The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Every Russia-related book I’ve read has been top notch. The Brothers Karamazov, A Gentleman in Moscow, Secondhand Time – they’re all drastically different but equally engaging. After reading this book, I can add one more, to the top of the list.
1) “‘But only three of them shall be executed, for, in accordance with law and custom, in honor of the Passover holiday, one of the condemned, as chosen by the Lesser Sinedrion and confirmed by the power of Rome, shall have his contemptible life restored to him by the magnanimous Emperor Caesar.'” – Pilate
As someone not familiar with the story of Jesus or Jewish tradition, I had trouble parsing fiction from history regarding Pontius Pilate. That said, does anyone really know what happened?
2) “But neither the conductress nor the passengers were amazed by the most important thing of all, namely, that a cat was not merely getting on a streetcar, which wasn’t so bad, but that he intended to pay his fare!”
Talking cat is synonymous with magic realism.
3) “‘A man in his underwear can tramp around Moscow only if he’s in police custody, and only if he’s going to one place – the police station.'” – Archibald Archibaldovich
This is patently false.
4) “I have just been cut in half by a streetcar at Patriarch’s. Funeral Friday 3 p.m. Come. Berlioz.”
Telegrams remind me of back when we had a limited number of texts. I didn’t have to worry though. No one texted me.
5) “‘Second-grade fresh – that’s absurd! Freshness comes in only one grade – first-grade, and that’s it. And if the sturgeon’s second-grade fresh, that means it’s rotten!'” – Woland
When was the last time I had really fresh fish?
6) “Take, for example, the city-dweller I heard about, who got a three-room apartment on Zemlyany Embankment and then turned it into four rooms in a flash without recourse to the fifth dimension or to anything else that goes beyond human reason, namely, by dividing one of the rooms in two with a partition.”
Who needs walls when you can have partitions?
7) “‘The Procurator is never wrong, but this time he is mistaken.'” – Afranius
Doublespeak at its best.
8) “‘I challenge you to a duel!'” – Behemoth the cat
I don’t like cats, but there is no doubt that Behemoth was the best character.
9) “‘I protest! Dostoevsky is immortal!'” – Behemoth the cat
Latin is not dead. Latin is immortal.
10) “‘What would your good do if evil didn’t exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared? After all, shadows are cast by things and people.'” – Woland
Indeed, the best part of a tree is the shade.
I had high expectations coming in and was not disappointed. The story was fast-paced, funny, and action-packed, yet thought provoking. Most of the characters popped, except for the protagonist Master who I found boring. The side plot of Jesus served as a smart juxtaposition to the chaos happening in Moscow. This really has become one of my favorite books.