Monday, October 17, 2016

MasterAndMargareadalong Post III: Don't dream of any apartments in Moscow

It's Monday so it's another #MasterAndMargareadalong post (chapters 17-22), wherein we try to make sense of this fever dream. Or at least use a lot of gifs. Thank you, Alice, because there is no way I could have got through this without readalong support.
We are now more than 60% through this book. And are things making any more sense?
But I do believe this is a truly biting satire for anyone with an understanding of Soviet Moscow during this time. Really, housing sounds terrible and I understand the pain of trying to get an apartment in a city.

All of the money that the devil & co. rained from the sky during the magic show keeps turning into scraps of paper, which is causing chaos in the wider city as all these cab drivers and other merchants are getting paid in what appears to be money, but turns out to be trash. The only guy left running the theater is the bookkeeper* cos everyone else has been disappeared in one way or another. He's trying to report what happened to someone important, so he goes to visit Petrovich except instead of it being a guy, it's just his suit. Sitting at his desk, conducting business as usual.
Not wanting to file his complaint with a sentient suit, Vasily (bookkeeper) goes to another office but everyone there keeps bursting into song. In between verses they try to explain to Vasily that they can't help themselves and the choirmaster has done this to them. Everyone is taken to Homeless's hospital because I do seriously think everyone will end up there. And then Vasily is arrested cos his money from the theater show turns into foreign money and of course. Everyone is either arrested or ends up in the hospital. Or Yalta.

Berlioz's (guy who got his head cut off) uncle gets a telegram from Berlioz announcing his own funeral. Which is odd but his uncle is ALL ABOUT getting his hands on a sweet Moscow apartment and I get it, but man, we are beating a dead horse over this Moscow housing thing. He doesn't get the apartment, however, because instead one of the devil's cronies beats him with a roast chicken.
Part of me wants to know what the satirical significance of that is and another part of me wants to never find out a deeper meaning and just enjoy the Boston Market Beatdown for what it is.

Another guy, the bartender from the theater, is at the apartment to ask Woland what is up with the fake money. The devil is instead concerned with the fact that the bartender was serving rotten food during the show and hey, fair point. Feta cheese should NOT be green. So then the giant cat beats him up, sans-poultry.

We then FINALLY meet Margarita. I mean, we somewhat met her before, in the Master's stupid story, though we never technically got her name. But now we know and she is far better than the Master made her out to be. She's still super in love with him and sad that he's gone and makes a pact with the devil (or really, one of the devil's friends, the one who administers chicken beatings), to rub this mysterious cream all over her body. She knows she's walking into something dangerous but doesn't care.

She rubs the cream on her as instructed and it turns her into a 20 year old and also gives her the power of flight and makes her invisible. So that's neat. Before she becomes invisible her housekeeper(?) Natasha sees her and is pretty impressed that she looks so good and also I think a little cos she's naked and OH MAN,
this is already a way better relationship than between the Master and Margarita.

Margarita flies off on a broom and decides to go fuck things up for one of the critics that was mean to the Masters (terrible, terrible) book. He's not home, since he's at Berlioz's funeral, so she smashes her way in through one of the windows, destroys everything with a hammer and then floods not only his apartments but the ones below too.

After she's done with her destruction who shows up but Natasha, also naked and flying on a pig who was actually some guy who really would rather be a person and not a flying pig. Natasha and Margarita have a good laugh and think how awesome it is that they're witches now and then Natasha flies off while Margarita follows Azazello's instructions. She lands and then is picked up by a rook driving a car and is driven to a party.

Back at that Moscow apartment everyone wants their hands on, the devil is having a little get together and needs a female hostess, hence Margarita's transformation. The cat is cheating at a game of chess, while the vampire woman Hella rubs some sort of fire and brimstone salve on the devil's knee. He's looking at a globe which is actually the real globe and Margarita is intrigued because let's face it, that's pretty neat. Then Natasha and her flying pig show up, and please, let's just have Natasha and Margarita get together, hmmm?
So yeah, Margarita is pretty cool and not the subservient wilting flower Master described. I guess that's the cream's doing but I'd like to think it was there all along. At the same time, she is sort of a dick, destroying that guy's apartment cos he, a critic, criticized the Master's book. But still, she's at least interesting to read now, especially that I've given up trying to make heads or tales of things. A bird driving a car while a witch flies a pig? Of course!

I can't begin to predict what will happen next week since I hardly know what's happened up to this point. I'm sure it will be bonkers.

*FUN FACT totally unrelated to this book at all, but every time I see the word "bookkeeper" it reminds me of an Encyclopedia Brown story where they had to come up with a word that had 3 double letters in a row and they came up with this one and somehow that blew the case wide open. That is all. Back to the Russian fever dream.

Title quote from page 200

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