Monday, October 3, 2016

MasterAndMargareadalong Post I: "Scat!" the cat barked, suddenly

It's October which seems to be readalong season. The perfect method to get through something that you want to read, but you need some support to get through. And today we have the first post of #TheMasterAndMargareadalong (100 points for that hashtag.)
I've had The Master and the Margarita sitting on my bookshelf for a few years now. Ever since I mentioned I was totally going to read it to fulfill a reading challenge and a friend lent me his copy. And then instead of reading it, I didn't.

So when our fearless leader Alice announced it for a readalong I was excited to finally defeat this book and give my friend back his book.

I pick up my copy and make it through the first sentence when I see a superscript 1. I glance down at the bottom of the page, but there's nothing there. And then I realize: Motherfuckin' endnotes. Well, I will surely miss out on some very interesting details cos there's no way I'm going to be flipping back and forth the whole time. Fellow readalongers, I hope your copy is set up differently and you can fill in those gaps. Though when I did read the notes it said stuff like "Several characters are named after composers. But there's no actual meaning to this." So...thanks?

For this first post we're to read chapters 1-8. Which I did. But
We established during sign up that there are no ships, there are no margaritas (at least not the tequila kind), there's a crazy cat and according to the cover I have, some giant fish and swords. Reading the first fifth of the book has yet to explain any of the cover. There have been zero masters and zero margaritas introduced. 

Let's see what there has been.

Two men, an editor for a literary magazine (Mikhail Berlioz) and a poet (Ivan Ponyrev aka Homeless), are discussing a recent poem that's been commissioned, which was supposed to deny that Jesus existed. Which, sure, whatever you wanna write. Then some foreigner that speaks perfect Russian (so then why is he so foreign?) sits down right in between them, like a creep, starts talking to them about atheism and then predicts Berlioz is going to be decapitated before the day ends.
The correct response
This creepy stranger is the Devil. I mean, right? I realize they haven't officially said that yet, but the back cover says the Devil shows up in Moscow. And also people start talking about the Devil A LOT right when he shows up. So yeah.

We then get a Wayne's World-esque flashback where the Devil/Professor Woland starts telling the story of Jesus and Pontius Pilate. This chapter made slightly more sense than the others in this section, though there were some odd moments. At one point Yeshua correctly identifies that Hegemon is sad and just wants to be with his dog and you'd think this would be because of some divine insight. Except when asked how he knew this, the response is
"It's very simple," the prisoner replied in Latin. "You were moving your hand in the air" - and the prisoner repeated Pilate's gesture - "as if you wanted to stroke something"
Elementary, my dear Pilate
We go back to Moscow where Professor Woland is telling them he was there so Berlioz and Homeless decide to call the authorities on him when SURPRISE, Berlioz slips on some oil and falls onto some train tracks and his head does get cut off and it's crazy. Homeless believes the guy is responsible for this and starts chasing him and then, OK this is roughly where I stopped being able to follow what's happening, and we're only in chapter 3 so shit. But this is already pretty long so how about some bullets for the rest?

  • A cat tries to ride the tram, AND even goes to pay the fare, but gets kicked off. Cos cat.
  • Ivan breaks into some random woman's apartment and watches her shower, thinking he'll find Woland there (he does not).
  • Then he decides Woland must be in the water for some reason and his clothes get stolen so he has to wander around in his undies.
  • Ivan then shows up (still in his undies) to the literary society that Berlioz headed (HA) and tells people that Berlioz is dead and a crazy man made it happen. He is taken away to an insane asylum
  • Ivan continues to rant that a man who witnessed Pilate and Jesus killed Berlioz. No one believes him.
  • Berlioz's roommate (Styopa, they live in a communal apartment deal with lots of bedrooms and shared bath/kitchen) wakes up to Woland sitting in his bedroom, telling him they have a contract for Woland to perform...something.
  • Then Woland's buddies plus the cat show up and kick Styopa out of his room and teleports him to Yalta, which tells me is over 900 miles away from Moscow.

I look forward to reading everyone's posts and seeing if you guys could make sense of things.

Title quote from page 84. I picked it cos it made me laugh when I read it. Of course, I read that part while on the way home from the bar, so that is probably related.

Bulgakov, Mikhail. trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. The Master and Margarita. Penguin Classics, 1997. Originally published 1966.