Russian Reading Club: Master and Margarita

Daria Storozhilova, English Coach

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5 Videos (28m)
    • Russian Reading Club Introduction Video

      3:58
    • About the Novel

      5:21
    • Master and Margarita - Extract

      4:56
    • The Extract Explained

      8:33
    • Bonus: Useful Phrases for Talking about Literature

      5:03

About This Class

Join me for reading the most inspiring Russian classics!

If you are interested in learning Russian and Russian literature, I am happy to welcome you to my Russian Reading Club! It's a series of short classes telling you about the best books written in the Russian language in the 20th century.

I often receive questions from my English speaking friends about the quality of the translations of Russian writers. They ask me what to look for in some most well-known books and how these books sound in Russian. 

I have decided to tell you about the ideas and the moral dilemmas which have inspired me in the books I love reading in Russian, being a native Russian speaker. I will also read some extracts in Russian to help you with pronunciation. These classes will be good for Intermediate Russian Learners who would like to start reading books in Russian.

In the first class of the Russian Reading Club, I am taking on a challenging task of telling you about 'Master and Margarita' by Mikhail Bulgakov. 

Here is some general info from Wikipedia:

The Master and Margarita (Russian: Ма́стер и Маргари́та) is a novel by Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, written in the Soviet Union between 1928 and 1940 during Stalin's regime. A censored version was published in Moscow magazine in 1966–1967. The manuscript was not published as a book until 1967, and then first in Paris. A samizdat version circulated that included parts cut out by official censors, and these were incorporated in a 1969 version published in Frankfurt. The novel has since been published in several languages and editions.

The story concerns a visit by the devil to the officially atheistic Soviet Union. Many critics consider it to be one of the best novels of the 20th century, as well as the foremost of Soviet satires.

I will tell you in more detail what the story is about. I will also read an extract from Chapter 12 (Magic Show in Moscow Variete where the Satan asks his tricky questions).

If you want to read 'Master and Margarita' in English, I recommend the following translations:

- Mirra Ginsberg's from 1967 (it's the best version linguistically, the closest to the original in style; yet it's a censored text, with some cuts of politically ho scenes);

- Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's published by Penguin Books in 1997. It's simpler in stylistics, but it's a full text. 

I'd recommend using both of them for the full picture. 

The best quotes from 'Master and Margarita':

“Everything will turn out right, the world is built on that.”  (Все будет правильно, на этом построен мир.)

“Manuscripts don't burn" (Рукописи не горят)

“Yes, man is mortal, but that would be only half the trouble. The worst of it is that he's sometimes unexpectedly mortal—there's the trick!” (Да, человек смертен, но это было бы еще полбеды. Плохо то, что он иногда внезапно смертен, вот в чем фокус!)

“Just like a murderer jumps out of nowhere in an alley, love jumped out in front of us and struck us both at once” (Любовь выскочила перед нами, как из-под земли выскакивает убийца в переулке, и поразила нас сразу обоих!)

“Cowardice is the most terrible of vices.” (Трусость – один из самых страшных человеческих пороков.)

Of course, I am not pretending to tell you everything about this complex book in a 30-minute class. But I am hoping to inspire you to read it and to answer some of the important questions about this book.

I am looking forward to seeing you in the class!