Il Maestro e Margherita
This is the book I read most translations of. My father bought me a copy in 1988. Well in fact it might have been as early as 1986. I'll check my copy, it's sure to be earlier than the ISBN I registered here. I ploughed halfway through, starting with a lot of enthusiasm. I'd just read Heart of a Dog
This is the book I read most translations of. My father bought me a copy in 1988. Well in fact it might have been as early as 1986. I'll check my copy, it's sure to be earlier than the ISBN I registered here. I ploughed halfway through, starting with a lot of enthusiasm. I'd just read Heart of a Dog in Italian and was crazy about Bulgakov. The Master and Margarita somehow fell short of expectations. We were in Livorno, just coming from the Elba island and headed towards Corsica. My father took me trekking for three or four days across northern Corsica; before the ferry sailed, he bought me this book. After a while I really could not go on reading it, so bored I was. I guess this is also the book about which I've changed my opinion most radically in the course of time, for if I really had to save a book, one book and only one, this would be it. I don't remember the first time I read it and really enjoyed it, but I do remember buying a different Italian translation (Rizzoli) at a certain point: I'd already read the book a zillion times by then. I wanted to re-read it but I was on holiday and didn't have it with me, so I just grabbed a copy at a second-hand bookshop. It was terribly disappointing. I came to realize that Vera Dridso's translation (for Einaudi) is the most brilliant translation of all. I can't read Russian, but I'm starting to wonder whether Dridso's translation would actually beat the original. Furthermore, some bits were missing from the Rizzoli edition. I then also bought another Italian edition, it might have been Mondadori but I can't be sure, and that was also missing some parts, and the translation was not exceptional. I read three English translations: an old, battered paperback that belonged to my father and must have been in the house for centuries, looking at the pitiful state of its binding (bits missing and average translation); the Everyman's hardback edition (bits missing and average translation) and lately the new Penguin Classics edition (ISBN 0141180145 --- no missing parts and surprisingly good translation). I only read one French edition, the new critical Pleiade (ISBN 2070113892 --- no missing parts and good translation as far as I can ascertain but my French lit crit abilities leave much to be desired). Well Dridso's first translation was the absolute best: it has more pizzazz, I don't know how else to express this. The character descriptions are more ironic. With this translation, I can picture Bulgakov taking the mickey out of Stalin-period bureaucrats by simply describing their dignified behaviours in a strident way, which is kind of missing from the other editions. Furthermore, this very copy followed me across Europe through my 1992 inter-railing and cycling adventures. I read it while resting on a tree in a Cote d'Azur youth hostel; I read it in a tent whilst in Amsterdam for the first time ever; I read it on trains and cars and roads and bycicles. I wrote some half-baked diaries from the days in Prague in its back cover. After Vienna, I clothed it with a city map, which was gloriously born until a couple of years ago, when it fell apart. A film was shot based on this book. I am very curious but I don't know whether I really want to watch it. Whenever I see a film made from a book I read, I get a bad deal. Either the film is bad, or the film is good and its images replace the images I had made in my head, and I'd rather stay with my own images than someone else's. Besides, this is the only book that makes me wish I was a film director. I have many scenes impressed visually on my mind, which does not often happen to me. One of the clearest is Varenucha the vampire; when Rimski finds him out, I imagine his demeanour, his countenance, the grimace of his skew lips just transformed, very red onto very white. I imagine Rimski become more and more aware that something is wrong; I see Rimski looking at the missing shadow in horror, whilst all his hair turns white; I see Varenucha following Rimski's gaze and realizing his cover is blown, and proffering terribly, ``You guessed, damn you, you've always been the smart one!'', and as the scene transforms into a rotting underground tomb, with Hella sliding a slimy, inhumanly flexible cadaverous arm into a grid window to attempt to click it open from the inside, I see the vampire starting to jump up and down, innaturally floating in the air, knees up, nails out and long canine teeth, for seconds at a time, laughing with hellish sounds. I also smell the putrid odour emanating from Hella transformed into a corpse, and the panic-stricken fear immobilizing Rimski's body as in a nightmare when you can't move but you just know that if you don't move you are going to die within seconds. And finally, I hear the first cock crow: a flash of reality lights the scene for a split second and leaves vampire and witch temporarily blind; Varenucha, floating in the air, suddenly falls with a painful grunt. Hella shudders and looks around left and right, alarmed. As they are re-gaining strength, the second and then third crows resound, at which point Hella flies away and Varenucha, still up in the air, extends his knees, lies flat in mid-air, perfectly dressed in a tuxedo, head towards the window, front towards the ceiling, arms along the body and void, expressionless eyes, and starts sliding out of the windows and into nothingness in slow motion, as if towed on invisible rails. I have many such scenes in mind, each filled with incredibly vivid details. I'd say my brain built visual representations for almost any page in the book. I once dreamt Satan's full moon ball: the Jazz monkeys and the champagne turned cognac pool, for Christ's sake. A writer's wife out on the Griboedov's veranda restaurant, as she impatiently fiddles with her spoon and looks around as if to say, ``what's happening? why aren't we being served?'' The police team shooting Behemoth with machine guns in the Number 50 apartment in Sadovaja street and the cat emptying a whole cartridge onto the policemen, without anything actually happening: I see the cat's expression, a sort of cowboy swinging on the 1950's fake diamond chandelier. I know the room: in my head, it's my grandmother's bedroom in her Milan apartment: Lychodeev's room when he wakes up with the grandest hangover in literary history, the Devil's room when he receives the variety's buffet administrator lamenting the fake banknotes, when its entourage and him hold a small, intimate discussion after the ball, and when everything goes up in flames. I see the Devil talking with Levi Matthew on a roof overlooking Moscow; the roof is flat with a concrete banister, and holds a semi-spherical penthouse in the centre: Levi Matthew appears into reality from its walls. The colour is a clear concrete beige over the whole roof, and the sun is progressively being covered by the impending storm. Last time I read Margarita's flight and descent into the Valpurgisnacht around Moscow, I was flying out of Sheremetevo airport at dusk, bound for Ulaanbaatar on an Aeroflot jet. I saw feeble lights flicker in the woods and recognized various sabbat's characters. I don't want any bloody film getting rid of all this.
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La Garde blanche
This book contains "Heart of a dog". It's a new French translation --- La Pleiade almost always commissions new translations for their editions, and they came out with this Bulgakov opera omnia in 2 volumes (this is the first) rather recently. I really like Heart of a Dog. It's the first Bulgakov I
This book contains "Heart of a dog". It's a new French translation --- La Pleiade almost always commissions new translations for their editions, and they came out with this Bulgakov opera omnia in 2 volumes (this is the first) rather recently. I really like Heart of a Dog. It's the first Bulgakov I ever read.
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