kittiwake: (fantasy)
[personal profile] kittiwake
''Unhappy poet! But it's your own fault, my dear fellow. You shouldn't have treated him so carelessly and rudely. Now you're paying for it. You should be thankful that you got off comparatively lightly.'
'But who on earth is he?' asked Ivan, clenching his fists in excitement.
The visitor stared at Ivan and answered with a question:
'You won't get violent, will you? We're all unstable people here . . . There won't be any calls for the doctor, injections or any disturbances of that sort, will there?'
'No, no!' exclaimed Ivan. 'Tell me, who is he?'
'Very well,' replied the visitor, and said slowly and gravely:
'At Patriarch's Ponds yesterday you met Satan.'
As he had promised, Ivan did not become violent, but he was powerfully shaken.
'It can't be! He doesn't exist!'
'Come, come! Surely you of all people can't say that. You were apparently one of the first to suffer from him. Here you are, shut up in a psychiatric clinic, and you still say he doesn't exist. How strange!'
Ivan was reduced to speechlessness.
' As soon as you started to describe him,' the visitor went on, 'I guessed who it was that you were talking to yesterday. I must say I'm surprised at Berlioz! You, of course, are an innocent,' again the visitor apologised for his expression, 'but he, from what I've heard of him, was at least fairly well read. The first remarks that this professor made to you dispelled all my doubts. He's unmistakeable, my friend! You are ... do forgive me again, but unless I'm wrong, you are an ignorant person, aren't you?'
'I am indeed,' agreed the new Ivan.
'Well, you see, even the face you described, the different-coloured eyes, the eyebrows . . . Forgive me, but have you even seen the opera Faust?'
Ivan mumbled an embarrassed excuse.
'There you are, it's not surprising! But, as I said before, I'm surprised at Berlioz. He's not only well read but extremely cunning. Although in his defence I must say that Woland is quite capable of throwing dust in the eyes of men who are even cleverer than Berlioz.'

I have read "The Master and Margarita" four or five times before, and this re-read was for the Motley Fool on-line book club.

Although the Moscow of this novel is a determinedly secular society, religion is still lurking under the surface, with Ivan using an icon as a talisman and other characters occasionally crossing themselves. Professor Woland and his fellow-demons cause trouble wherever they go, highlighting the hypocrisy and inadequacies of the Soviet system. The death of Berlioz after talking to Professor Woland at the park leads to chaos at Massolit (the society of writers whose management committee he chairs) , the housing committee of the building where Berlioz lived and the variety theatre where his flat-mate worked, and drives several people over the edge and into the local psychiatric hospital.

Woland and his demonic minions work on the vanity and greed of the Muscovites, tempting the women attending the variety show with the latest fashions from Paris, before showering the audience with roubles that later turned into scraps of paper, or what is even worse, into illegal foreign currency. Margarita is my least favourite character, embracing evil without a backward glance, and in my opinion getting an entirely undeserved happy ending.


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June 2012

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