Why does Bulgakov try to convince the readers the events happenning in Moscow are fiction and those in Yershalaim were real?
A novel The Master and Margarita written by Mikhail Bulgakov, a great writer of 20th century, is a masterpiece of the literature of the world scale which deals with questions of ethics. It criticizes the Soviet Union’s policies considering them in the spiritual perspective.
Bulgakov’s novel is very complicated, its fragments are written in various genres but in general this novel is defined as a satire. It can be sensed “in the special tone of Bulgakov’s writing, a combination of laughter (satire, caricature, buffoonery) and the most unguarded vulnerability” (Pevear, 2). It has 2 plot lines. They are rather independent from each other but combined with slightly visible connections. The first line is set in contemporary Moscow and portrays many characters including such central as Master (writer) and Margarita, the poet Ivan Homeless and other. The second line unfolds in Jershalaim (ancient Jerusalem). Main characters acting here are Pontius Pilate and Jeshua-ha-Nozri. Apart from these two lines novel includes storyline of Woland (Satan) and his retinue who, on the one hand, cause havoc in Moscow and, on the other hand, are invisibly present during events that took place in Jerusalem. Finally, the Jerusalem line interweaves with the Moscow line at the last scene joining its characters.
The Moscow line is concerned with the authority, material issues of Moscowians. Bulgakov was dissatisfied with the whole situation in Soviet Union and with the fact that his novel wasn’t published. By arranging of numerous scenes of havoc Woland is trying to explain people “that man does not govern the world – although he usually thinks he does” (from conversation with Ivan Homeless at the Patriarch Ponds) (Wright, 263). Woland is trying to tell the truth using fantasy.
In the second line Bulgakov considers the topic of man’s power from the spiritual point. As Yeshua explains: “every form of authority means coercion over man and … a time will come into the kingdom of truth and justice” (p. 30 from the novel). Since Pilate represents the state, he doesn’t agree with Yesua. Because the events in Jerusalem were real, author uses it to consider a new topic of power in the light of these events so that events in Bulgakov’s Jershalaim seem to be truthful too…
Pevear, R. (1997). Introduction. In Bulgakov, M. Master and Margarita (pp. 1-11). English translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. London: Penguin Books.
Wright, A. C. (1978). Mikhail Bulgakov: Life and Interpretations (pp. 258-273). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.