The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

In the good news of Luke, humans have all kinds of difficulties recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. The demons, however, see it instantly. “You are the Son of God!” they shout, but Jesus rebukes them. He would “not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.” (Luke 4:41.)

To Satan, nothing is more ridiculous than the notion that there is no God, so obviously the Evil One finds the Soviet Union a laughable endeavor. A state that claims that religions, myths, legends, and all things supernatural are simply invented in order to oppress the proletariat – what could be more absurd than that?

In the 1930s, professor Woland, a black magician, enters the city of Moscow, the capital of Soviet Union, and he encounters the editor Berlioz and the poet Ivan. Woland learns that the editor does not believe in Jesus, and this makes Woland worried, as it probably means that Berlioz doesn’t believe in the devil either.

Suddenly, the morning turns to night, the conversation begins to take on puzzling qualities, and eventually Woland claims that a young, Soviet woman will cut Berlioz’s head off.

The editor decides to contact a mental institution to see if they are not missing a patient, but before Berlioz can make the call, he falls under a streetcar and his head is severed. The streetcar operator turns out to be – yes, a young, Soviet woman.

The Master and Margarita mixes slapstick with profound wisdom, theological depth, and sharp criticism of some traits of the young state. It is a mind-boggling tall tale about satanic ventures, the power of love, and the substance of the arts.

Woland is one of the great literary creations of all time, and who or what he is, is up for debate. He appears different to different people and his name has been linked to German names for the devil or a demon (Voland, Faland, etc – Voldemort, anyone?) So perhaps he is Satan. Or Stalin, a foreigner (like Woland) who terrorized the Russians and other Soviet citizens. Or both. And much, much more.

Anyway, he’s not alone. He has a few friends and followers. One of them is a cat, Behemoth. He’s big. Huge, actually. In fact, man-sized. And he walks on his hind legs. And drinks vodka. And wreaks havoc in Moscow. So, Behemoth is evidently not only what he seems to be – a huge cat – but he is also something else. And that’s The Master and Margarita in a nutshell.

See what my colleague, Sarah K., had to say about this book a couple of years ago, too.

Find and reserve this intriguing book in our catalog.


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