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The 120th anniversary of Mikhail Bulgakov’s birth prompts examinations of his famous novel "The Master and Margarita." This novel stands him out as the titan of the classical world literature. In Russia, where the literary traditions are often taken seriously, numerous memorable and much-quoted lines from the text have entered the Russian lexicon. You are offered a fairly straightforward quiz on "The Master and Margarita"’s characters. Watch the new movie trailer and try to identify the quotes with characters.

Cultural reference

The first edition of "The Master and Margarita" came out in a heavily censored version, and was immediately widely decried by critics as obscure and heretical. As the critical climate in Russia changed with the weakening and then the downfall of the Soviet regime that never quite known what to do with Bukgakov, a fresh critical discussions around his novel in a variety of contexts have become frequent and sophisticated.

There don’t seem to be many strong role models in Bulgakov’s novel. Not only the novel’s secondary characters are devastatingly flawed -- corrupted or greedy, but major characters are as well weak and hypochondriac. So the author has to reach much further back to the time of Pontius Pilate to find a real ‘hero’. But it is clear that Bulgakov’s characters are not meant as accurate portrayal of figures of Gospel account, though he borrowed a number of details from the Gospels in depicting them.

A rather paradoxical matter, for many Soviet readers this extraordinary mysterious and mystic novel became the first encounter with the Bible, a book discredited by the atheist communist government. It also should be noted that Bulgakov worked on this every bit unique and potent book during one of the darkest periods of the Soviet history, so he treated the everyday Soviet phenomena in the most vague, impersonal and hushed manner. Given very rich allusive foundation, comic distortions of biblical and literary motives to sardonically refer to the Soviet reality, Bulgakov’s novel is notoriously difficult to interpret. So it should be no surprise that Russian screen adaptations of this cult novel have appeared not long ago.

The first TV mini-series of 10 52-minute episodes by film director Vladimir Bortko was shown in December 2005. Yuri Kara’s three-hour film that was done back in 1994 and finally released in January 2011 is now headed to the screen.

It is obvious that Yuri Kara’s vision of characters invariably doesn’t match up to Vladimir Bortko’s visual interpretation of the original. I am unable to compare these two adaptations but it does make sense to highlight the features of the recently released version -- it doesn’t include all passages of the book, it reflects the more theatrical vision of the classical novel (while the TV series has a lot more advanced visual effects), cast consists of Russia's best loved actors and the famous Alfred Schnittke composed the film score.

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