After reading Mikhail Bulgakov‘s “The Heart of a Dog” I had high expectations for his “The Master and Margarita.” Those expectations were well met. The story is a surreal adventure that is as much commentary about the Hell of bureaucracy, as well as a bit of a tender love story about the human spirit in the midst of unjust suffering.
Approximately the first half of the book focuses on the devil running wild in the atheistic Soviet Union where people’s disbelief in him is in fact his greatest disguise. There’s much humor and satire, but there’s also a bit of sadness in that whilst the devil may amok and punishing the wicked, there are also innocents unjustly suffering at the hands of the state.
The main innocents concerned are characters that don’t make their appearance until quite far into the book (or at least it feels that way)… The Master and Margarita. Theirs is a romance doomed to fail complete with independent dreams meant to be crushed. There’s also an ongoing story within the story about Pontius Pilate and Jesus that unite what could otherwise be considered unrelated and separate storylines.
As far as an overall experience, it leans more intellectual than emotional, but that shouldn’t count against it. Most satires lean more intellectual than emotional, and even that considered — Mikhail Bulgakov captures the emotional aspect better than most satires.