Azar Nafisi on Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov

In this gorgeously dark and festive novel, the devil himself comes to Moscow with his entourage to wreck havoc on Stalin’s Soviet Union. This in itself was reason enough for a ban on the book in that country until 1973, three decades after its completion. In essence Master and Margarita is a celebration of the magic wrought by “lunatics and poets,” on a rigid and totalitarian system. Focusing on three parallel and interwoven stories: the love between Master (a reclusive and mysterious writer) and his beloved Margarita, the story of Jesus and Pontius Pilate, locked in an eternal conversation, and the hilarious tale of Satan who displeased with the communists’ negation of God--that by implication is also a denial of his existence--decides to teach the unbelievers a lesson that will transform their lives forever. The alliance of such forces against a repressive and brutal rule creates a unique novel, both poignant and very, very funny.