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Old 06-21-2011, 05:28 PM   #46
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He is Lucifer, God's adversary and a part of God's plan. A different interpretation of the devil than simple evil. Mephistopheles in Goethe's Faust is also not pure evil. It could be interesting to look into how the devil is represented in the Russian-Orthodox church.
Probably like this
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Lucifer (bringer of light) toward the end of the novel is depicted with the sweetness of an angel, like he was, the closest to God. He is not out to corrupt and enslave souls, but to be agent in a redemption plan. There is plenty of damned souls, but they do not belong to him. He actually sets up their entertainment. They homage the Queen, not him. At the end he and his gang go to the hill and wait for further instructions from above.

Woland/Lucifer is very different from the Devil in the picture. As all the workings of the arcane are different from what the tradition says.
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Old 06-21-2011, 05:38 PM   #47
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If the current discussion thread doesn't grab you please post something that does and let's see where the conversation goes.
Giving myself perhaps over free rein to run with this I would like to expand on a previous comment I made. I am treating the chapters devoted to Pontius Pilate as almost a separate work with in the book. To me these were the best written chapters and can pretty much stand alone. I speak of my comment regarding Pilate representing Stalin/The Soviet State.

In Chapter 2 where Pilate first meets Yeshua he enjoys speaking to him, in fact admires him, and is loath to condemn him. Only when Yeshua reveals that in speaking to Judas, who has been charged with entrapping Yeshua into speaking treason, that he [Yeshua] has questioned the authority and legitimacy of the state does Pilate condemn him to death. It is in this chapter that we are first introduced to the shadowy figure “a certain man” who will appear later.

In Chapter 16 when Yeshua is executed this same mysterious “man in the hood” is described who sits near the execution posts on a stool watching throughout the execution. The Roman officers consult first with this man before spearing Yeshua through the heart.

In Chapter 25 this identity of this “certain man” is revealed, he is the head of the secret security police (NKVD?) for Pilate in Yershalaim. Pilate asks if any signs of rebelliousness were seen at the execution and if the man personally established the death of Yeshua. Pilate then instructs this man to be sure to bury Yeshua in secrecy to assure that all memory of him is erased. Pilate then goes on to say that he has information that Judas will be murdered and asks him to see that Judas is protected. In the next Chapter, after Judas is murdered, Pilate reveals in his conversation with Levi that Pilate himself arranged to have Judas killed. Further erasing any loose ends?

To me this all ties into the suggestions of others that Pilate takes on the part of Faust.

So that's my attempt to contribute something. I must say that I still don't understand the significance or purpose of the characters Berlioz or Homeless at all in the first part.

I am really enjoying following all of this discussion I must say.
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Old 06-22-2011, 12:56 AM   #48
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On a side note, I haven't seen a nomination thread for next month. Sun surfer, as a our benevolent dictator are you going to start that soon?
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Old 06-22-2011, 10:58 AM   #49
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We will start the discussion thread for the selected work on June 17th and a thread for July's nominations will be created five days later on June 22nd.
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Old 06-22-2011, 11:51 AM   #50
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To me this all ties into the suggestions of others that Pilate takes on the part of Faust.
I must admit I don't quite follow the reasoning here, i.e. that Pilate represents Faust?
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Old 06-22-2011, 04:24 PM   #51
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Between Goethe's Faust and Bulgakov's inspiration and interpretation of it, I can see similarities and differences.

I want to mention what are for me the two strongest similarities: the presence of Lucifer, and the final outcome of redemption.

The differences:
a) In Faust, there is Faust, while in M&M the hero is distributed throughout the characters that achieve redemption: Homeless, the Master and PP. Somehow one could count among them Margherita also. She goes through the enchantment of Lucifer and she also achieves a form of redemption. And I could assume that the final outcome of the story gives her what she desired all along: take care and guard over the man she loves.

b) the objectives of the two "Fausts" are different. Goethe's Faust strives for knowledge, and power. Bulgakov's "Fausts" strive for peace, all of them, that is finding who they are and being that. Margherita just for being: she already knows who she is and what she wants. In a way these are existential quests. Homeless. Master and PP, even more of the other two, through the novel live existential torments. That is the common core of their stories.

That is where the difference with Goethe lies. In Goethe's times the most coveted ideals were understanding and knowledge and the unity of theme and character was still central. The existential problem belongs to Bulgakov's times.

The artistic movements in Bulgakov's times were marked by the dissolution of unity. They were the times of cubism, of futurism, just to mention one cultural movement that in Russia found great development. I find it natural that an elegant author like Bulgakov, immersed and protagonist of the culture of his time might have resorted to a sophisticated and surreal approach. The idea that Bulgakov fragments the Faust transposition in different characters does not disturb me. On the contrary.

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Old 06-22-2011, 04:50 PM   #52
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I must admit I don't quite follow the reasoning here, i.e. that Pilate represents Faust?
I don't know Ea. I guess I was thinking that the Soviet State under Stalin [Pilate] was a Faustian bargain to lift Russia out of what it had been under the Tsars, and to provide security and stability for society.

I'm really just flaying around here. I don't mind burning bridges here by saying that maybe be I'm the only one of those who read the book who thinks this, and I am the only one to state it, but in my opinion “The Emperor has no clothes,” that the entire book is pretty much a confusing mess.
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Old 06-25-2011, 05:15 AM   #53
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... to provide security and stability for society.

....
“The Emperor has no clothes,” that the entire book is pretty much a confusing mess.
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Old 06-25-2011, 10:38 AM   #54
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I just wanted to jump in at this point to explain exactly why I haven't been contributing to the discussion (which I hope can carry on for a little while yet). I haven't quite finished the book and I'm hoping to do so before comment.

I can say there were parts of the book I didn't like and there were parts that I found so engaging that had the book had more of these parts I would be pushing the book on everyone I know. To speak plainly, I would pay a handsome sum for the book that the Master wrote.

But more when I finish. I'm at about 86% so surely it won't take too much longer. I really would like to discuss this with you all.
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Old 06-25-2011, 02:26 PM   #55
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I just wanted to jump in at this point to explain exactly why I haven't been contributing to the discussion (which I hope can carry on for a little while yet). I haven't quite finished the book and I'm hoping to do so before comment.

I can say there were parts of the book I didn't like and there were parts that I found so engaging that had the book had more of these parts I would be pushing the book on everyone I know. To speak plainly, I would pay a handsome sum for the book that the Master wrote.

But more when I finish. I'm at about 86% so surely it won't take too much longer. I really would like to discuss this with you all.
Bravo, Caleb 72. I am sure that all of us are interested in reading your comments and discussing them.
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Old 06-26-2011, 11:57 AM   #56
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OK - I finally finished.

I liked this book but I did find it a struggle. I think the weirdness of the events particularly in the first half distanced me from the narrative somewhat. Perhaps this also partly due to the translation (I had a P&V copy).

There's so much scope for discussion in this book even in order to ask questions like - why is Ivan Nikolaevich referred to as a disciple towards the end? Should we draw some kind of parallel with Matthew Levi who gave up being a tax collector to follow Yeshua, much like Ivan gives up poetry to write the "sequel" to Pontius Pilate? Does this by implication draw a parallel between the Master and Yeshua?

This alone seemed fascinating to me.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the story of Pontius Pilate is magnificent. For some reason I've always had a soft spot for Pilate and felt as though he had a depth to explore. I was so pleased to see this expand on a simple idea I've had for a long time. However, other than in stray ways (as in the questions above), I had trouble working out the significance of this story in particular to the ideals of the book.

For me, this book really seemed like a wish fulfilment of Bulgakov, masquerading as the Master, to be avenged (by dark forces if necessary) for any slights he had received at the hands of the Russian literary/arts elite (and those managing rental properties). I was aided in my hypothesis by the footnotes as I read, although I didn't bother reading the introduction.

The other feeling I had was that there was some subtle criticism of communism, or at least of the people supposedly embracing it. I think in communism that people are supposed to turn their noses up at the idea of wealth and luxury, but on every occasion the trouble makers in Woland's party show that people will make a grab for both money or luxury items (expensive fashion) at the earliest opportunity. It almost seems like Bulgakov is painting the Russian people as frauds of communism.

The other thing that interested me is the presence of the 'nut house' in this novel. For some reason the clinic seemed to be a more restful, safe and complete with some of the latest gadgets:

"...and under hands the inner wall parted, revealing behind it a bathroom and splendidly equipped toilet...There is no such equipment even anywhere abroad."

This is odd to me. I almost got the impression that Bulgakov was making a statement by making the clinic seem like an expensive hotel with facilities not found elsewhere. Isn't this a rather strange reversal when the free Russian had much more meagre facilities?

In my hypothesis, I have trouble placing Margarita. However, I had a bit of a thought that maybe she represented Bulgakov's courage and faith in himself. That while part of him crumbled under criticism, a separate part of him stayed strong and weathered the most difficult storms to be triumphant once those storms passed.

Also, I thought that once the Master and Margarita were back together again, the cowardice of Pilate - perhaps another hint at a weaker side of Bulgakov - is forgiven and the personification released.

This is all rather muddled, but they're the kinds of things that appealed to me at different times during the book. Did anyone else see any of this while reading the book?
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Old 06-26-2011, 07:56 PM   #57
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........why is Ivan Nikolaevich referred to as a disciple towards the end? Should we draw some kind of parallel with Matthew Levi who gave up being a tax collector to follow Yeshua, much like Ivan gives up poetry to write the "sequel" to Pontius Pilate? Does this by implication draw a parallel between the Master and Yeshua?

.......

For me, this book really seemed like a wish fulfilment of Bulgakov, masquerading as the Master, to be avenged (by dark forces if necessary) for any slights he had received at the hands of the Russian literary/arts elite (and those managing rental properties).........
Yes, I completely agree. I quickly mentioned something similar in an earlier post about Bulgakov=the master, and the egoism involved. That's a good observation about Ivan=Matthew as well that gives it a fuller parallel.
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Old 06-27-2011, 03:45 PM   #58
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That surprised me too - and I don't know how to interpret it either.


It could be interesting to look into how the devil is represented in the Russian-Orthodox church.
Philokalia

Pre-nicene theology ftw!
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Old 06-27-2011, 07:23 PM   #59
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Hi Caleb, nice post. A propos, of the non so subtle criticisms of the soviet society by Bulgakov. His target is the intelligentia, with its privileges justified by its role in the propaganda machine. Therefore the majestic building where the writers' guild has its home. And the fabulous restaurant, where the Russian superiority complex can be fulfilled and stuffed with rare foods and beverages. It is the same thing with the mental clinique. An other luminous example of the soviets' superiority. The best food, the best drinks, the best mental care, with a choice between dressing gown and silk pajamas, tovarish. Normal people share their kitchen with 5 or 6 families each with his own petrol stove. And the bathroom privacy that we do not have to imagine.
Where do the people with some problems go? Certainly not to the forced labour camps in Siberia or in the Arctic region, but to some ultra fancy and extra comfortable clinique, where they can be helped to find again the right direction. Oh yes. Bulgakov is making the counter propaganda. Exaggerating a bit the Soviet Genius.
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Old 06-27-2011, 09:05 PM   #60
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OK - I didn't know that the mental clinics were actually cushy places of luxury in those times. It's an odd thing in a society where you want people to continue to work and contribute. If you make the clinic more luxurious that every day life by such a margin why would you ever leave?

That's why I had expected that Bulgakov was making some point of the insanity of the Russian society of the time. Well, I guess he was, but not through the extensive exaggeration that I had attributed to description of the clinic.

I found the secret police interesting in this story. They are alluded too extensively without explicit references - people vanishing, block of time "away". But I'm not sure if a point is ever made about the secret police in this book. The police seem to be tasked with the impossible mission of making sense of the nonsensical. Are the accounts about a great hypnotism of Moscow at the end of the book a reference to the power of propaganda in communist Russia or is that a stretch too far?

I think that the nature of "currency" is worthy of discussion in this book because it's so prevalent throughout.

I thought that the references were demonstrating the failure of the communist ideals. The performance where men and women are held for hoarding currency, the farce of the seance, the currency shop at the end, the easy greasing of the palm of the real estate manager.

It seems to me that the obsession with currency exhibited by so many characters in the book despite the very obvious policy towards it in Russian seems like a statement about the futility of communism as a barrier to the evils of capitalism.

Did anyone feel this while reading the book?
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