Well this is a strange one indeed. A big majority (55%) of readers on Goodreads gave this five stars, and even though only 1% said they hated it, that is still 1,676 people and they cannot all be wrong. (Okay, they could be.)
I generally fall in with the 1,676. They point out the almost complete lack of characterisation, the plot that is not really a plot, and the lack of that dreadfully bourgeois and boring thing: the whole miserable mess making some sort of sense.
Oh yes, I forgot, among other things, it is a comic novel, almost all of which I find completely unfunny.
But still …
What The Master and Margarita is, is weird.
The product of a wild and warped imagination. No one normal could have come up with this. And if they did, they had better not tell anyone, as a secure hospital awaits. (There is actually a secure hospital in the Master and Margarita, and I imaging Bulgarov was writing from experience.)
And I do love craziness in my fiction. A lot of people who think they know what they are talking about insist on putting books in genres: mystery, crime, fantasy, whatever. Well good luck trying to put The Master and Margarita in one of those. I suppose you could put it in science fiction, satire, drama, action and adventure, romance, mystery and horror. Self-help as well, if you happen to be a religious person living in a communist state.
I wouldn’t call it a cook book, but I stand to be corrected on that one.
If you’re after an off-the-shelf plot, don’t read it. If you like books with a good old fashioned beginning, middle and end, and with a bloody good dose of meaning, but not real meaning, steer clear.
It goes down, so I read, as one of the great Russian novels, but if you’re thinking Dostoyevski and Tolstoy, you’re a long way from the mark. If you like weird, you might find something wonderful in it. I did. It’s a terrible book: confusing, unbelievable, shallow.
But also, in some mad way, great.
Am I right, or am I talking rubbish?