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Written during the darkest, most repressive period of Stalin's reign, this novel gives substance to the notion of artistic and religious freedom. Although Bulgakov completed his masterpiece in 1940, it was not published until 1966, twenty-six years after his death, when the first section appeared in the magazine Moskva, which sold out within hours. Despite its devastating satire of Soviet life and its audacious portrayals of Christ and Satan, the manuscript had somehow eluded Russian censors, and the enthusiasm of its readers assured the novel immediate and enduring success.
A brilliant blend of magical and realistic elements, grotesque situations, and major ethical issues, The Master and Margarita combines two distinct yet interwoven parts, one set in contemporary Moscow, the other in ancient Jerusalem. Brimming with historical references, religious imagery, storms, witchcraft, and romance, Bulgakov's novel is impossible to categorize: Its story lies between parable and reality; its tone varies from satire to unguarded vulnerability. Its publication represents the triumph of imagination over politics. This new translation has been made from the complete and unabridged Russian text.
Klimowski and Schejbal make a bold but confused attempt to adapt Bulgakov's classic novel by embracing its surreal qualities and alternating between the two artists' styles for its parallel narratives. The Devil arrives in Stalin-era Moscow, wreaking havoc on the city's hypocritical intelligentsia, and Klimowski renders these sections in a dense, moody style with thick linework. The Devil and his motley crew of assistants upend the establishment through a series of deadly performances, nasty pranks, and bizarre rituals. He also aids the despondent title characters, a writer nicknamed the Master by his lover, Margarita. Schejbal adapts the Master's scandalous novel-within-the-novel about Pontius Pilate with an intense burst of paints. Both artists try to match the lyrical richness of Bulgakov's prose with their exaggerated visceral stylizations, but the results run incoherent. Characters are introduced without much context, and Bulgakov's satirical jabs are often lost in translation. The mechanical lettering font deadens the dialogue, especially given the artists' highly expressionistic approach. While ambitious, this dueling visualization of Bulgakov's thematically complex novel just doesn't quite coalesce. \n