Re: The Master & Margarita: Epilogue
As I mentioned early on, my Aunty Cherrill gave me a copy of The Master and Margarita
about ten years ago, and it took me an enormous search through boxes of books to find it. And I am very glad that I did. It well deserves its status as Russia’s favourite novel, up against some weighty competition. I recommend the Glenny translation. In this discussion, I first read the book straight through, and then re-read each chapter and commented, looking at literary, political, historical and religious factors. I have very much appreciated Harry’s shared interest, and hope other readers may find our conversation of value.
Continuing on with the Epilogue, the Satanic Yalta teleporting was the hardest thing for the police to explain. The expedient loss of telegrams was therefore complemented by the hypothesis of mass hypnosis at vast distance. As Sherlock Holmes said, Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. It goes to show that the impossibility of Satanic magic requires creative imagination to explain. It is well in making such explanations to affect an air of insouciant superiority, condescending toward anyone who suggests these conjuring tricks were more than mediocre.
Nearly everything was explained away in this manner, with a notable exception being the identity of the Master. The reader might well think this is only presented as notable due to authorial licence, since this character is entirely autobiographical in manner, if not in actual deeds.
Bulgakov explains how traumatised the Variety compere was by the memory of having his head removed and reattached on stage. Bengalsky was unable to return to his career, and his personality changed from cheerful to a compulsive depression. This looks to be a metaphor for what happened to Russia as a result of the communist revolution, collectively losing sanity and then having an imposed patronising pseudo-rationality put back in place of sanity by the Soviets.
Similarly, the theatre manager Rimsky proved to be permanently traumatised by the memory of the ghoulish midnight encounter at the theatre window, prematurely aged and unable to work. As predicted by Satan, the barman at the Variety who had visited the devil to seek his money back died quickly of liver cancer. A similar range of anecdotes, a mix of real and imagined, are provided for other characters in this book, which like Don Quixote we are told is a truthful account.
In conclusion, a Professor of History and Philosophy, wandering the streets of Moscow, sees a stout elderly gentleman sitting in his garden. The reader quickly surmises this is none other than The Master, Mikhail Bulgakov himself, muttering to himself his regrets about not flying away with his intense love, missing his chance for eternal bliss.
The final recapitulation brings together the various threads. Jesus and Pilate walk along a moonbeam chatting about whether Jesus actually existed, and Jesus assures Pilate that the entire account of his crucifixion was entirely imaginary, an amazing blend of fact and fiction. The river of moonlight then materialises into a woman of incomparable beauty, who kisses the Professor on the forehead, saying all will be as it should be.