What happens when the devil and his henchmen including a pet demon cat walk into a bar?
A. Utter Chaos.
B. Nobody believes this can happen.
Both happens in the utterly eccentric masterpiece by Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita. Except that it takes place in Moscow’s streets and theatre and not in any bar!
The novel begins with two characters, Berlioz and Bezdomny, who talk about the latter’s poems when they run into “an eccentric foreigner” who joins in the conversation and rants on while also claiming to have met the likes of Kant and even Pontius Pilate!
He even predicted how Berlioz would die!
And what do you know! That is exactly what occurs.
So who is this mysterious person?
Bezdomny goes berserk after the stranger’s prophecy comes true and now wants to find where he is but alas no one believes his story at all!
After this strange beginning, Moscow then sees the most ridiculous theatre spectacle it has ever seen where the compere is beheaded but also gets it back as well, where the female audience is beguiled by free dresses and shoes and the rest by tons of money that is showered on them. But then the dresses disappear and the money transforms into the random ordinary objects.
The police force is in pickle trying to apprehend this mysterious retinue which people reported included a huge cat as well!
Most of them are not believed and send to the asylum including the previous character, Bezdomny. There he meets another inmate who is simply called, Master, and who is the actual hero of the novel. He narrates a story about his lost love, Margarita, and his long lost novel about Pontius Pilate.
As the story gets peculiar and weirder with each passing page, we meet Margarita as well who is as lovelorn as the master, is befriended by the mysterious stranger and then goes to an equally unbelievable Satan’s Ball with the his retinue.
In between all these strange incidents, Bulgakov interweaves the story about the hoe Jesus was crucified as well. We see Pontius Pilate as one of the characters and how he thought of the situation before him as well.
How do you think that the story will end? Will the devil and his retinue succeed in driving all Muscovites stark raving mad? Will the city be plunged in even more chaos? Will the master and Margarita unite?
There might be no proper rhyme or reason to the random goings on in The Master and Margarita and that is perhaps the beauty of the story. Yet, if we look (read?) closely, we see the subtle satirising of certain aspects of the Russian society. Most prominent and obvious was the critique of the literary establishment called in the novel as MASSOLIT and its pretensions of encouraging writers when in fact it was only confined to those who could afford it or butter their way into the society! And it took the character of the Devil to actually question this unwarranted practice!
The satire might be subtle but the adventures and weirdness that pepper The Master and Margarita are overt and quite in your face which is why one must definitely read the novel to go on a chaotic and wild ride with the devil and his cat!