by Mikhail Bulgakov (1940). Each time I read this great piece of literature I discover something new in this many-layered philosophical allegory, satire, this slapstick novel about metaphysics, passion, not accepting the world as it is, the human imagination, salvation and redemption. It is magical realism decades before magical realism. It is about Margarita, the Master’s mistress, who refuses to despair of her lover, a hopeless dreamer who is consigned to a mental asylum, and his one great work of art, a novel about Pontius Pilate. She is invited by the Devil to Walpurgis Night, becomes a witch, commits adultery, and learns to harness her unleashed passions; naked, she flies over the deep forests and rivers of Mother Russia and returns to Soviet Moscow – where nobody wants to believe in the supernatural – to serve as the hostess for Satan’s great ball. Standing by his side, she welcomes the dark celebrities of human history as they pour up from the opened maw of Hell. Ultimately, she is reunited with her lover, who leaves the psychiatric ward, and they are given the eternal rest of Dante’s Limbo.
The novel takes place during Easter in 1930 Moscow which is visited by the devil and his retinue – a hilarious gang that seeds confusion everywhere they visit. They target the literary elite and its trade union, MASSOLIT, its headquarter and privileged restaurant, wrecking havoc among corrupt social-climbers, bureaucrats, profiteers, and their wives and mistresses. The novel also describes a parallel world, just before Passover in Jerusalem two thousand years earlier in which the astrologer’s son, the fifth Procurator of Judea, the cruel Pontius Pilate, condemns an innocent man – Yeshiva Na-Nozri – to death, knowing fully well that he has acted cowardly and then, to calm his troubled mind, instigates the murder of one Judas of Karioth who betrayed Yeshiva.
In the end, all resolves itself and climbing onto a broad path of moonlight, a man in a white cloak with a blood-red lining walks besides a young man in a torn chinon and with a disfigured face. The two, Pontius Pilate and Yeshiva, are engaged in a heated but friendly debate. Behind them walks a magnificent, calm, gigantic dog with pointed ears.