Category: Magical Realism

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Posted April 6, 2017 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Magical Realism / 0 Comments

Exit West by Mohsin HamidTitle: Exit West (Goodreads)
Author: Mohsin Hamid
Published: Hamish Hamilton, 2017
Pages: 240
Genres: Magical Realism
My Copy: Hardcover

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Every so often a book comes along that gets you thinking about an important social issue in a whole new light. These are the books I actively seek out, I am always looking for literature that is going to challenge my thinking or even teach me something new. Mohsin Hamid’s latest novel Exit West was a recent example of a book doing this with the topic of refugees. This is such an important issue and Hamid got me thinking about it in a different way with the simple introduction of magical doors.

The premise of Exit West is straightforward following the budding relationship between Saeed and Nadia in an unnamed country. As the novel tracks their developing relationship, it soon becomes apparent that they will need to escape. As the city they grew up in becomes increasingly unsafe, they are soon planning to leave everything behind. Through a door and into another country.

While the concept of these doors might be inspired by Nanina, Mohsin Hamid has stated he used this idea as a way to not get bogged down with the refugee journey. He wanted to explore the story as the events that lead these characters to flee and how it felt to be a refugee in Western culture. While I understand his reasoning, the idea seemed to work differently for me as the reader. The magical journey to another country gave off this idea that Western media do not care about the journey they only care about asylum seekers in their country. It worked to symbolise that missing piece that is often left out of the news when reporting on the refugee crisis.

In an interview with the author, he said the doors also where a symbol of globalisation. In today’s world we are able to talk to someone on the other side of the world face to face with video calling programs like Skype. The world seems smaller thanks to the advances of technology and while the idea of walking through a door into another country sound wonderful, it works as a motif for the complex issue of border control. Some doors are heavily guarded and other doors, like the one to their home country, are left accessible as if to invite them to ‘go back to where they came from’.

What I think Mohsin Hamid did really well in this novel was use the character focus to challenge the perceptions people might have of the refugee stereotype. Nadia wore an all concealing black robe in public not for religious reasons but to make her feel safe. Nadia is not religious and lives alone, she had to lie and said she was a widow to get her apartment. Nadia’s story is one of protecting herself from judgement while trying to explore her own sexuality. She longs for the freedom and individuality of the Western world. While Saeed is not overly religious he is the one that wants to wait to they are married. When fleeing the country he wishes to be part of the community of fellow countrymen, he does not want to give up on his traditions.

The two different points of view allows the reader to explore the idea of refugees from their perspective. Rather than focusing on the journey and the conflict with the Western world. Exit West focuses on their personal identity, as the characters try to understand their place in the world. For Nadia this is a chance for a new beginning, to reinvent herself but for Saeed this is the story of missing what he left, the nostalgic idea he had of his homeland.

Mohsin Hamid intentionally left the country and city unnamed because this could be the story of anyone. He did model it after a city in Pakistan but worried that mentioning any names might have been viewed as a political statement rather than the story he wanted to tell. I am so glad that I picked up Exit West and I know I will be dipping into more of Hamid’s works. This novel was so accessible, I feel like everyone should pick it up, in the hopes that it will get more people thinking about refugees.


The Librarian by Mikhail Elizarov

Posted February 17, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Magical Realism / 1 Comment

The Librarian by Mikhail ElizarovTitle: The Librarian (Goodreads)
Author: Mikhail Elizarov
Translator: Andrew Bromfield
Published: Pushkin Press, 2007
Pages: 410
Genres: Magical Realism
My Copy: Paperback

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The books by Gromov, obscure and forgotten propaganda author from the Soviet era, have gained a bit of cult following. However this is not your normal fandom and his book are unlike anything you will ever read. These books have the ability to magically transform anyone; make the weak strong, the cowardly brave. Small groups have formed to protect these supernatural book with their leader given the title The Librarian. War breaks out between these libraries in desperate attempts to seize any copies of Gromov’s books they may have. The Librarian tells the story of Alexei, a loser who unexpectedly stumbles across one of Gromov’s books that changes his life forever.

This dystopian world created by Mikhail Elizarov is an obvious allegory for the Soviet Union, however it is something to be expected in post-Soviet literature. However Elizarov explores some interesting themes as well, in particular an idea of ‘blind faith’ in politics. The Librarian looks at the way people will thoughtlessly adopt a political system in which they are forced to inhabit. The author has a lot to say on the Soviet system and, like other Russian authors (in Soviet and post-Soviet literature), he adopts a satirical method to explore these ideas.

Alternatively, you could look at The Librarian from the perspective of the power of books. The entire novel is about people reading these books and gaining power, knowledge, and so on. This is the true power of books; as readers, we educate ourselves and learn empathy, and also get different political, historical or cultural points of view. While we might not gain the same amount of power as the people in this novel, we do gain power.

I found this book extremely interesting and I was engrossed the entire way through it. It is violent and could be a little too hard for some to handle but there is something worth exploring here. The Librarian won the Russian Booker Prize in 2008; this is very similar to the Man Booker Prize but for Russian novels. I had not heard too much about the Russian Booker Prize previously but I am now very interested. As a fan of Russian lit, I will keep an eye out for books translated into English so I can continue to explore more post-Soviet literature.


Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Posted April 29, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Magical Realism / 0 Comments

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki MurakamiTitle: Kafka on the Shore (Goodreads)
Author: Haruki Murakami
Translator: Philip Gabriel
Published: Vintage, 2002
Pages: 480
Genres: Magical Realism
My Copy: Library Book

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Kafka on the Shore tells the story of a fifteen year old book named Kafka who runs away from home to find his mother and sister. Although the alternate chapters tell the story of Nakata; a strange old man who has the ability to talk to cats. Like many of Haruki Murakami’s books, Kafka on the Shore blends pop culture with magical realism in order to explore the psyche of the characters involved.

It is often hard to try and give an overview of a Murakami book because they tend to come out weird and I do not want to give the impression that his novels are not worth attempting. For Kafka on the Shore, the magical realism allows the reader to explore the psychological mind of fifteen year old Kafka Tamune. Not only is Kakfa a young man discovering his sexuality, Sigmund Freud would probably suggest that he also has an Oedipus complex and has developed an unhealthy obsession with his mother and sister.

According to Freud, an Oedipus complex stems from the unconscious mind and normally caused by the repression of a mother (or father) figure. Freudian psychoanalysis theory suggests that this is a key psychological experience needed for normal sexual development. However if it is unsuccessful at resolving it may lead to neurosis, paedophilia, or homosexuality. Without going into the problematic thinking of Sigmund Freud, this does make for an interesting analysis of Kafka’s journey throughout the book, especially with his interactions between Sakura and Miss Saeki.

If we continue looking at this novel through the lens of psychoanalysis theory, we might even get some interesting insights into Nakata. I always thought the loss of mental faculties was due to the psychological trauma, he experienced as a young boy. He was one of sixteen schoolchildren picking mushrooms in a field trip towards the end of World War II, when they were all rendered unconscious from a mysterious light in the sky. However it has also been suggested that maybe Kafka and Nakata are two different parts of the same person.

Every time I read a Haruki Murakami, I am reminded of his brilliance (with the exception of 1Q84), and I want to explore more of his works. I am also reminded that I need to learn a whole lot more about psychoanalytical theories, and how much it would help with books like Kafka on the Shore. For me this was a bildungsroman book about sexual development and memories. However, I found myself more interested in the chapters centred on Kafka over those about Nakata but maybe that was because I understood them a little better.

Yet again Haruki Murakami has impressed me with Kafka on the Shore and I am eager to pick up more of his books. I know magical realism can be scary for some people but I love the way Murakami uses it to explore the mind. My only real criticism of this book is that it was a little bloated and could have been trimmed down a little and still achieve the same. This might be due to an aversion to big books that I really need to overcome and not a true reflection on Murakami. I highly recommend giving this author a go if you have never tried him but Kafka on the Shore is not a good starting point; may I suggest trying Norwegian Wood first.


The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Posted March 24, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction, Magical Realism / 7 Comments

The Buried Giant by Kazuo IshiguroTitle: The Buried Giant (Goodreads)
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Published: Allen & Unwin, 2015
Pages: 352
Genres: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

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The Buried Giant is set in a post-Arthurian Britain that is covered in a strange mist…a mist of unknowing. Axl and Beatrice have not seen their son in years; they barely remember him. One day the couple decide to leave their town and set off to find their son. They expect to run into difficulties, they are old and do not remember much, but nothing can prepare them for what they will discover along the way.

This is the first Kazuo Ishiguro in over a decade and I was very excited to get my hands on this novel. I have heard many people say that The Buried Giant is unlike anything Kazuo Ishiguro has ever done but that is what is brilliant (and annoying) about this author. Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day are also unlike anything else Ishiguro has written. He has an amazing ability to write something different every time and use the genre and the plot as an allegory to explore different themes.

As you may have guessed, The Buried Giant explores the theme of memories; in particular, lost memories. Ishiguro uses the tropes found in fantasy and Arthurian literature to explore these themes. Like the ideas of myths and legends that make for great stories but (generally speaking) the ideas and context behind them are often lost or forgotten about. On their journey Axl and Beatrice meet Sir Gawain which sets up the metaphor of the mist of unknowing. Just how did King Arthur and the Britons come to peace with the Saxon’s?

The more I read Kazuo Ishiguro, the more I love his use of language. He writes beautifully and yet he is not satisfied in just using words to get his message across. He uses imagery and plot as well as genre tropes to help drive his message. Now that I have discovered this, it almost makes me want to retry reading Never Let Me Go for the second time to just explore this depth, as well as his other novels. However I am sure that The Remains of the Day will also remain my favourite.

I was completely fascinated by The Buried Giant and I found myself regularly putting the novel down just so I could dwell on the chapters I have read. There is a lot within the book worth exploring and I know I have only scratched the surface. A re-read of this book may conjure up many more themes and imagery, for now I can dwell on the ones I discovered this time around. While The Buried Giant is unlike anything he has ever written, the beauty and complexity will remind you that you are enjoying a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.


The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Posted March 10, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic, Magical Realism / 2 Comments

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail BulgakovTitle: The Master and Margarita (Goodreads)
Author: Mikhail Bulgakov
Translator: Hugh Aplin
Published: Alma Classics, 1967
Pages: 403
Genres: Classic, Magical Realism
My Copy: Paperback

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When I first read The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov back in 2012 I had no idea how to review it. Now that I have re-read the book, I am still at a loss. The Master and Margarita is often considered as one of the best novels of the 20th century by critics and cited as the top example of Soviet satire. Like most of Mikhail Bulgakov’s bibliography, this author never saw the effect that this novel had on the world; it was written between 1928 and 1940 but was first published in 1967, long after his death.

One of the things I love about Russian literature is the social commentary and satirical nature found in a lot of their books. During the Soviet era there was a lot written about the political state of the country but these were often heavily censored before publication. There was a distribution practise happening at the time call called samizdat, which is when individuals reproduced censored publications and passed them out to readers. The term samizdat comes from the Russian words, sam which roughly means “self” and izdat “publishing house”, so possibly the first use of self-publishing. If it wasn’t for this underground practice we may never have the uncensored editions of Russian classics like Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, the majority of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn books and of course The Master and Margarita.

The novel starts out with Berlioz and Bezdomny talking at the Patriarch ponds when a mysterious professor appears and strikes up a conversation. This professor is actually Satan and he was talking to them about the existence of God, the idea being if God doesn’t exist, can Satan?. Russia at the time was an atheist state, in fact communism and religion often do not go hand in hand. During the Stalinist era the Soviet government tried to suppress all forms of religious expression. Bulgakov’s commentary on religion and the government is an interesting one and while there are other interpretations of the novel this was what I took away from the novel this time round.

The ideas of censorship of religion continues with the Master’s book about Pontius Pilate, which was rejected and he was accused of pilatism. Though pilatism is found throughout the book The Master and Margarita as well, Pilate is not only in the Master’s novel but appears in Satan’s stories as well as dreams. The Master has poured his heart and soul into it his novel and having rejected sent him into a tailspin. This satirisation of censorship and religion plays though out the entire novel.

The idea of pilatism is an interesting one since in Christianity Pontius Pilate is the seen as the one that sentenced Jesus (referred to by his Hebrew name Yeshua Ha-Nozri in this novel) to die on the cross. Pilate becomes a symbol of humanity’s evil within religion and The Master and Margarita but you can argue that it is possible that he was a victim of society. Pilate’s ruling on Yeshua Ha-Nozri was due to pressure from the people and the high priests, he literally (and symbolically) washed his hands of the situation. I got the impression that Mikhail Bulgakov was comparing this idea of pilatism with the soviet government at the time. Human nature is apparently evil but it is also very influential of society, and what does that say about the atheist state?

There is so much going on within this novel and I would love to talk about the influences of Goethe’s tragic play Faust on the book. However I think I would need to re-read Faust to be able to compare it with The Master and Margarita. I would have also liked to explore the constant changes on narration, from an omniscient observer to the characters within the book but not sure what else to say about that. I re-read this book as part of a buddy read, my first buddy read in fact and I had a lot of fun doing this but I think I wasn’t a good reading partner. This time I read the Hugh Aplin translation of The Master and Margarita and I think I enjoyed it more than the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation I read last time. This may have been because I got more out of the book or maybe there is something about Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translations I didn’t like, I tend to avoid their translations.

I hope I have made a coherent review, I focused mainly on censorship and religion because this book is weird and all over the place so I needed to stick to one topic to make sense of what I have read. I do plan to re-read The Master and Margarita sometime in my life, I might even try a different translation again (any suggestions?). I got so much out of this book this time around and has really made me appreciate the value of re-reading. I ended my last review of this book telling people to ‘just read it’ and I think that sentiment still stands.


Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Posted November 5, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Graphic Novel, Magical Realism / 0 Comments

Seconds by Bryan Lee O’MalleyTitle: Seconds (Goodreads)
Author: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Artist: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Published: Ballantine Books, 2014
Pages: 336
Genres: Graphic Novel, Magical Realism
My Copy: Hardcover

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Katie is a talented young chef running a successful restaurant. However her dreams are to open her own restaurant, a place where she can have more freedom and creativity. She has found the location for this restaurant has a backer (silent partner) and is working on fulfilling her dream. The problem is, everything is moving so slowly and she is starting to get impatient. What she really needs is a second chance, to fix the mistakes she has made and get her new restaurant on track. For Katie, she has the opportunity; a mysterious girl appeared in the middle of the night with some simple instructions for a second chance.

  1. Write your mistake
  2. Ingest one mushroom
  3. Go to sleep
  4. Wake anew

I’ve been a big fan of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series so I’ve been looking forward to see what will happen with Seconds. Luckily, the same humour and whimsical adventure is present within this new graphic novel. What I like about O’Malley is the way he takes a look at everyday situations in a fun and comical way. The added magical realism thread really helps explore the issues present within this book.

Seconds is full of existential angst and it explores the idea of making mistakes and he does it in a new and unique way. Unlike the Sliding Doors style where life is explored in two different situations, Bryan Lee O’Malley plays with the idea of correcting mistakes while Katie sleeps. Of course this has some humorous effects; Katie isn’t aware what has changed and this leads into a madcap scenario.

Bryan Lee O’Malley returns as the artist for his own books again and he has an interesting art style. There is an Asian influence in his art work; the big eyes and hair are not the only thing he takes from this comic book style. This influence can be found throughout his graphic novels in the characteristics, style and storytelling. What I like about Seconds is that he took his art style as seen in the Scott Pilgrim series and added colour to it. There are not a lot of colours used; the shading is often very simple and one shade but it works really well. The colour is just used to make the art pop; Bryan Lee O’Malley does great artwork, almost simplistic but it remains very expressive.

I am glad to have more Bryan Lee O’Malley graphic novels to experience but I am also reminded that he had another book before the Scott Pilgrim series that I need to check out. I do have Lost at Sea on my phone thanks to comixology; I just haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I wouldn’t mind checking out The Wonderful World of Kim Pine as well but I know it is short. Bryan Lee O’Malley has become a favourite of mine and I hope he does something new soon.


A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Posted November 10, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary, Magical Realism / 7 Comments

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth OzekiTitle: A Tale for the Time Being (Goodreads)
Author: Ruth Ozeki
Published: Text, 2013
Pages: 422
Genres: Contemporary, Magical Realism
My Copy: Library Book

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Sixteen year old Nao lives in Tokyo and has decided to take her own life. Her life isn’t great, being bullied in school, her parents are depressed but before she ends her misery she has one task to complete. She wants to document the life of her great-grandmother Jiko. She writes a diary to tell the story of her life. On the Pacific coast of Canada, a few months after the tsunami that hits Japan, Ruth finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox on the beach, inside there was a diary.

Starting with the story of Nao, A Tale for the Time Being was a fascinating look at the Japanese modern culture with references to pop-culture. It made me want to read more books like this; the Japanese culture, while similar is very different and unusual. The only problem with Nao was the fact I didn’t believe she was a struggling teenage girl, all references to being bullied or having a hard life seem to come across as non-issues. I think if someone is struggling to the point of suicide then these issues would be a major focus and never downplayed. This really became the underlining issue with this novel.

I expected this to be brutal and dark but it felt like it wasn’t taken seriously in the effort to make the book light hearted and humorous. The writing was beautiful but I felt it was too flowery and at times preachy. Ruth Ozeki is not just a novelist; she is also a Zen Buddhist priest. Now I have nothing against Buddhism and I think we need religious equality for all people but for some reason this felt heavy. I like books that teach me something I don’t know and A Tale for the Time Being does just that but I felt like it overdid this. I get that Ozeki is passionate about Zen Buddhism, it really showed, there is nothing wrong with that, just a little priggish.

As for the other major character (Ruth), which I couldn’t see as anything else but the author was rather dull in caparison. Nao’s story was fascinating, learning about Jiko was interesting but Ruth felt full of self-pity and two dimensional. I found myself wanting to skip over her story and return to Nao. Personally I think the Ruth character played no real part in the novel and cutting her chapters out completely would have worked just as well.

While the Zen Buddhist element did feel preachy the major downfalls were the believability of Nao’s struggle and Ruth. This is just too light and whimsical for me this really became a distraction from the themes and ideas the novel was trying to achieve. There was so much going for this but the negatives started to outweigh the positives. I must be one of the few that thought this novel wasn’t amazing.


Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

Posted April 29, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Literary Fiction, Magical Realism / 0 Comments

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki MurakamiTitle: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (Goodreads)
Author: Haruki Murakami
Translator: Alfred Birnbaum
Published: Vintage, 1985
Pages: 400
Genres: Literary Fiction, Magical Realism
My Copy: Personal Copy

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In the future, Tokyo remains the technology powerhouse it is today. With the major advances in technology, data security has become more valuable; problem is all codes can be broken if you know how. The Calcutec is a human data processor/encryption system who has been trained to use his bio-algorithms implant and subconscious for encryption. A new comer to a strange, isolated walled town known as “The End of the World” is assigned a job as a dream reader. As he finds acceptance within the town, his mind begins to fade; or has it only been suppressed?

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World tells the story of a split between two parallel narratives from different worlds. The consciousness and the unconscious mind; “Hard-Boiled Wonderland” refers to The Calcutec’s life as an encryption machine while “The End of the World” is his subconscious world. The two stories are told in alternating chapters as the reader slowly discovers the mysteries connecting these two worlds together. Hard-Boiled Wonderland is a homage to Raymond Chandler and hard-boiled fiction, as well as to science fiction and cyberpunk and “The End of the World” has similarities to Franz Kafka’s The Castle.

The major theme within this book is the nature of consciousness; both narratives are constructed around this general idea. While the odd numbered chapters refer to the conscious mind and the even-numbered chapters the subconscious, it is interesting to note they link together with similar themes; for example the song Danny Boy appeared in consecutive chapters. Even characters are shared between consciousnesses; the object of the narrator’s desire, the librarian is a perfect example of this.

Beyond that, the concept of subconscious being able to be controlled or shaped plays out in the entire book. This brings me to another major theme within this novel; the morality of science. The scientific experiments been done on the narrators mind in the attempt to separate the conscious and the subconscious in an attempt create more secure encryptions is an interesting topic. It reminds me a little of Frankenstein when it looks at the dangers of science and its moral implications. The Professor’s experiment killed about twenty people and while he feels remorse for the tragedy he also feels like it was the right choice in the name of progress.

While there are many more themes that would be interesting to explore I wanted to look at character. In both narratives there are no names for any of the characters, each is referred to by their occupation or a general description; from the Narrator, known as The Calcutec, the Librarian, the Old Man, the Professor, the Big Guy and the Chubby Girl. I never really payed too much attention to this while reading the book but referring to a girl as “the Chubby Girl” did bother me; it wasn’t till the very end that I was bothered by the lot. I couldn’t understand why this book was so frustratingly vague and incomplete with character and setting descriptions, I don’t know what the reason behind it would be, except for maybe removing any obstructions that might hinder the understanding of the novel.

Even the narrative is offering a very limited view of what is actually happening but slowly most of the mysteries do become clearer but the entire focus was on the subtext of this book. This wasn’t meant to be about great characters or scenes; this was all about exploring the themes as a way to get Haruki Murakami’s thoughts on the subject across. In a sense, this is what Murakami excels at; if it wasn’t for these well thought out ideas his books would just be odd and weird. This is my second Murakami novel and the first one I’ve actually enjoyed.

I’ve finally discovered what makes Haruki Murakami an author to take notice of; I didn’t find the same thing with 1Q84, I thought it was long winded and repetitive but Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World really worked for me. I have some issues with the novel, obviously the vagueness was one of the major ones, but overall this was a really interesting journey for me.


The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

Posted October 30, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Literary Fiction, Magical Realism / 0 Comments

The Satanic Verses by Salman RushdieTitle: The Satanic Verses (Goodreads)
Author: Salman Rushdie
Published: Picador, 1988
Pages: 561
Genres: Literary Fiction, Magical Realism
My Copy: Personal Copy

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To celebrate Banned Book Week, the book club decided to read The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. For those who don’t know, the book tells the story of two Indian actors falling to earth, transformed into living symbols of angelic and evil. Both actors struggle to piece their lives together and this novel tries to put it all together from the terrorist hijacking that leads to them falling to earth and surviving to their live their struggles. Farishta is a Bollywood superstar and Chamcha is a voiceover artist in England but The Satanic Verses is a clash between Eastern and Western culture and the effects it has on their Hindu faith.

I started off really enjoying this book; it was bizarre and I had no idea where this book would take me but after the millionth dream sequence I did feel very lost. I don’t begin to understand the religious aspects of this book or the life of Muhammad so I felt like I was missing a lot from this novel. I did end up asking a friend about life as a Muslim and the issues she faced with religion in western society which did lead to her fully venting and while it was great to get her opinion, I was left with more questions than answers. I finally had to try and accept that Rushdie is just trying to vent his own issues about his personal dilemmas about faith and being disillusioned with both cultures.

While this book is considered to be both controversial and acclaimed, I found it hard to see this book as either. Of course I understand if people take issues with this book but for me it felt more like Salman Rushdie needed to express his concerns and it was more a personal problem than a stab at the entire religion. As for the critically acclaimed aspect, sure the books was beautifully written but the magical realism was probably turned up to the extreme in this novel and it was difficult to piece together. Also if you want to understand this book fully you may need to study theology and migrate to a place that clashes with your cultural ideals.

Overall this book was confusing and made my brain feel like it was melting; there is so much weirdness and depth to the book I have a feeling I will never grasp it in a way I would like to. The amount of dream sequences didn’t help this book as made it a lot harder to keep up with. I would love to know what someone that has a similar issue with religion and culture butting heads thinks of this book.

I would be interested in reading this book again, maybe when I have a degree in literature and have the tools to fully analyse everything in this book. But for now it was too intense for me to get full enjoyment out of it. I’ve heard Salman Rushdie is not an easy author to read and I can see why. This book’s final rating is not a reflection of my enjoyment of the book but more of the proses and the fact that it has stuck with me well after I’ve finished it. I don’t fully understand it but I now appreciate what he did with The Satanic Verse.


The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Posted August 30, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Classic, Magical Realism / 0 Comments

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail BulgakovTitle: The Master and Margarita (Goodreads)
Author: Mikhail Bulgakov
Translator: Larissa Volokhonsky, Richard Pevear
Published: Vintage, 1967
Pages: 384
Genres: Classic, Magical Realism
My Copy: Personal Copy

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I’m going to be honest; I have no idea how to review a book like The Master and Margarita. I was looking forward to reading another Russian classic but I don’t think anyone can be fully prepared for a book like this. The whole book is based around a visit by the Devil to two passionately atheistic Russians. While this is an overly simplified synopsis it really is basis of the entire book; if I really want to write a fully detailed overview of this book it would include a black cat, an assassin, a naked witch, Jesus and Pontius Pilate in one very bizarre novel. I read this book about a week ago but I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, there is a lot going on within the book to really be able to give this a review that would give it justice.

To simplify this book I’m going to break down the book into three different elements; the Professor’s talk with the Berlioz and Bezdomny, the section involving the Master and his lover Margarita and lastly the novel about Pontius Pilate. At first glance all these sections may seems like they don’t link together, but when the Professor or the devil challenges the two’s concepts of atheism the conversation leads to the book about Pilate which happens to be a novel written by the Master and the book comes together in a weird, philosophical novel with shades of slapstick comedy.

I tend to write short reviews because I don’t want to spoil novels and want to write easy, accessible reviews; so if I write anything more about the plot I would have to write  a lot, too much for a short review so I’m going to stop talking about the book and start talking about my opinions of it. While reading this novel I was completely absorbed in the writing, but this meant I continued reading without stopping to really think about the book. In the end my head was swimming with so many thoughts of this book I wasn’t sure how I felt. Now that I’ve sorted my thoughts all I really can say it’s one of those books you just have to read to fully understand the effect of it.

While it took me a while to fully sort my thoughts of this book, I really did enjoy it. It’s one of those books like Slaughterhouse-Five where you can’t really rate or review it until you have had a good long think about all the concepts this book is trying to get across. I highly recommend experiencing this novel; it is like nothing I’ve ever read before. The wacky nature of this book will keep you reading but the philosophical ideas will help you enjoy this novel. I don’t think any review will ever do justice to this classic; especially not mine so my only advice and the only thing you really need to know about this book is ‘Just read it.’