Thursday, January 31, 2008

Devil Went Down to Moscow

Mikhail Bulgakov's Master and Margarita is one of the small handful of what could be called classics of Soviet literature (generally considered an oxymoron), and certainly one of the most popular, but I'm having a devil of a time staying focused on it. I think it's the kind of novel you like more when you re-read it, when you're less concerned with remembering the characters' names and the plot isn't threatening to baffle you at every turn, and you don't have to keep reading those bloody Pevear and Volokhonsky footnotes.

Every few pages, the two of them have to step in and lecture on the reason for this or that geographical reference or why this line is a reference to Pushkin or what was so all-fired funny or important or inspiring about the book to the Russian intelligentsia who suffered under Stalin. Of course, they are just doing their job and everything they say is no doubt immensely important to understanding the book, but I suddenly find myself wondering why I'm reading books from another country when there are a lot of British and American novels I've never read, and they would be all but footnote-free.

No comments: