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June 24, 2003

I've been reading The Master

I've been reading The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov, soon to be a major motion picture with Johnny Depp in the role of the devil. So far it's an interesting book, with that peculiar mixture of magical realism and absurdist fiction I've seen before in Iron Curtain authors (for instance Stanislaw Lem and the brothers Strugatsky). In the opening chapter Bulgakov introduces two characters:

The first was none other than Mikhail Alexandrovich Berlioz, editor of a fat literary journal and chairman of the board of one of the major Moscow literary associations, called Massolit for short, and his young companion was the poet Ivan Nikolaevich Ponyrev, who wrote under the pseudonym of Bezdomny.

Fortunately or not, at the same time, I just finished watching The Producers, Mel Brooks' 1969 movie of a scheming Broadway producer and a nebbish accountant who plot to defraud hundreds of old ladies out of millions of dollars by raising money for a play that they know will be a flop. The main characters are the Broadway producer Max Bialystock, played by Zero Mostel, and accountant Leo Bloom, played by Gene Wilder. This is vintage Brooks, from the sight gags to the preposterous characters.

However, while reading Master, I realized that Berlioz was irrevocably imagined as Zero Mostel, while Bezdomny now seems to resemble Gene Wilder. I don't really believe this has harmed my understanding of the text, and it certainly hasn't messed up my enjoyment, but I thought it was amusing how the two had fused together.

Posted by dpwakefield at June 24, 2003 11:06 PM