Master and Margarita

by Mikhail Bulgakov

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Critical Context

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Bulgakov’s novel is his masterpiece, containing all the themes he had developed in a variety of genres, as well as a dazzling compendium of stylistic devices developed over the years of his productive life. The writer did not belong to any one group of Soviet artists, and he has roots in the great Russian writers of the past—Fyodor Dostoevski, Leo Tolstoy, Nikolai Leskov. Nevertheless, he participated in the great experimental upsurge of the 1920’s; his friends included all the best Soviet writers, many of whom also suffered repeatedly from censorship during Joseph Stalin’s rule. Bulgakov’s own struggles for artistic freedom provide a contest for the themes of hypocrisy, cowardice, mediocrity, truth, power of art, ills of Soviet society—and in the long run, of the way even efforts at good generate evil, and even triumphant evil generates good.

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