Books 2010

Books 2009

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Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Comments

The cat is back and he has just finished reading "The Master and Margarita". Firstly thank you very much Lindsay and Glo for writing about this book which was completely unknown to me. I enjoyed it immensely! I am unlikely to be able to add much to what is already said here; I agree with Lindsay that it isn't hilarious, like Glo I liked Behemoth (but wished he was slinkier) and I think my favourite character was probably Margarita mainly for her marvellous, spirit under trying circumstances. I agree that it isn't a love story and also that the "plot" is somewhat confused to say the least. I do think it one of the best books I have read in many a year and thank you both for that! My one-word summary would be "exhilarating".

part 3

Sorry for the very long comment! have a nice week end!

part 2
As you said, the reader always wants to know what happens next and devours the book greedily - an undownputable book, as they say.
I especially loved the sharp and bitter-sweet satire of the Soviet society. And of course, Bulgakov was himself a victim of all he describes! Especially the censorship, like the Master. He really needed a lot of imagination to mock the authorities in a way he could remain relatively unharmed. His work is brilliant and clever. It can't be hilarious because some people experienced the "Soviet life" for real, and it was horrendous, as we all know. Furthermore, the satire of the Soviet society lies also in the story written by the Master, although it is less obvious.
As for the love story, this is what I liked least. It is supposedly a love story although nothing is told about feelings. I wouldn't recommend this book to someone who wants to read a love story. When the Master and Magarita fall in love and they are allowed to spend time together, she visits him everyday and she starts cooking potatoes as soon as she arrives in his house in the morning, and that's all! Beside, I don't believe love can justify that lovers are reduced to disrespect themselves (re Margarita accepting to do what she does to be able to live with the Master). To go through hardship to be happy is a very common topic (and not only in literature) but hardship doesn't include disrespect or self-deprecating for me.
And finally, on the feline front, I liked very much Behemoth! Bulgakov was very good at capturing the true feline spirit; the cat is mischievous, playful and never nasty, although he does misbehave. And yes, Russian cats drink vodka!
My book was mentionning the exerpts that were censored before 1967. And they consored the scene where Margarita is angrily clutching Behemoth's ear, as well as the scene where the latter is engaged in a fight and some of his fur is riped off. These Soviet censors might have been severe and tough to artists but you can't say they didn't respect animals.

part 1
Mr Bagshaw, I like what you wrote about this book and I am even more enthusiastic than you about it.
Unlike you, I never heard of Bulgakov before and was really delighted to discover his work - thank you for that. I will certainly read his other major book "The White Ward" sooner or later.
I struggled a bit with names too, especially in the end when one character is called Ivan Nikolaievich and another Nikolas Ivanovich! But apart from the Russian names we are not used to, I guess it is also part of the evil process and Bulgakov wanted his readers a bit involved in all that mess too! If you prefer a more rational explanation, I would say that the chapters are quite long and there are several different stories running throughout the book. I often went back to the previous chapters to reread and check who is who.
Well, at the end, we finally find out how all stories keep together but for some time the reader is out of his comfort zone just like the Russian characters of the book. I admire Bulgakov's work because he managed that and did a great job. I quite like when a writer surprises me and has me under his thumb.
The whole story is obviously not told linearly. Unlike you, I like the way the novel is built, quite like a puzzle and definitely like a film script.

to Dark Puss
re no clothes The writer didn't exactly fail but men always prefer naked women, you know, and a writer or a poet can unleash all his fantasy through words like any artist through its art. But being feline you don't know that about men, of course.
Anyway, don't read the rest of my comment if you want to read the book.

Cats have sensitive whiskers. Regarding Glo's comment about clothing, well fashion is one of Dark Puss' interests so he will also be a little disappointed that such an imaginative writer failed to adequately dress the characters. I'll come back when I have read the book and comment again.

I loved the book too and I strongly recommend it to Dark Puss, since it also has a black cat on the cover - and we know this is one key reason for Dark Puss to read a book.
I always marvel to see Dark Puss show up when you mention cats. How lovely is that!
That said, I'll come back later to comment more accurately on the book. But I just want to add one thing (re the naked witch). It is not just the witch that is naked but most female characters (they are naked or just in their underwear) and I couldn't understand how a writer who has so much imagination lacked of ideas to imagine clothes for female characters...

Black cats and naked witches - sounds like my sort of book!

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Quotidian

  • Nothing is of greater consolation to the author of a novel than the disovery of readings he had not conceived but which are then prompted by his readers. (Umberto Eco, Reflections on The Name of the Rose)
  • ... relatively few persons in London ... can afford the luxury of one or more servants. No fewer than 3,700,000 have no servants at all, and of the half million that have servants 227,000 have only one. (The Times, 6 June 1895)
  • Standing among savage scenery, the hotel offers stupendous revelations. There is a French widow in every bedroom, affording delightful prospects. (Tyrolean inn brochure, according to Gerard Hoffnung)
  • (A doctor is at an elderly relative's deathbed) "The old sawbones, eh?" he bellowed ... "Just in the nick, perhaps. Haul the old girl back by the short hairs, if you ask me. Devilish smart at his work ... Always take a fence with more confidence when I know he's out with us."
  • Too often, when a man of Monty Godkin's mental powers is plunged in thought, nothing happens at all. The machinery just whirs for a while, and that is the end of it. (P G Wodehouse, Heavy Weather)
  • ...the breed that take their pleasures as Saint Laurence took his grid (Kipling, The Five nations)

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