The Master and Margarita Readalong, Part One: What Is Going On Here?

Alice is hosting The Master and Margarita Readalong. This is Part One, Chapters 1-8.

Let's just start this off with a gif.

Me during this week's reading
Never Talk to Strangers Who Claim to Have Met Jesus

It all starts with two men, an editor and a poet, talking about Jesus. For some reason, this gets the attention of a stranger who appears out of thin air. Although he is delighted that they are atheists, he launches into a long story about Jesus and Pontius Pilate which he claims is true. Jesus seems kind of hapless and Pilate has a headache. This is a true story because he was there!

The two men decide this guy is crazy... or a German spy. The editor runs to get the police but slips in oil and is decapitated by a trolley. The poet, overhearing some women speaking about the accident, recalls something the stranger said and believes he set up the events leading up to the accident. He tries to confront the stranger but he runs away with a bespectacled man and a giant black cat.

The poet runs around Moscow looking for the stranger, breaking into people's houses and swimming around the river with no pants on. He finds himself at the house of his literary club. He causes a scene and is hauled off to an asylum. Another poet accompanies him, but gets depressed after the first poet insults him.

What these people don't know is that the stranger is among them, as a member of the club (aka the pirate) and the doctor at the hospital. Everywhere the stranger goes chaos ensues. He even shows up in the apartment of the dead editor (with his giant talking cat) where his roommate is nursing a hangover. And bam! the roommate wakes up in another town.

I haven't mentioned any names because these Russians go by several. They have aliases and nicknames, and really similar names to each other. In the sixth chapter, Bezdomny (the poet) is referred to as Ivan and for a second I didn't know who he was. Also, who is important here? Neither the Master nor Margarita have shown up yet. So, should I even try to remember these other guys' names?

Unlike most of our Readalongs which are unintentionally silly, M&M is meant to be absurdist and funny. Satires are also supposed to be subversive. I feel like a lot of this is going over my head, probably because I am not living in the Soviet Union. Even though I grew up in the 80s and all anyone could ever talk about were the Russians, I don't think I had a good handle it, other than through movies, and Elton John's song Nikita. This is an interesting look at the USSR. I've read that it was censored (12%) when it was first published in 1966. It seems like that would be a hard job. What is serious and what is silly? I think you could read a lot into some parts, and not get anything out of others.

Anyway, in the seventh chapter we finally learn that the stranger is named Woland and he is a professor of black magic.

I am liking it so far. It's not a difficult read, like Crime and Punishment. It is weird though. I want to know more about that talking cat. Hopefully, I can get the names right by next week.

Number of margaritas so far: 0


  1. HYSTERICAL! I have heard of this book but couldn't tell you blip about it and now I'm extremely intrigued. Did Murakami read this? Sounds like he might have... Have fun.

    1. I've never read Murakami- at least not his fiction. So I guess he likes the absurd too? It's pretty crazy so far!

  2. I am totally picturing Salem whenever the cat is mentioned. Excellent gif-use!

    I am never going to be able to keep the names straight. Espec cos my version doesn't even HAVE the name Bezdomny in it.

    Fingers crossed for some margaritas next week

  3. Awright, well, everyone except for me evidently realized that Woland was not the Master and the cat was not Margarita. I feel sheepish. :p

  4. Yeah, it's pretty nutso. And oh look, chapter 9 begins with a bunch of new characters again!


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