My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This story is absolutely buck-wild.
Woland (the devil) and his retinue arrive in athiest Moscow to wreak havoc on the city in general and the literary community in particular. To be clear, I haven’t read any critical analysis of this story, so this is entirely my own interpretation, but I got a serious Dante’s Inferno vibe from the author’s satirization of specific literary figures. This is also far more greusome than I was prepared for; there are multiple decapitations, and that’s just for starters.
The translation seemed to me to be exceptional; on the rare occasion that a couldn’t quite parse a turn of phrase, there was generally an annotation to explain. Honestly, there is so much going on in this novel that I’m probably going to spend a week or two reading literary analysis of it, just to try and wrap my head around the whole thing. I feel like, intentional or otherwise, there are some rather radical feminist notions that pop up on occasion–I refer you to the chapter “Flight,” which is such a glorious phantasmagoria I don’t even know where to start.
Bottom line: I wouldn’t go into this expecting to “get” everything, and it’s certainly NOT an easy read, but it’s absolutely worth it. Best taken in small doses, and considered with care one chapter at a time.