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The Master & Margarita: Epilogue 
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Post The Master & Margarita: Epilogue
Concluding this magnificent ascerbic satire of Soviet life under Stalin, the Epilogue ties the threads together to explain how the merry hell wreaked by Satan in Moscow was readily reconciled with human rationality. Bulgakov explains what is probably a basic law of human psychology, that when seemingly impossible events occur, the brain contrives to select and ignore data points in order to prevent cognitive dissonance.

By taking this process to an absurd level, describing the occurrence of impossible and imaginary events, Bulgakov is providing a moral parable of how people react when events occur that they had merely assumed were impossible. The seizure of power by the Russian Bolsheviks exercised such a cognitive dissonance among Russian liberals and conservatives, and it seems the election of Donald Trump is similarly playing havoc with the mental landscape of modern America.

It is fine for the common plebeians to believe in evil spirits, but such supernatural nonsense is not acceptable for modern rational secular intellectuals. So Bulgakov contrives to place evil spirits in his magic realist plot, in order to forensically explain how people might react.

The strange investigation of the case of Mr Woland lasted for a long time. Obviously, this evil madman was unusually skilled in mass hypnotism and ventriloquism. Hundreds of people don't just believe pieces of rubbish are valuable money, and cats don't talk. Yet the material evidence of Woland's crimes included four burnt buildings, hundreds of people driven insane, and several murders.

The blame naturally fell on black cats, with the people of Moscow declaring open season on these reputed demonic familiars, reminding them of the impossible stories of the talking cat Behemoth. Like kulaks and landlords humiliated by communist mobs, these innocent creatures became victims of irrational persecution. Luckily for one cat, its owner was able to testify of its innocence to the police, and Bulgakov wryly observes that the cat had learned by bitter experience the consequences of error and slander.

Just as the consensus understanding was that the bullet-proof cat had not fired its gun while swinging from a chandelier, so too Likhodiev had never been to Yalta, and somehow no evidence of his impossible plane journey could be located by the Moscow police, despite the corroborated testimony of the Yalta authorities.

Bulgakov’s wry humour becomes even more magical when he describes the wrenching off of a compere’s head as an “old dodge”. Mr Bulgakov, please. Such an episode is most unusual, and hardly merits the description of “old dodge”, even if Stalin liked to use such descriptions of capitalist methods. This was not an old dodge, especially with the further detail of the reattachment of the compere's head and its owner having full recollection of this unbelievable experience, while of course being driven insane by it. Most unusual indeed!


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DWill, Harry Marks
Mon Sep 24, 2018 6:11 am
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Post Re: The Master & Margarita: Epilogue
I should read this book. And if I do I'll check into the discussion you and Harry kept up for so long.



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Chris OConnor
Mon Sep 24, 2018 6:34 am
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Post Re: The Master & Margarita: Epilogue
DWill wrote:
I should read this book. And if I do I'll check into the discussion you and Harry kept up for so long.

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.


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DWill, Harry Marks
Sat Sep 29, 2018 3:09 am
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Post Re: The Master & Margarita: Epilogue
I am new to BookTalk and this is my first choice of book to read on this forum. The discussion so far encourages me to get to it this week. Just finished a few other books first. I'm really excited about in-depth discussions of books. Sorry, I'm late. :-)



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