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Chapter Thirteen: Enter the Hero 
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Post Chapter Thirteen: Enter the Hero
The attentive reader, like me, must be wondering. Here we are up to Chapter Thirteen, and there is no clue whatsoever as to why this novel has the title The Master and Margarita. Who is the master? Who is Margarita? In this chapter we start to find out who whom.

After the mad climax of Satan’s magical performance in Chapter Twelve in the Moscow Variety Theatre, with all its gruesome astounding and unbelievable sleights of neck, if anything the groaning sense of emotional power in the story only increases.

Enter the hero, through the locked window of Ivan’s solitary room in the asylum. Our nameless hero, sneaking around at night on asylum balconies, turns out to be none other than the alter ego for none other than Mikhail Bulgakov, patronymic Afanasevich. The first paragraph describes our hero as aged about 38. That is typical of Bulgakov’s comic irony, since a person is either exactly 38 or about 40.

Having stolen the asylum keys, the master can call on his neighbours at whim, although he must be attentive not to be discovered by the warders. He cannot escape because he has nowhere to go.

This asylum is a metaphor for the Soviet Union, a vast gulag archipelago extending beyond the penal camp system into the hearts and minds and bodies and actions of almost its entire captive population, except those like Mikhail Afanasevich who maintain a secret freedom. The master, knowing the price of freedom, implores Ivan to give up his poetic vocation, not telling why. Perhaps we are invited to imagine what poets are for in a destitute time. Singing the voice of the holy and attending to the fugitive traces of being is hardly an existential possibility in the world of Stalin.

Another patient has just been admitted, muttering grimly about money planted in a ventilation shaft and how the forces of darkness have taken over his apartment. Later in the chapter yet another unfortunate new inmate will wail about getting his head back. Satan has sent the whole world mad.

When Ivan reveals his commitment was due to Pontius Pilate, the master is taken aback. Behold and lo, that is the exact subject of the master’s own novel!! Leaving out no small detail of the strange events at Patriarch Ponds, in order to make the story easier to tell like a memory mansion, Ivan elicits a flash of malice from the eyes of the master when he comes to the unfortunate demise of Berlioz, courtesy of a close adjacency between tram wheel and neck.

Here the parable is revealed. The master tells Ivan that Professor Woland is Satan. But even now, unbelievably, despite all the unbelievable events he has witnessed, Ivan will not believe it. That answer is not possible because Satan does not exist.

Such adamantine refusal of direct evidence presents a further riddle within the enigma within the story. Ivan is a loyal communist, but like all intelligent and honest people in Russia under Stalin, suffers from schizophrenia, and is thereby reduced to speechlessness by the master’s explanation. These events are so unusual and wrapped in mystery that even a genius will deny them. So the master warns against attempts to catch the devil. We might as well reap the whirlwind.

But all that is just the first half of the chapter. In the second half we almost meet Margarita, in the most passionate, exquisite, beautiful, sad and yearnful love story you could ever imagine, set amidst the stultifying forlorn and barren bleak of communist Moscow. We are also invited to think about whether manuscripts don't burn.


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Post Re: Chapter Thirteen: Enter the Hero
Robert Tulip wrote:
Enter the hero, through the locked window of Ivan’s solitary room in the asylum. Our nameless hero, sneaking around at night on asylum balconies, turns out to be none other than the alter ego for none other than Mikhail Bulgakov, patronymic Afanasevich.

Since my main thesis here is becoming that Bulgakov's mastery is best displayed in his portrayal of reactions to the insane events narrated, this chapter finally brings me to the point of seeing, however reflected and distorted, Bulgakov's own reaction.

I like the "Russian dolls" of magical realism he gives us, in which the story of Pilate is his manuscript treated so badly by the authorities, but also the story shared by Woland/Satan with the pair with whom we began the story, Ivan and Berlioz. Still working on the question of what might be the purpose of this interesting double appearance.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Having stolen the asylum keys, the master can call on his neighbours at whim, although he must be attentive not to be discovered by the warders. He cannot escape because he has nowhere to go.
I think this may turn out to be a key observation.

Robert Tulip wrote:
This asylum is a metaphor for the Soviet Union, a vast gulag archipelago extending beyond the penal camp system into the hearts and minds and bodies and actions of almost its entire captive population, except those like Mikhail Afanasevich who maintain a secret freedom.
Art always offers the chance for this "secret freedom" from the pervasive systems of lies in any society.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The master, knowing the price of freedom, implores Ivan to give up his poetic vocation, not telling why. Perhaps we are invited to imagine what poets are for in a destitute time. Singing the voice of the holy and attending to the fugitive traces of being is hardly an existential possibility in the world of Stalin.
Well, it doesn't offer a living, but it does offer a life. Note that later in the chapter, it is the response of his lover (Margarita? still unclear to me at this point) which brings on his madness, not the heartless cruelty of the literary authorities. It seems he might have made his peace with obscurity and lived with no public literary vocation if not for her insistence. Not sure what Bulgakov actually did that this might reflect.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Here the parable is revealed. The master tells Ivan that Professor Woland is Satan. But even now, unbelievably, despite all the unbelievable events he has witnessed, Ivan will not believe it.
There are several roles which could be interpreted here as that of Pilate. The authorities who doomed his story. The keepers of the asylum. The citizens who simply accept their domination. All of them go along to get along, as we say in America, not wanting to rock the boat or to threaten their own position.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Such adamantine refusal of direct evidence presents a further riddle within the enigma within the story. Ivan is a loyal communist, but like all intelligent and honest people in Russia under Stalin, suffers from schizophrenia, and is thereby reduced to speechlessness by the master’s explanation.
Schizophrenia is not too strong an image for the utter disconnect between the idealism behind communism and the reality of ruthless domination that it became. But for those too shallow of soul to see the injustice of the ancien regime except through the lens of their own oppression, the idealism was never meaningful and so the barbarity of communism was "just deserts" to those who were portrayed as "enemies of the people." In that sense even Lenin, who arguably cared more about revenge for his brother and "Who...whom" reversal of power than he did about actually improving society, could be seen as a Satanic figure and a creator of the schizophrenia of the sensitive.



The following user would like to thank Harry Marks for this post:
Robert Tulip
Fri Jan 05, 2018 1:24 pm
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