Please help me read The Master and Margarita.
August 19, 2009 9:26 PM   Subscribe

Please help me read The Master and Margarita.

I started The Master and Margarita a couple months ago and really enjoyed the writing but struggled with the names, the plot and the biblical references (everything, basically.) I put it down for a while and now I can't remember what happened. I don't want to start over again (I'm on chapter 18) so I need to find a decent summary to remind me what's happened so far.

Unfortunately all the plot summaries I find are overly (for my purposes) concerned with the context and the important bits of Russian history, the allusions or they contain spoilers because they summarize each of the three stories as a whole.

My ideal format would be chapter-by-chapter, explaining what important happened in each. It would be great if it's an online guide but I would like to hear about hard copy guides too.

Another thing is that I'm completely unfamiliar with the Bible. I would love a link to an online summary (not original text) of the sections that would help me understand The Master and Margarita. I'm sorry I can't be any more specific as I don't know what parts those are.

(I realize that the beauty of both books is probably in the nuances and I don't mean to discount how important that is but my priority is comprehension.)
posted by cranberrymonger to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
The only part of the Bible at all that TM&M refers to (from memory, although I've read the latter book half a dozen times or more) is when Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate for trial - basically, in the day or two leading up to the crucifixion.

A simple google on Jesus + Pontius Pilate should do the trick.

I haven't seen it, but Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ covers these same events, if you're lazy.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:36 PM on August 19, 2009

This edition has very complete notes in the back.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:18 PM on August 19, 2009

(The edition Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O'Connor translated.)
posted by small_ruminant at 11:20 PM on August 19, 2009

A book such as Who's Who in the Bible might be of use.
posted by unmake at 1:14 AM on August 20, 2009

Best answer: Oh boy, I can't tell you how much I love this book! There are a couple of useful sites. First, there's this European site devoted to the book that has annotations for each chapter. Unfortunately, I do get some pop-up ads with this site at times, but the information is generally so good that even that can be forgiven. There's also this site that includes various notes including maps, chapter notes, a timeline, and notes on characters (among other things). If I were rereading the book (as I should do soon!), I would go chapter by chapter with both sites open to the chapter annotations. There is also a Penguin Reading Guide for the book, but that's more of a sweeping thematic overview.
posted by Mael Oui at 1:32 AM on August 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

You've seen Middlebury's guide to the book? Or this enthusiasts' guide?
posted by msbrauer at 7:03 AM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

I took a course on The Master and Margarita with Diana Burgin last semester, and can see if I still have any of the handouts she provided, if you're interested?
posted by sarahmelah at 11:37 AM on August 20, 2009

Response by poster: I did it! I finished the book. Thanks for all who helped out. I used this site the most.
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:58 AM on November 20, 2009

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