The Master and Margarita
With a great literary history and tradition, Russia is a country rich in story telling, plays, poetry and political philosophy. I thought long and hard about which author to choose, after all there are so many great writers, but as this is a voyage of discovery I wanted to read someone I have never come across before; and so I stumbled into the bramble that is “the Master and Margarita”.
To say this is a complicated, heavy and obtuse work is an understatement (in my humble opinion). I have read several reviews online about how it is “a masterpiece”, “one of the greatest books from Russia in the 20th c.” and I just have to shake my head in disbelief. It’s one those situations where I feel like I must be clueless; how is that everybody but me loves and raves about this book?
I tried. I really did. The characters are undeveloped, the story line is just wacky and the dialogue so unnatural. Maybe I got a bad translation (Michael Glenny, Vintage Books), maybe I don’t understand the subtleties of Russia angst or see the parallels between this story and the Soviet political system, but I am an avid reader and just don’t think it should be so hard to understand a book.
I had the same problem reading Umberto Eco and V.S. Naipaul. What authors leave you shaking your head? Do you ever wonder why so many other people love a particular author or book and yet you can’t get into at all?
Next up: India!