Monday, January 26, 2009

Graphic Novel Monday: The Master and Margarita

The Master and Margarita. Published 2008 by Self Made Hero ( Text adapted from Mikhail Bulgakov's novel of the same name and art by Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal. Literary Fiction. Graphic Novel. Translated from the Russian.

Mikhail Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita is a classic of Soviet dissident literature; the plot concerns a writer, ("The Master,"), his mistress Margarita and their encounter with the Devil, who is in Moscow with his entourage of demons, causing all manner of mischief. The Master is writing a novel about Jesus and the Crucifixion when a mysterious magician, Woland, arrives and claims to have been an eyewitness. What follows is a satirical, haunting and brilliant piece of fiction.

Klimowski and Schejbal's graphic adaptation is an abbreviated version of Bulgakov's tale, rendered in a beautiful and emotive artistic style. Most scenes set in the present-day are rendered in a smudgy black and white that speaks of cold, poverty and despair; scenes set in Biblical times come alive in bright charcoal hues of cerulean blue and crimson. The present-day comes alive in color during Woland's performance as a magician, when his supernatural powers are on full display. The choice to illustrate the theater scenes in color is both appropriate and disturbing; appropriate because it's the height of the drama, and disturbing due to the violence and humiliation heaped on the hapless theatergoers.

So what did I think? Well, I enjoyed Bulgakov's novel immensely and it was fun to relive it in a graphic novel form. The characters and plot are greatly simplified and if someone were going to choose a medium in which to experience the story, I would pick the novel hands-down. If you're a fan of the novel I think you'll enjoy the graphic version, and I think readers looking for something a little different in a graphic novel would enjoy it as well- it just doesn't give you the depth and color of the novel though. What your imagination can generate through Bulgakov's words is so much richer than even this book's beautiful illustrations. Beautiful but somewhat forgettable, it's not an essential read but if you can get your hands on a copy I wouldn't turn it down.


FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.


Andi said...

Thanks for the review! I guess I still need to read the novel. Drat! lol

Marie Cloutier said...

Andi, I was thinking of you when I wrote the review! :-)

Candy Schultz said...

I have the novel on my shelf. Rushdie said he was reading it when he wrote The Satanic Verses. I have yet to get to it.