So I started reading this book and I had no idea where the author was going with it. And then I finished reading this book and still had no idea where the author was going with it. So, despite my chronic laziness, I turned to the commentary and afterword to try and figure out what the heck I had just read.
From the dust jacket I got this description of the book: "Together they succeed in comically befuddling a population which denies the devil's existence, even as it is confronted with the diabolic results of a magic act gone wrong." So far, so good.
However, as soon as you open this book you are confronted with this quote from Goethe's Faust: ". . . and so, who are you, after all? -I am part of the power which forever wills evil and forever works good." This quote is explained in the commentary which states "the epigraph introduces the theme of heresy, one which will be reinforced throughout this novel . . . Goethe believed in the theory of polarities which is essentially a version of Manichean thought. In the Manichean view, there are two cardinal principles in the world, the light and the dark, the good and the evil. In this scheme of things, as stated by Mephistopheles in Goethe's Faust, God dwells in eternal light, the devils are consigned in darkness, and human beings have only day and night. This sort of dualistic thinking was unacceptable to the Christian faith, which requires that good be stronger than evil, not equal to it; therefore this kind of worldview was considered heretical." So the reader is supposed to understand right from the beginning what becomes clear as the novel progresses, that this is a heretical, and primarily Manichean, work. It comes down to this: "Yeshua (Jesus) does not appear to be more powerful than Woland (Satan), and it is left quite unclear whether there is a power higher than Woland himself." I'm not okay with that and I would never feel comfortable recommending this book to anyone.
In addition to being heretical the book also deals extensively with witchcraft in a way that I was not at all comfortable with.
Furthermore, one basically has to have a working knowledge of Christology and Goethe's Faust to fully comprehend this book.
The author is a good satirist but that's about all I can say for the book. And I'm still not sure what the point of the book was.
If anyone has insights on the book I'd love to hear them as I'm still rather confused.
- "'Keep in mind that Jesus did exist.' 'You know, Professor,' answered Berlioz with a forced smile, 'we respect your great knowledge, but we happen to have a different point of view regarding that issue.' 'No points of view are necessary,' replied the strange professor. 'He simply existed and that's all there is to it.'"
- "What is it with you? Whatever comes up you say doesn't exist."
- "'Why the icon?' 'Well the icon . . .' Ivan turned red, 'The icon was what scared them most of all"
- "Who ever told you there is no such thing in the world as real, true, everlasting love? May the liar have his despicable tongue cut out!"