Monday, October 24, 2016
Master and Margaritalong IV
We've reached the apex of the novel, and the end is in sight. What happened this week?
It's time to prepare for Satan's Great Ball, so Hella washes Margarita in blood and rose oil, and so on. She gets rose-petal slippers, a tiara, and a heavy pendant of a black poodle, but otherwise she's still naked. The demons instruct her on how to behave and the guests pour in--murderers, forgers, traitors, and all, straight from the grave. They all bow to Margarita and kiss her knee, and after hours of this, she is bruised and exhausted, but must never stop. She sees Caligula and lots of famous people, but few interest her. When the stream of guests finally stops, she must fly around the room and greet everyone, so she sees many bizarre scenes. Woland finally enters (still in his dirty nightshirt) and the demons give him Berlioz' head. Woland gives Margarita a cup of blood to drink, and the whole thing disappears.
The apartment is once more as it was, and Margarita recovers from her ordeal. The demons engage in some show-off nonsense, and Margarita decides that she is a third wheel and had better go. She is too proud to ask for a reward, which Woland approves, and so he commands her to say what she wants. First she wants a reprieve for one of the condemned women she met at the ball; Woland disapproves but lets her do it herself, and then she demands her master restored to her. The master is a bit disoriented and doesn't believe it, but Margarita believes in the restoration of all that was taken from them: the basement apartment, the manuscript (no longer burnt), and their life together. So she sits down to read the Pilate novel again.
There are then two chapters of the Pilate novel, featuring the murder of Judas of Kiriath, and Pilate's conversation with Matthew.
When Woland restores the manuscript to the master, he says something that has become famous in Russia: Рукописи не горят, "Manuscripts don't burn." This was particularly resonant in a country where poets and writers frequently memorized their works rather than writing them down, and Bulgakov himself had said that it didn't matter when he had to burn his manuscript, because it was all there in his head.
This was a wild and crazy couple of chapters--Chris' comparison to The Rocky Horror Picture Show last week was pretty apt!--but then the Pilate chapters make for a sudden, complete change of atmosphere. I can't remember anything about the eventual fate of Margarita and her Master, but I can't believe that it's going to end well. Working for the devil never does, probably especially when the devil symbolizes the Soviet secret police.