The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Mikhail Bulgakov wrote The Master and Margarita in the last years of his life but was unable to do the final editing. The novel was not published in the Soviet Union until 1966. It was published abroad the following year in two versions, official and unexpurgated. A third translation, more faithful to the original, was published in 1995. The novel mirrors Bulgakov’s fate of a dissident hounded into silence and internal exile.

On a warm spring afternoon in a Moscow park, Berlioz, the editor of a leading literary journal, and Bez-domny, a poet, meet a foreign-looking stranger accom-panied by two odd characters and a huge tomcat. The stranger is Woland, a professor of black magic and the incarnation of the Devil. The writers are astounded by his familiarity with their lives and with personalities from several centuries. Woland predicts that Berlioz soon will be run over by a streetcar. In the first of four chapters devoted to the Jerusalem story, Woland tells them about Pontius Pilate’s encounter with Yeshua Ha-Notsri (Jesus Christ) and about Pilate’s obsession with truth and his feelings of guilt concerning Christ’s fate.

Berlioz is decapitated by a trolley, and Bezdomny is placed in a mental institution when he tries to tell his fellow writers about it. Woland and his retinue settle in Berlioz’s apartment and proceed to wreak havoc among Muscovites, sending some thousands of miles away as philistines, inducing others to fight...

(The entire section is 492 words.)