Joseph Heller’s masterpiece of anti-war satire is given a fittingly glorious home in this Folio edition introduced by celebrated writer and critic Malcolm Bradbury.
The Master and Margarita
Illustrated by Peter Suart
Introduced by Orlando Figes
Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
One of the great masterpieces of the 20th century, Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita is beautifully crafted as a unique Folio edition with illustrations by Peter Suart and an introduction by Orlando Figes.
‘One of the blazing masterpieces of the 20th century’
- The Times
The Devil has arrived in Moscow and, along with his demons and a large black cat, he carves a trail of chaos and destruction through Soviet society. Smuggled past the censors in 1967, and published more than 25 years after Mikhail Bulgakov’s death, The Master and Margarita was an instant success. Its subversive message, dark humour and lyrical force combined to make it a beacon of optimism and freedom throughout Russia and the world. One of Folio’s most requested titles, the novel has also been a source of inspiration for writers and musicians, featuring in David Bowie’s Top 100 Books and inspiring Mick Jagger’s lyrics for ’Sympathy for the Devil‘. This sumptuous edition showcases Peter Suart’s specially commissioned illustrations, which explore the philosophical and fantasy themes of the narrative, while his stunning binding design features Azazello, Koroviev and Behemoth in antagonistic poses. Historian and Russian history expert Orlando Figes delves deep into the historical context of the novel and its barely concealed attacks on the Soviet Union in an introduction written for the edition.
Bound in blocked cloth
Set in Joanna
13 colour illustrations
9½″ x 6¼″
On a hot spring afternoon in Moscow, a poet and an editor are discussing the non-existence of Jesus. A polite foreign gentleman interrupts their debate, claiming to have known Jesus and to have been present when he was condemned to death by Pontius Pilate. Moreover, he predicts the editor’s death: a bizarre accident which happens exactly as the foreigner foretells. This is the Devil and he has come to expose the hypocrisy and greed of those around him, their willingness to inform on neighbours, their urgent scrabble for power and their fear for themselves. One man seems different: a writer known as the master who, in despair, has burned his unpublished novel and has been incarcerated in an asylum. His lover, the passionate, courageous Margarita, will do anything to save him – including serving the Devil himself.
‘Manuscripts don’t burn’
Writing The Master and Margarita in secret between 1928 and 1940, through the period of Stalin purges, Bulgakov was already deemed anti-Soviet; his plays were banned and he had few illusions that anyone would publish this highly satirical work. Like his main character, he destroyed a draft in despair and stopped writing for a year before taking up his pen again and working through numerous drafts of the manuscript. As the Devil tells the master in the novel, in a phrase which went on to become a watchword of hope: ‘Manuscripts don’t burn.’ And so, in 1967, The Master and Margarita was finally published in Paris as a book with relatively minor cuts. The manuscript that was ‘written for the drawer’ was an instant bestseller and went on to become one of the most important and admired works of the 20th century.
Mikhail Bulgakov was born in Kiev in 1891. He studied and practised medicine but gave up his medical career to become a writer of short stories, plays and novels. His combination of humour and satire gained him a popular following, but his work also attracted the attention of the Soviet authorities and by 1930 his writing was essentially banned from publication. He went on to write two of his greatest works during this time: Black Snow: A Theatrical Novel (1967), and The Master and Margarita (1966–7; Folio Society 2010), both of which were finally published long after his death in 1940.
Born in London in 1959, Orlando Figes studied at the University of Cambridge and went on to become a lecturer in history and Fellow at Trinity College for 15 years. Figes has written a number of books about Russian history, including A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891–1924 (1996; Folio Society 2013), which won The Wolfson Prize, the WH Smith Literary Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His most recent book is The Europeans (2019).
Peter Suart attended school in England but was brought up in Hong Kong and he returned there in 1985 to pursue his career as an artist, musician, writer and theatrical performer. In 1987 Suart co-founded the theatrical musical ensemble, The Box, with Kung Chi Shing, collaborating with dancers, actors and artists to produce concerts and plays. Suart wrote and illustrated the Tik and Tok book series and has illustrated a number of Folio Society books, including the limited edition of Gulliver’s Travels (2011), and The Master and Margarita (2010).
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