The Master & Margarita

I stumbled across this site a few years ago and had forgotten about it, but was reminded of it again today by Coudal Partners. It’s a web-based annotation to Bulgakov’s chef-d’oeuvre:

These Master & Margarita pages are intended as a web-based multimedia annotation to Bulgakov’s novel.

You won’t find the full text of the novel here, as it is still under copyright and no one in his right mind would want to read a 300-page novel online in any language. Curling up with the novel, preferably in a basement apartment in front of a fire on a moonlit night, is highly recommended.

You won’t find a summary of the novel here either, and it’s unlikely the site will make much sense as a whole if you don’t read the novel. You can’t use this site like Cliff’s Notes.

It’s an awesome resource if you’re interested in understanding the novel on a different level. It even has a little analysis of the available translations, which is pretty cool:

Mirra Ginsburg (Grove Press, 1967) Ginsburg’s translation is lively and entertaining, but it was unfortunately made from the 1967 Soviet text without the advantage of the censored sections. As a result, it mirrors the censored version, including deletion of passages about the actions of the secret police and most of Nikanor Ivanovich’s dream (Ch. 15).

Michael Glenny (Harper & Row, 1967) Glenny’s translation restores the passages that were missing from Ginsburg’s. Both translations were done so quickly after publication of the Russian original that they lack much critical depth. Both, for example, miss the crucial inclusion of the Devil in Berlioz’s thought: “It’s time to throw everything to the Devil and go to Kislovodsk.” Ginsburg has “drop everything” and Glenny “chuck everything up.”

Diana Burgin & Katherine Tiernan O’Connor (Ardis, 1995) Burgin and O’Connor’s translation is by far the best, if one is interested in studying what Bulgakov really wrote. They have the advantage of some 30 years of Bulgakov scholarship, which they take into consideration in their translation, which gets details right. The notes, provided by the Bulgakov scholar Ellendea Proffer, are also invaluable.

Richard Pevear (Penguin, 1997) There appears to be a new translation by Richard Pevear, but I have not yet seen it.

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