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Old 06-27-2011, 10:51 PM   #61
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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?
no, no. He just invented it.
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Old 06-28-2011, 04:33 AM   #62
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By the way - I rated this book 3 stars which means I liked it. However, I still felt disconnected in sections due to the absurd nature of the plot itself. Perhaps I've found a storytelling method that doesn't work as well for me. Looking back I'm not sure how many stories like this I've read, so it could be that I'm just not accustomed to it.

I don't think this experience has turned me off Russian literature though. I'm still determined at some stage to complete all the major Dostoyevski and Tolstoy works.
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Old 06-29-2011, 06:24 PM   #63
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Hello Caleb,
I am admiring the honesty and directness of your post.
Somehow, I feel motivated to add to your comment about the absurd nature of the plot, and to your remark about Russian literature.

Myself, I am not distracted by the fragmentation of the plot in arcane irrational elements and episodes entwined with everyday details.

I am prepared to move away from objective representations of real life events. And to move to a mixture of reasonable real, chaotic real, and arcane, apparently absurd, more properly surreal. To help me in this acceptance is the familiarity, more so than with other stories with a similar approach to story telling, with the cultural background of the times in which that story was written.

In case you were interested, I can suggest to consult the brief but essential introductions offered by Wikipedia to Dadaism, Surrealism, Futurism and whatever else tickles your fancy.

Just to acquire an idea of what i am talking about, i would look up a famous Russian painting of that time. Malevich. Red Square: Painterly Realism of a Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions. Btw it is at the centre of the thriller Red Square by Cruz Smith.

One last thing. Before continuing with the great Russian that you mention (to whom I would add Cechov), maybe you could try Solgenitzin, with One day in the life of Ivan Dennisovich, that is quite a nice little story. VBR
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Old 06-30-2011, 01:33 PM   #64
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Caleb72 and Beppe, please excuse me for nipping into your very interesting conversation. You both seem to feel the pulse of this book--though in different ways. I think I have much to learn about the novel. But could you give me and opinion about Dr Zhivago, a novel I've been think of reading for ages.

Is this considered to be a major work in the genre--one on the level of The Master and Margartia? I've seen the film, of course, but I don't know that it does justice to the book.
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Old 06-30-2011, 07:21 PM   #65
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^fantasyfan,
I am sorry but i cannot help you with Dr Zhivago. When it was first published, in Italy actually, there was much non-literary attached to Boris Pasternak and his Nobel Prize. All the posh mothers, cousins and oldest sisters of my school chums kept chirping away ... My rebel nature refused to read it. And that's it.

A truly great, grandissimo, Russian book, but so great that:

Argentine author and essayist Jorge Luis Borges once wrote of it,
The music of its style contrasts with the almost ineffable brutality of certain scenes. One of the stories, -- "Salt" -- enjoys a glory seemingly reserved for poems and rarely attained by prose: many people know it by heart.

It is Red Cavallery by Isaak Babel. That is one of the most powerful books that I ever read.
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Old 06-30-2011, 07:32 PM   #66
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Thanks for your recommendation, Beppe. I'll look into Babel's novel. On the TM&M, theme, I was impressed with your synthesis of modern art such as surrealism and cubism with the methodology of constructing the novel.

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Old 06-30-2011, 08:20 PM   #67
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I am currently watching a 2005 mini series version of The Master and Margarita on You Tube. It is in Russian with English Subtitles. I find it very good. I am about a half way through it so far (it is 520 minutes long). Picture quality is not that great (only 240p) but it is quite watchable. Warning graphic scenes in the novel such as heads being cut off are shown very graphically. Here is the first segment.

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Old 07-01-2011, 12:27 AM   #68
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Caleb72 and Beppe, please excuse me for nipping into your very interesting conversation. You both seem to feel the pulse of this book--though in different ways. I think I have much to learn about the novel. But could you give me and opinion about Dr Zhivago, a novel I've been think of reading for ages.

Is this considered to be a major work in the genre--one on the level of The Master and Margartia? I've seen the film, of course, but I don't know that it does justice to the book.
Unfortunately, I have never read Dr Zhivago. In fact, I don't believe I've seen the movie either.

Beppe clearly has a much better grip on The Master and Margarita than I do. I'm not well-versed in literary movements, nor cultural developments in general. I'm like a new babe when reading books like this. I really try to take as much as I can from the book as the only source. Although here, I did read the footnotes as well - I think I would have been lost without them.

So while others can quite faithfully present the various meanings of the novel, I'm left making observations of interest while not necessarily understanding their import. I actually like this about my reading but it means that I'm usually not that close to any pulse.

But I like participating in discussion even if at times I might be demonstrating ignorance rather than enlightenment.
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Old 07-01-2011, 08:44 AM   #69
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^caleb72,
I use your approach in my profession, where creativity and innovation have some value.
In subjects pertaining art and in general culture, I try to maintain an original impression, per se, and then, in a second time, I try some interpretation. There my personal background is activated.

in music, being familiar with the expressions of a particular composer or performer, increases enjoyment.
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Old 07-01-2011, 09:10 AM   #70
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in music, being familiar with the expressions of a particular composer or performer, increases enjoyment.
Hmmm - I guess I'm just the opposite. I'm a musician myself and the one thing I hold about music is that other than the fact that the composer created the music, I find him/her/them rather irrelevant to the enjoyment of the music.

On the other hand, there are many ways to enjoy music much like there are many ways to enjoy literature, so I don't think it's a black and white thing.

Another example. When I studied German at university, it was compulsory for me to study subjects in German history, German linguistics and German literature as well studying the German language itself. This is what drove me in the end to ditching university altogether as it clearly was not my thing. These other subjects did not add to my appreciation or enjoyment of learning the language, they just filled me with resentment that my course was becoming cluttered with subjects I would not have chosen just to be able to speak German.

I'm not saying that they weren't good for other reasons. I experienced Kafka and Mann in German literature and I thoroughly enjoyed them - but it didn't help me speak German, the books were in English anyway.

I think surrounding/related studies - whether it be in literature, music, language etc... can be valuable in their own right, can help you understand your core interest a little better, can even enhance your enjoyment. But I don't think it necessarily holds true for all people at all times.

Going back to this book, I am somewhat interested in reading further about this style of story telling as I found it a bit like a puzzle that I feel I had only partly solved on my own. I do tend to think there's something more to get out of it - to enjoy. I don't feel like that about every book (classic or not), but this one has piqued my curiosity.

It hasn't hurt that I work with a Russian who swears it's the greatest piece of Russian literature ever written.
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Old 07-02-2011, 11:46 AM   #71
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I finally read the Wikipedia entry for The Master and Margarita and was happy to see a comment about the brilliance of the book being that you can enjoy and interpret it on so many levels.

Do you think the obvious attack on the artistic elite combined with the absurdity of the plot channelled a kind of Dadaism? (Thanks for the references by the way Beppe).

If so, I like the double-edged attack - by lack of convention and by the plot itself. Clever.

The primus features quite heavily at the end and is the main destructive device - the apartment, the restaurant and the currency shop. Given its obvious import to Russian culture at the time, what do you think the significance is of it becoming Behemoth's weapon of choice?
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Old 07-04-2011, 03:28 AM   #72
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^ Caleb

I never perceived Bulgakov as affected by fetichism for objects, or particular situation, except maybe women's nudity. So, the choice of a primus is probably just for it's pyrotechnics. Maybe. Undoubtedly Bulgakov makes use of symbolic keys, aliases, icons and metaphors with which he weaves his tale. That is indeed one of the characteristics of his poetic.
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Old 07-04-2011, 06:02 AM   #73
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Oh - OK. I thought he might have been making a point where the most basic and commonplace item in Russian apartment living was the destructive weapon particularly against the restaurant and currency shop.

Then against most of the "elite" had a primus in their own apartments anyway I guess, so maybe you're right. Just use whatever is at hands to keep the mayhem going.
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Old 07-04-2011, 06:30 PM   #74
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well, Caleb. You were quite sharp in picking up that particular element. Another one slightly more complex is the fact that there are characters with the names of music composers. There are some of their compositions that might have a particular meaning with regard to the novel. I do not remember exactly were I read of this, as it passed a little above my interest. In one of the essays that I went through recently. I will search for it.
BTW, I am almost ready to reread the parts that I skimmed through, as I wanted to finish the book for the discussion. All the episodes in the clinique, I would like to reread them.
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Old 07-04-2011, 06:33 PM   #75
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I am currently watching a 2005 mini series version of The Master and Margarita on You Tube. It is in Russian with English Subtitles. I find it very good. I am about a half way through it so far (it is 520 minutes long). Picture quality is not that great (only 240p) but it is quite watchable. Warning graphic scenes in the novel such as heads being cut off are shown very graphically. Here is the first segment.

This is simply great. Hoyt, do you know how I could download that video on my Mac so that i can look it off line and maybe not sitting in front of the computer screen?
Thanks in advance.
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