(My review on goodreads)
In principle I should have hated this novel: it’s filled with supernatural beings and events, and has a strongly Christian bent. But the story grabs you from page one, and doesn’t let go. And knowing that Bulgakov wrote this in the Soviet Union at a time when there was not a single chance that it would be published: even better.
Satan and his retinue are the stars of the show: you just gotta love those mischievous scamps with their disguises and tricks. A bit rough around the edges perhaps, but really good at what they do.
Bulgakov seems to have taken special delight in devising the torments and difficulties for the literary establishment, as represented by MASSOLIT, who have their conventional and privileged lives most seriously disrupted. But it’s all in good fun except, of course, for the occasional horrible death.
I don’t know quite what to think about the whole Pontius Pilate thing, but I like how that part of the story developed, with Pilate condemned to millenia of regret, feeling that he had left things unsaid between himself and Yeshua. And it was interesting that Bulgakov created a Satan that basically serves as a fixer for - who? God? - it’s a bit ambiguous.
I was able to enjoy this novel because there was always something serious just under the surface: Bulgakov was taking a brave stand for artistic freedom, and he didn’t hold back at all. And it is just brilliantly written and plotted.