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This translation by Burgin and O'Connor strives for the most direct translation of the uncensored original novel into standard American English, a feat that has apparently not been accomplished until now.
Bulgakov's magnum opus is a work that defies categorization. It is a unique combination of scathing political satire, black humor, fantasy, religious commentary, social exploration, and horror. It is a decidedly Russian work, and in that sense many of the allusions and symbolism of the Stalinist terror were lost on me. Fortunately, the notes at the back of this book helped to clarify much that I had missed.
This is a haunting book that strikes a delicate balance: it is just as violent and disturbing as it is funny and compelling. It is a subtly genius work that would require multiple readings in order to truly penetrate all of the layers of sarcasm and subterfuge, and to understand what the author was really trying to say, especially since he was writing at a time when he wasn't free enough to truly speak.
This is not a book for the squeamish. But for those who can stomach the horrors of this book (whether real, implied, or imagined), you should find much to enjoy, to think about, to shudder from, and to regret. It is a work that defies comparison and is well deserving of its place among the timeless classics.