Month: March 2015

Monthly Review – March 2015

Posted March 31, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 2 Comments

Fear and Loathing in Las VegasI started March with a lot of work stress and as a result I thought I would not get much reading done. All I wanted was to play video games or watch TV. The month never improved workwise but I still had a productive reading month; I was actually surprised with how much I read. As for my adventures on BookTube, things are still going well, I am enjoying the experience and I feel like I am slowly improving. Hopefully this will translate into my writing as well. I have also been looking at other way to improve my writing, I may join Hitrecord and try their writing challenges or just try my hand at short stories. However, I might just do some research and wait till work gets a little less stressful.

It did take me over ten days to finish my first novel this month. Sadly that novel was not enjoyable and I wish I had not spent so much time with the book. That novel was The Severed Streets by Paul Cornell, I really enjoyed the first book in the series, London Falling and was expecting so much more. Thankfully the next book was better; it was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, however I cannot work out if I had read it before or not. I guess because the movie is so memorable I thought I had read the book; I would have a record of reading Fear and Loathing if I had.

The longlist for the IFFP (The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize) was announced this month and reminded me that I want to read more books in translation. As most people know, my current reading challenge is more books in translations and some rereads (at least one of each, every month). This month I read the 2011 IFFP winner, Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo (translated by Edith Grossman). I did the reading diversity tag on BookTube this month and realised I needed to read a lot more books from South America; Red April is by an author from Peru. While it did follow many of the tropes found in crime fiction, it still found this to be a fascinating read; I loved exploring Peruvian culture. My reread for the month was The Stranger by Algerian author Albert Camus (translated by Matthew Ward), which was a lot better than I remember it being, I must have a better grip on the themes this time round.

I also picked up some short story collections to read this month, firstly The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol and then The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The UnAmericans was a contemporary collection that dealt mainly with immigrants living in America. While this was a great collection, The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories blow it out of the water. I was sucked in by Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s style blending gothic with feminist ideas, I highly recommend reading this collection. I am not sure what Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s other books are like but I am curious to find out.

The highlight this month was Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham, which is the second book in the Veronica Mars series. I am a huge Veronica Mars fan and while this book was not as good as the first one, it was nice to return to Neptune. Followed by Something Coming Through by Paul McAuley which was very average and A Young Doctor’s Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov (translated by Hugh Alpin) after binge watching the TV adaptation. So that was seven books read in March, which was as many as February but still a very decent reading month. I currently have four books on the go at the moment and I hope April will be a much better month both in reading and work.

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Posted March 30, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Classic / 2 Comments

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. ThompsonTitle: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Goodreads)
Author: Hunter S. Thompson
Artist: Ralph Steadman
Published: Harper Perennial, 1971
Pages: 230
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Journalist, Raoul Duke heads to Las Vegas with his attorney Dr Gonzo in order to cover the Mint 400 motorcycle race. After experimenting with some recreational drugs, LSD, ether, cocaine, cannabis and alcohol, their assignment was quickly abandoned. What follows is a series of hallucinogenic trips that end in disaster from trashed hotel rooms, car wrecks and much more. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream is a roman à clef, with autobiographical elements in which Hunter S. Thompson writes a retrospective of the 1960s countercultural movement.

Hunter S. Thompson was a journalist, but he was best known for his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. While working in Journalism he coined the term Gonzo journalism which is a writing style he adopted for his first person narratives. The style is a combination of fact and fiction that allows Thompson a more personal approach to his articles. Combining elements of sarcasm, humour, exaggeration and profanity it allowed a first person look into social criticism. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was a result of Gonzo journalism and was originally published as a two part series in Rolling Stone magazine in 1971.

When thinking about the life of Hunter S. Thompson, I find it hard to imagine him as someone who  critiques the 1960s counterculture. I think of him saying things like “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.” Thompson has often stated that this novel was an exploration into the death of the American Dream but his views on counterculture are so fascinating. Drawing inspiration from his two favourite novels The Great Gatsby and On The Road, Thompson combines ideas of travelogue and the American Dream and goes on to show the reason why drug use was not the answer to social problems.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a pretty confronting novel; the descriptions of drug-induced hazes and lurid hallucinogenic trips are very vivid and confronting. I am pretty sure I have read this book in the past but I had not marked it as read on Goodreads, LibraryThing or even the spreadsheet I keep. However going into the novel everything felt so familiar and I cannot tell if it was due to the movie adaptation or if I have actually read the book before.

The experience of reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is enhanced by the illustrations done by Ralph Steadman. My edition of the book stated in the introduction that Hunter S. Thompson requested the art to be done by Steadman because he believed this illustrator really understood the concept of Gonzo journalism. The novel is an interesting book and well worth exploring, and I was interested to see the satirical side and surprised at the way Thompson criticised his own lifestyle in this autobiographical novel.

The Severed Streets by Paul Cornell

Posted March 27, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Fantasy / 0 Comments

The Severed Streets by Paul CornellTitle: The Severed Streets (Goodreads)
Author: Paul Cornell
Series: Shadow Police #2
Published: Tor, 2014
Pages: 400
Genres: Fantasy
My Copy: Library Book

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Detective Inspector James Quill is a member of the Shadow Police, a squad dedicated to solving supernatural crimes. When an invisible murderer kills a high profile cabinet minister in an unusual way, the Shadow Police are called to solve it. Things take a turn when the lead detective from the squad goes missing. Things start to fall apart; can Quill solve this mystery and bring the team back together?

I was really enjoying the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch lately and I thought I would look for more urban fantasy novels that centred around a detective, when I remembered London Falling. I loved this book which was the first in the Shadow Police series; it was dark gritty and blended police procedural with urban fantasy really well. I read it a while ago and thought it was time to try book two, The Severed Streets. Unfortunately this book did not hold up and suffered the same fate as Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams (book two in the Bobby Dollar series).

While London Falling went for a dark and gritty, noir feel to it, The Severed Streets seemed to go in a different direction. It felt too gimmicky and I felt like Paul Cornell was offered a book deal based on this series but had already run out of ideas. First of all, the book is set in London, so it obviously had to reference the 1800s Whitechapel murders. Jack the Ripper has been done to death, especially in urban fantasy; I was immediately reminded of The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. Also this book has Neil Gaiman as a character and I never enjoy it when they use living people as characters. It is a little hit and miss when a book includes a famous person who is deceased but when it comes to living people, it is normally always a miss.

I feel so angry about this book but mainly because I went in thinking it would be like London Falling. I would have been better off not reading this book and just letting the first novel remain a standalone. Take out Jack the Ripper and Neil Gaiman or replace these characters, and it might have been a decent book. However, for me, it was just a gimmick that did not work. I will not be continuing with the Shadow Police and I have to start my search for a new dark, gritty urban fantasy series to enjoy.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Posted March 24, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction, Magical Realism / 9 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.

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Posted March 22, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 0 Comments

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James BaldwinTitle: Go Tell It on the Mountain (Goodreads)
Author: James Baldwin
Narrator: Adam Lazarre-White
Published: Penguin, 1953
Pages: 256
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Audiobook

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Go Tell It on the Mountain is the first major release by James Baldwin and is a semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in Harlem. James Baldwin never knew his biological father and his stepfather was a strict Baptist minister. Go Tell It on the Mountain mainly follows the character John Grimes (who is the autobiographical character in the novel) but really shifts focus to other characters, to allow the exploration of John’s immediate family.

It took James Baldwin ten years to write Go Tell It on the Mountain and he has often stated that it was not a book he wanted to write but a book he felt he had to get out of his system before he would write anything else. This is a semi-autobiographical novel that focuses mainly of the hypocrisy within the community. James Baldwin’s stepfather was a minister and the way he acted in church was vastly different than when he was at home. He was a strict and abusive parent and this hypocrisy was evident within this novel.

However, there is so much more to this novel than just exploring how different people act when at church. Baldwin has a lot to say about the community and, while racism plays a big part within this debut novel, it was some of the other themes that interested me the most. The struggle between life and faith is a topic that I am fascinated in and while it is not the same as found in the memoir The Dark Path, this is explored in an interesting way within this novel. John Grimes had a spiritual awakening as a teenager and went onto become a preacher, however the hypocrisy he found within the church disheartened him and eventually he walked away from that life.

Yet Go Tell It on the Mountain goes a little deeper in exploring the hypocrisy of the church with subtle references to Baldwin’s sexuality. This is not explored in great detail within this book but it is a major theme in Giovanni’s Room. The way this novel explores the church life is fascinating and he shows great care for his characters; take for example John’s stepfather Gabriel, he may be hypocrite but he still requires some sympathy. He married John’s mother and raised him even if their union would be considered controversial within the church. I love how this novel plays with the religion and the way people differ between their church and home life.

This was my first James Baldwin novel but I have had the opportunity to read some of his short stories in the past. On the surface Go Tell It on the Mountain does sound like it is just focused on the hypocrisy of the church but I love the depth James Baldwin put into this book. The characters are so well crafted that even if you want to hate them you still feel a little compassion towards them. I cannot put my finger on James Baldwin’s writing style; at times it reminds me of dirty realism but all I know is that it makes me want to read more of his novels.

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

Posted March 20, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 2 Comments

Wolf in White Van by John DarnielleTitle: Wolf in White Van (Goodreads)
Author: John Darnielle
Published: Scribe, 2014
Pages: 224
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

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Sean Phillips lives an isolated life since a disfiguring injury that happened when he was seventeen. To past the time in his Southern Californian apartment he has created an interactive survival strategy game called Trace Italian, which can be played via mail. Two high school students, Lance and Carrie from Florida, start exploring the world of Trace but manage to take their role playing into the real world. Disaster strikes and Sean is called on to account for his actions and figure out how this could happen.

For those of you that don’t know, John Darnielle is the singer-songwriter for the indie folk rock band The Mountain Goats. While the band is currently a three piece, Darnielle had been the sole member for many years. Wolf in White Van is the first novel by John Darnielle and the man knows how to write. When a musician turns to writing, I feel a little hesitant but Darnielle’s debut blew my expectations out of the water. Wolf in White Van sets itself apart from most debut novels by going for something different and more complex.

Wolf in White Van is an interesting novel to talk about because the structure of the book is told backwards. So the readers are given the beginning of the story and the climax right at the end of the novel. This structure works really well with exploring the character of Sean Phillips, and slowly it is revealed just how he ended up so isolated and lonely. This allows for the exploration of loneliness and the game Trace Italian is an interesting device that allows others, who are also lonely, to interact with Sean Phillips.

I am fascinated by this game Trace Italian. First of all, it is unique in the sense that it is a text based survival game that is played through the mail. People send their next move and based on that Sean Phillips sends them the next part of the game. The goal of the game is to make it to safety in the post-apocalyptic world; while there is a possibility of completing the game, Sean believes that no one will ever do so. There is also the events that happen with Lance and Carrie which, while not really a spoiler, I will not mention it, except to say this event explores the ideas of artist responsibility. There is constantly stories where music, movies or video games are blamed for tragic events and the way John Darnielle explores this issue is very interesting, at least from a creator’s point of view. The idea that this novel is told backwards really plays on the whole idea of playing music backwards may reveal hidden satanic messages.

Wolf in White Van is a brilliant debut, full of unexpected depth. It is a fascinating character study and there is so many interesting themes to explore within this novel. I am extremely impressed with John Darnielle and I hope there are many more novels to come from this brilliant songwriter and author. Wolf in White Van may sound like a it is heavily focused on this role playing game but really it is a character driven novel that just involves a game. Highly recommend this novel for anyone interested in the themes mentioned above.

The American Lover by Rose Tremain

Posted March 18, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Short Stories / 2 Comments

The American Lover by Rose TremainTitle: The American Lover (Goodreads)
Author: Rose Tremain
Published: Chatto & Windus, 2014
Pages: 240
Genres: Short Stories
My Copy: Library Book

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Rose Tremain is a name I have heard so often but never had the chance to read on of her books; in fact her name is familiar but I couldn’t tell you anything about her books. She has published thirteen novels including The Road Home (which won the Orange Prize in 2008) and Music and Silence (winner of the Whitbread award in 1999). She taught creative writing at the University of East Anglia until she was appointed chancellor in 2013 and she is married to Romantic biographer Richard Holmes (not that her marriage affects her writing, just an interesting fact). She has also written five collections of short stories including her latest The American Lover.

While I sometimes struggle to read and review short story collections, I still wish to talk about them (just so I have a record). I picked up The American Lover because it mentioned a story about a famous Russian writer’s (story was inspired by Tolstoy’s life) final days living in a stationmaster’s cottage outside of Moscow. As most people know, I am a fan of Russian literature and books about Russia itself. When I looked at the author’s name, I was excited even more, it was a chance to finally dip into the writing style of Rose Tremain.

Without going into all the stories within the book, Tremain goes into some very interesting topics from transgressive love, sex, reflections of life and even a very unusual story about Daphne du Maurier. What I found in this collection is that Rose Tremain has a great ability to create characters and express emotions. There are some brilliantly dark and sometimes comical moments the she masterfully crafted into her stories. She has produced a collection centred around so many different emotions and skilfully managed to fit them into such short stories.

I really love the characters and emotions expressed in these stories and really makes me want to experience Rose Tremain’s style in long form. However I am not sure which novel to start with and would love some recommendations. The American Lover was a brilliant way to dip into Tremain’s writing and I am so glad to have finally had a chance to do so. If her writing abilities work just as well in her novels, she may have found a new fan.

Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald

Posted March 14, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 2 Comments

Save Me the Waltz by Zelda FitzgeraldTitle: Save Me the Waltz (Goodreads)
Author: Zelda Fitzgerald
Narrator: Jennifer Van Dyck
Published: Vintage, 1932
Pages: 225
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Audiobook

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Save Me the Waltz is the story of Alabama Beggs, a young Southern girl who meets and falls in love with David Knight during World War I. The two inevitably get married and David goes on to become a successful painter, before moving their family to the French Riviera. However Alabama is determined to find her own success and takes up ballet. When she lands her first solo debut in the opera Faust the cracks in their marriage become evident.

After an episode of hysteria in 1932, Zelda Fitzgerald was admitted to the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for treatment. Dr Adolf Meyer, an expert on schizophrenia was her doctor and as part of her recovery routine he got her to write at least two hours a day. Save Me the Waltz was written over the course of six weeks and was the first and only novel to be published by Zelda Fitzgerald. Her husband was outraged that she took so much of their personal life and added it into this novel. Despite the fact that the majority of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels are also autobiographical and he used the same material for his novel Tender is the Night.

I wanted to read Save Me the Waltz after reading Tender is the Night to compare the similarities. The problem I soon discovered is that Save Me the Waltz has possibly been whitewashed by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Apparently he helped Zelda revise her book and the amount that has been changed is unknown because her original manuscript has been lost. However Scott went from being irate to writing to Maxwell Perkins at Scribner (their publisher) “Here is Zelda’s novel. It is a good novel now, perhaps a very good novel—I am too close to tell.” I am inclined to believe that he has made sure he comes across better than originally written but without the original that is purely speculation.

The major theme within Save Me the Waltz is around the intense desire for Alabama/Zelda to succeed for themselves. It was not enough for either person to be the wife behind a successful man, and it explores the problems faced in doing this in a male dominated society. When Alabama gets her dream job in Naples with the San Carlo Opera Ballet Company, David does not want to move. Considering that he is a painter and could really work from anywhere, it says a lot about their marriage. This does not hinder Alabama from perusing her dreams and she goes to Naples anyway, leaving her husband to look after their child alone. Now this move may make people uneasy but it really plays with the power dynamic of marriage. Zelda Fitzgerald wants to challenge the conceptions people had of the role of a wife in a marriage and ask why it was alright for a man to go away for work but not the woman.

This can be a very difficult novel to read, knowing the historical context and history behind the story. Comparing this book with Tender is the Night does not leave F. Scott Fitzgerald in pleasant light but then again his novel did not do that either. One of the most powerful lines in this novel can be found right near the end and it beautifully wraps up the whole book into a few lines. “Emptying the ashtrays was very expressive of myself. I just lump everything in a great heap which I have labelled ‘the past,’ and having thus emptied this deep reservoir that was once myself, I am ready to continue.”

While I cannot say that Save Me the Waltz is a strong novel, it was a fascinating exploration into the lives of the Fitzgeralds. I am glad to have read and compared this book to Tender is the Night but I think it has only fuelled my interest into this couple. I still need to read a biography or two on the Fitzgeralds but I am beginning to get a better idea of their lives. I think if you are going to read Tender is the Night, you need to read Save Me the Waltz so you can have perspective on the autobiographical elements; even if they were tainted by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s edits.

Deeper Waters by Jessie Cole

Posted March 12, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Deeper Waters by Jessie ColeTitle: Deeper Waters (Goodreads)
Author: Jessie Cole
Published: Harper Collins, 2014
Pages: 384
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Meme has been enjoying the simple life in Northern News South Wales; that was until she saves the life of Hamish in a heavy summer downpour. Cut off from the rest of world Hamish discovers a world cut off from technology. During this time with this stranger in the house, Meme also learns about the world outside of her own.

Jessie Cole’s novel Deeper Waters is a coming of age story about the sexual awakening of twenty-something year old Meme. However it is also a culture clash novel between the lifestyle people in the city (Hamish) are used to and just how different the rural outback can be. Both Meme and Hamish are from the same country but their lives are very different. Growing up with technology, it is hard to see a world without it and interestingly enough Deeper Waters manages to capture this perfectly. At times you think you are reading a book set in the 1970s or early 1980s but then the mention of technology reminds you that this is a book set in current times.

This was a book club pick and not something I would generally pick up on my own but it did make an interesting choice to discuss. However, I found the character development a little problematic; Meme was well developed but Hamish was very two dimensional and her best friend Anja was just a pile of clichés. The book did show a lot of promise for this emerging Australian author, her writing was solid and atmospheric but she could have developed all the other characters a whole lot more.

I really did enjoy the culture clash but after that the book did fall a little short. There was one thing that was mentioned in our book club discussion that I did not pick up on but now seems to bother me. Meme has a clubfoot (congenital talipes equinovarus) which is a birth defect that you do not really hear about these days, due to the advancement of medical treatments. However this might be a sign of the area Meme grew up in but all I can think now is that Hamish travelled back to the 1970s.

Deeper Waters is an interesting book to discuss however there are so many novels about the sexual awakening that explore this topic so much better. I am glad I read this Australian novel but I feel like Jessie Cole had the opportunity to do a lot more with the book but didn’t take it. Having said that, it is still a good read and Cole is an author worth watching. I have heard from multiple reviewers that Jessie Coles has improved greatly since her first novel, so that must mean her next book will be well worth checking out.

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)
, 1967
Pages: 403
Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

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.