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miliosr

The Master and Margarita

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For those of you who have read Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, which translation would you recommend?

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I have no Russian and so my opinion of any translation is of limited use, but I have the one by Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O’Connor and found it an easy and enjoyable read. Bulgakov’s lengthy sentences must be a tricky business to translate and although some of it is awkward in English I thought the sensibility came through, and you can’t ask much more from even the best translations of a great work.

As I'm sure you know, Balanchine gave it to Suzanne Farrell to read. It took me some time to get into the book but it casts a spell. Enjoy and please tell us about it here when you do read it.

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I always find the Pevear/Volokhonsky translations too choppy and literal (as two of the Amazon reviewers say of this one), but more unforgivably there never seems to be a tone to the voice they use. The "exuberant" Michael Glenny reads nicely in the Amazon preview and the respected Ardis Press/Burgin and O'Connor from a restored original text does too.

Here's a good summary of the differences in the translators' choices (it does give Pevear/V good marks). And please post a review if you read it, miliosr. I read it years ago but think I would appreciate now it more if I picked it up again.

Encyclopedia of literary translation, p 195

Interesting, dirac, about Balanchine's sympathy to Bulgakov.

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As I'm sure you know, Balanchine gave it to Suzanne Farrell to read.

Interesting -- I didn't know that. In hindsight, a revealing choice . . .

I do know that Marianne Faithfull gave Mick Jagger the original translation during the 1960s and that inspired "Sympathy For the Devil".

Thanks dirac and Quiggin for responding. I will go with the Burgin/O'Connor translation and see how that works for me.

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Well, I've read the first seven chapters and, frankly, it hasn't really engaged me yet. It's definitely funny in spots (almost to the point of slapstick) but I feel like it's dragging on and on. Maybe it will pick up when the Master and Margarita join the narrative???

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Well, I've read the first seven chapters and, frankly, it hasn't really engaged me yet. It's definitely funny in spots (almost to the point of slapstick) but I feel like it's dragging on and on. Maybe it will pick up when the Master and Margarita join the narrative???

Yes, it does. I, too found the first half or so a slog - it's mostly devoted to political satire and while I understand that's important to Bulgakov and the book it didn't pull me in as the story of the Master and Margarita did.

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Finally -- Margarita has made her first appearance! And -- surprise, surprise -- the book picked up immediately!!

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Well, I finished The Master and Margarita and -- truth be told -- it never really engaged me. I can admire its many virtues (not least of which is it being an early variant of magic realism) but, at the end of the day, it left me cold.

***STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN'T READ IT AND YOU DON'T WANT TO READ SPOILERS***

The biggest obstacle for me was the relationship between the Master and Margarita itself. For the life of me, I could never figure out what Margarita saw in him that would possess her to go to such lengths to save him. If ever there was a non-heroic hero, it is the Master. He drifts through the novel almost as an actionless wraith, and what actions he does take are almost entirely negative. I just never bought the notion that a dynamo like Margarita would be drawn to someone like the Master. But, then, maybe that's more my limitation that Bulgakov's.

Another problem I had with the novel occurred after Woland's grand ball when he grants Margarita her wish. Of course, Margarita doesn't choose to free the Master from his incarceration at the mental institution (as the reader no doubt expects her to do.) Instead, she asks for absolution for the Frieda character, who murdered the baby she gave birth to after she was raped. This is Christian mercy at its very finest. But then, Woland grants Margarita a second favor and, later, Woland and Yeshua (Jesus) conspire to free the Master and Margarita from the their dire condition. I can't explain why but all of this felt like a cheat to me. What am I not grasping?????

On a happier note, Chapter 23 ('Satan's Grand Ball') is simply outstanding. Also, the book itself is very funny at times. There is much anarchic humor (usually involving the cat, Behemoth) which is redolent of the Marx Brothers but taken to almost lunatic extremes. And the fact that there are 33 chapters is a clever touch. :wink:

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