6.5 out of 10
The Master and Margarita in one tweet-sized sentence:
A damning satire of Stalinist society which contains the immortal statement of literary defiance: ‘Manuscripts don’t burn.”
When the devil arrives in Moscow one winter day, he seems intent on some biblical style mischief. Together with his band of accomplices, including a violent, demonic tomcat, they take up residence in the apartment of a man and set about spreading destruction and death throughout the city. They get inside people’s heads, create chaos from the inside out, insidiously and completely.
In this surrealist escapade, great swathes of Stalinist society are subjected to critical satire and tomfoolery. But this is not like Zoschenko’s little tale about a monkey that escapes from the zoo, spends the day roaming the streets of Stalinist society, and then decides to go back to the zoo. No, the devils brigade doesn’t see enough craziness around them and so they decide to go on a rampage of psychological destruction, causing havoc across the entire city. Theirs is a terrifying violence, calculated to drive people crazy. Only Margarita seems immune to their cunning, and so she sets about trying to solve the mystery of her lover’s disappearance.
Suffused throughout with biblical references and a gloriously cinematic conclusion, The Master and Margarita is a novel packed with intelligence and intrigue and very very dark humour. It is a book to read and then re-read, and you will always find something new within its pages.