Everytime a story goes into detail on Pontus Pilate or Judas or whoever I get a little confused cause I really only know the story from Jesus Christ Superstar. I guess other things to but JCSS is kind of the primary focus of my understanding of the last Jesus days. But from that I have generally always had a sense that Judas and/or Pilate were always trying to do the right thing, with an awkward situation of a dude determined to get himself crucified.
Point is I'm not sure I got what was going on entirely maybe.
The the first part of the second half just RUSHES FORWARD like Margarita on her broom, but the first half being a series of terrifying vignettes made me need to pause for a breather after each chapter. and then it slows down near the end again. Basically I was really impressed with the pacing of the book.