Friday, February 03, 2012

Wislawa Szymborska Dies

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

My Name in Digital Lights

I forgot to pimp this sooner, but here's my latest review on Three Percent. It's not a positive review, which means it was fun to write.

Book Geek -- 3 Quick Thoughts on Bulgakov

It was nice to read that Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, my favorite book, was voted second most essential by the Russian people, behind War and Peace and above Crime and Punishment, two books most people outside of Russia have heard of even if they have not read them. Bulgakov’s book has the distinction of being a book that many outside of Russia have neither heard of nor read, though perhaps that is a bit unfair—there’s a cult around The Master and Margarita, one to which I gleefully belong. And it is vastly read in comparison to many other Russian writers who barely penetrate the global consciousness due largely to lack of translation. I might make the case that their appeal is limited, though that’s a discussion I do not wish to make at this time. We can debate this over drinks if you are of the mind.

I am a diseased man. I have bought my seventeenth (eighteenth?) copy of The Master and Margarita. I bought it during a snowstorm a week and a half back. I was killing time at Europa Bookstore looking over Bolaño books in Spanish, many of which I own, one of which, Amuleto, I read. I didn’t notice the Russian section at first, but my eye eventually stumbled on Bulgakov’s name (in Russian, hard to decipher) and his masterwork. I snagged the copy and added it to the Bulgakov shelf in my library. I will never read this book in Russian. Neither will I read it in Portuguese or Spanish, though I have copies in those languages. I will never read the Bulgakov short stories in Italian that also sit on my shelf. I may not read the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of The Master and Margarita either, even though I have it. P & V are a brand of sorts, and while I love what they have done to Dostoyevsky, I am not so anxious to see their rendering of Bulgakov. Still, it is my belief that one should read many translations of a favorite literary work to gain deeper perspective, so maybe I will give their version a whirl. For the record, I am a strong endorser of the Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O’Connor version. Vintage published it in the '90s along with helpful endnotes and an afterword by Ellendea Proffer.

I can’t explain why I love the book. I could go into the story, the satirical elements, the background, the technique, but fuck it. You can get that and more here But I will say this: most people are geeks about something. Political geeks, history geeks, sport geeks, or good ol’ fashioned sci-fi geeks. I am a book geek. I have a lot of books that I consider favorites, but for whatever reason I have decided to be extra geeky about The Master and Margarita. As I said, I am a diseased man (name the book where I stole that line and you’ll qualify as a geek too).