Mikhail Bulgakov. The Master and Margarita


НазваниеMikhail Bulgakov. The Master and Margarita
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Mikhail Bulgakov. The Master and Margarita






Contents




BOOK ONE
1 Never Talk to Strangers

2 Pontius Pilate

3 The Seventh Proof

4 The Pursuit

5 The Affair at Griboyedov

6 Schizophrenia

7 The Haunted Flat

8 A Duel between Professor and Poet

9 Koroviev's Tricks

10 News from Yalta

11 The Two Ivans

12. Black Magic Revealed

13 Enter the Hero

14 Saved by Cock-Crow

15 The Dream of Nikanor Ivanovich

16 The Execution

17 A Day of Anxiety

18 Unwelcome Visitors
book two
19 Margarita

20 Azazello's Cream

21 The Flight

22 By Candlelight

23 Satan's Rout

24 The Master is Released

25 How the Procurator Tried to Save Judas of Karioth

26 The Burial

27 The Last of Flat No. 50

28 The Final Adventure of Koroviev and Behemoth

29 The Fate of the Master and Margarita is Decided

30 Time to Go

31 On Sparrow Hills

32 Absolution and Eternal Refuge

Epilogue

'Say at last--who art thou?'

'That Power I serve

Which wills forever evil

Yet does forever good.'
Goethe, Faust


* BOOK ONE *



1. Never Talk to Strangers
At the sunset hour of one warm spring day two men were to be seen at

Patriarch's Ponds. The first of them--aged about forty, dressed in a greyish

summer suit--was short, dark-haired, well-fed and bald. He carried his

decorous pork-pie hat by the brim and his neatly shaven face was embellished

by black hornrimmed spectacles of preternatural dimensions. The other, a

broad-shouldered young man with curly reddish hair and a check cap pushed

back to the nape of his neck, was wearing a tartan shirt, chewed white

trousers and black sneakers.

The first was none other than Mikhail Alexandrovich Berlioz, editor of

a highbrow literary magazine and chairman of the management cofnmittee of

one of the biggest Moscow literary clubs, known by its abbreviation as

massolit; his young companion was the poet Ivan Nikolayich Poniryov who

wrote under the pseudonym of Bezdomny.

Reaching the shade of the budding lime trees, the two writers went

straight to a gaily-painted kiosk labelled'Beer and Minerals'.

There was an oddness about that terrible day in May which is worth

recording : not only at the kiosk but along the whole avenue parallel to

Malaya Bronnaya Street there was not a person to be seen. It was the hour of

the day when people feel too exhausted to breathe, when Moscow glows in a

dry haze as the sun disappears behind the Sadovaya Boulevard--yet no one had

come out for a walk under the limes, no one was sitting on a bench, the

avenue was empty.

'A glass of lemonade, please,'said Berlioz.

'There isn't any,'replied the woman in the kiosk. For some reason the

request seemed to offend her.

'Got any beer?' enquired Bezdomny in a hoarse voice.

' Beer's being delivered later this evening' said the woman.

' Well what have you got?' asked Berlioz.

' Apricot juice, only it's warm' was the answer.

' All right, let's have some.'

The apricot juice produced a rich yellow froth, making the air smell

like a hairdresser's. After drinking it the two writers immediately began to

hiccup. They paid and sat down on a bench facing the pond, their backs to

Bronnaya Street.Then occurred the second oddness, which affected Berlioz

alone. He suddenly stopped hiccuping, his heart thumped and for a moment

vanished, then returned but with a blunt needle sticking into it. In

addition Berlioz was seized by a fear that was groundless but so powerful

that he had an immediate impulse to run away from Patriarch's Ponds without

looking back.

Berlioz gazed miserably about him, unable to say what had frightened

him. He went pale, wiped his forehead with his handkerchief and thought: '

What's the matter with me? This has never happened before. Heart playing

tricks . . . I'm overstrained ... I think it's time to chuck everything up

and go and take the waters at Kislovodsk. . . .'

Just then the sultry air coagulated and wove itself into the shape of a

man--a transparent man of the strangest appearance. On his small head was a

jockey-cap and he wore a short check bum-freezer made of air. The man was

seven feet tall but narrow in the shoulders, incredibly thin and with a face

made for derision.

Berlioz's life was so arranged that he was not accustomed to seeing

unusual phenomena. Paling even more, he stared and thought in consternation

: ' It can't be!'

But alas it was, and the tall, transparent gentleman was swaying from

left to right in front of him without touching the ground.

Berlioz was so overcome with horror that he shut his eyes. When he

opened them he saw that it was all over, the mirage had dissolved, the

chequered figure had vanished and the blunt needle had simultaneously

removed itself from his heart.

' The devil! ' exclaimed the editor. ' D'you know, Ivan, the heat

nearly gave me a stroke just then! I even saw something like a hallucination

. . . ' He tried to smile but his eyes were still blinking with fear and his

hands trembled. However he gradually calmed down, flapped his handkerchief

and with a brave enough ' Well, now. . . ' carried on the conversation that

had been interrupted by their drink of apricot juice.

They had been talking, it seemed, about Jesus Christ. The fact was that

the editor had commissioned the poet to write a long anti-religious poem for

one of the regular issues of his magazine. Ivan Nikolayich had written this

poem in record time, but unfortunately the editor did not care for it at

all. Bezdomny had drawn the chief figure in his poem, Jesus, in very black

colours, yet in the editor's opinion the whole poem had to be written again.

And now he was reading Bezdomny a lecture on Jesus in order to stress the

poet's fundamental error.

It was hard to say exactly what had made Bezdomny write as he

had--whether it was his great talent for graphic description or complete

ignorance of the subject he was writing on, but his Jesus had come out,

well, completely alive, a Jesus who had really existed, although admittedly

a Jesus who had every possible fault.

Berlioz however wanted to prove to the poet that the main object was

not who Jesus was, whether he was bad or good, but that as a person Jesus

had never existed at all and that all the stories about him were mere

invention, pure myth.

The editor was a well-read man and able to make skilful reference to

the ancient historians, such as the famous Philo of Alexandria and the

brilliantly educated Josephus Flavius, neither of whom mentioned a word of

Jesus' existence. With a display of solid erudition, Mikhail Alexandrovich

informed the poet that incidentally, the passage in Chapter 44 of the

fifteenth book of Tacitus' Annals, where he describes the execution of

Jesus, was nothing but a later forgery.

The poet, for whom everything the editor was saying was a novelty,

listened attentively to Mikhail Alexandrovich, fixing him with his bold

green eyes, occasionally hiccuping and cursing the apricot juice under his

breath.

' There is not one oriental religion,' said Berlioz, ' in which an

immaculate virgin does not bring a god into the world. And the Christians,

lacking any originality, invented their Jesus in exactly the same way. In

fact he never lived at all. That's where the stress has got to lie.

Berlioz's high tenor resounded along the empty avenue and as Mikhail

Alexandrovich picked his way round the sort of historical pitfalls that can

only be negotiated safely by a highly educated man, the poet learned more

and more useful and instructive facts about the Egyptian god Osiris, son of

Earth and Heaven, about the Phoenician god Thammuz, about Marduk and even

about the fierce little-known god Vitzli-Putzli, who had once been held in

great veneration by the Aztecs of Mexico. At the very moment when Mikhail

Alexandrovich was telling the poet how the Aztecs used to model figurines of

Vitzli-Putzli out of dough-- the first man appeared in the avenue.

Afterwards, when it was frankly too late, various bodies collected

their data and issued descriptions of this man. As to his teeth, he haid

platinum crowns on his left side and gold ones on his tight. He wore an

expensive grey suit and foreign shoes of the same colour as his suit. His

grey beret was stuck jauntily over one ear and under his arm he carried a

walking-stick with a knob in the shape of a poodle's head. He looked

slightly over forty. Crooked sort of mouth. Clean-shav-n. Dark hair. Right

eye black, left ieye for some reason green. Eyebrows black, but one higher

than the other. In short--a foreigner.

As he passed the bench occupied by the editor and the poet, the

foreigner gave them a sidelong glance, stopped and suddenly sat down on the

next bench a couple of paces away from the two friends.

' A German,'' thought Berlioz. ' An Englishman. ...' thought Bezdomny.

' Phew, he must be hot in those gloves!'

The stranger glanced round the tall houses that formed a square round

the pond, from which it was obvious that he seeing this locality for the

first time and that it interested him. His gaze halted on the upper storeys,

whose panes threw back a blinding, fragmented reflection of the sun which

was setting on Mikhail Alexandrovich for ever ; he then looked downwards to

where the windows were turning darker in the early evening twilight, smiled

patronisingly at something, frowned, placed his hands on the knob of his

cane and laid his chin on his hands.

' You see, Ivan,' said Berlioz,' you have written a marvellously

satirical description of the birth of Jesus, the son of God, but the whole

joke lies in the fact that there had already been a whole series of sons of

God before Jesus, such as the Phoenician Adonis, the Phrygian Attis, the

Persian Mithras. Of course not one of these ever existed, including Jesus,

and instead of the nativity or the arrival of the Magi you should have

described the absurd rumours about their arrival. But according to your

story the nativity really took place! '

Here Bezdomny made an effort to stop his torturing hiccups and held his

breath, but it only made him hiccup more loudly and painfully. At that

moment Berlioz interrupted his speech because the foreigner suddenly rose

and approached the two writers. They stared at him in astonishment.

' Excuse me, please,' said the stranger with a foreign accent, although

in correct Russian, ' for permitting myself, without an introduction . . .

but the subject of your learned conversation was so interesting that. . .'

Here he politely took off his beret and the two friends had no

alternative but to rise and bow.

' No, probably a Frenchman.. . .' thought Berlioz.

' A Pole,' thought Bezdomny.

I should add that the poet had found the stranger repulsive from first

sight, although Berlioz had liked the look of him, or rather not exactly

liked him but, well. . . been interested by him.

' May I join you? ' enquired the foreigner politely, and as the two

friends moved somewhat unwillingly aside he adroitly placed himself 'between

them and at once joined the conversation. ' If I am not mistaken, you were

saying that Jesus never existed, were you not? ' he asked, turning his green

left eye on Berlioz.

' No, you were not mistaken,' replied Berlioz courteously. ' I did

indeed say that.'

' Ah, how interesting! ' exclaimed the foreigner.

' What the hell does he want?' thought Bezdomny and frowned.

' And do you agree with your friend? ' enquired the unknown man,

turning to Bezdomny on his right.

' A hundred per cent! ' affirmed the poet, who loved to use pretentious

numerical expressions.

' Astounding! ' cried their unbidden companion. Glancing furtively

round and lowering his voice he said : ' Forgive me for being so rude, but

am I right in thinking that you do not believe in God either? ' He gave a

horrified look and said: ' I swear not to tell anyone! '

' Yes, neither of us believes in God,' answered Berlioz with a faint

smile at this foreign tourist's apprehension. ' But we can talk about it

with absolute freedom.'

The foreigner leaned against the backrest of the bench and asked, in a

voice positively squeaking with curiosity :

' Are you . . . atheists? '

' Yes, we're atheists,' replied Berlioz, smiling, and Bezdomny thought

angrily : ' Trying to pick an argument, damn foreigner! '

'Oh, how delightful!' exclaimed the astonishing foreigner and swivelled

his head from side to side, staring at each of them in turn.

' In our country there's nothing surprising about atheism,' said

Berlioz with diplomatic politeness. ' Most of us have long ago and quite

consciously given up believing in all those fairy-tales about God.'

At this the foreigner did an extraordinary thing--he stood up and shook

the astonished editor by the hand, saying as he did so :

'Allow me to thank you with all my heart!'

' What are you thanking him for? ' asked Bezdomny, blinking.

' For some very valuable information, which as a traveller I find

extremely interesting,' said the eccentric foreigner, raising his forefinger

meaningfully.

This valuable piece of information had obviously made a powerful

impression on the traveller, as he gave a frightened glance at the houses as

though afraid of seeing an atheist at every window.

' No, he's not an Englishman,' thought Berlioz. Bezdomny thought: '

What I'd like to know is--where did he manage to pick up such good Russian?

' and frowned again.

' But might I enquire,' began the visitor from abroad after some

worried reflection, ' how you account for the proofs of the existence of

God, of which there are, as you know, five? '

' Alas! ' replied Berlioz regretfully. ' Not one of these proofs is

valid, and mankind has long since relegated them to the archives. You must

agree that rationally there can be no proof of the existence of God.'

' Bravo!' exclaimed the stranger. ' Bravo! You have exactly repeated
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