The power of love

Reading over the last few weeks has been difficult, my mind has been too much on the loss of Alfie. It may sound odd but he was part of my reading life too, we spent many a happy hour curled up on the bed or the sofa with a good book, so reading without him feels distinctly odd. (It's not just me who struggles - for another blogger's take on reading life post-dog see For Reading Addicts).

In times of sorrow or stress, I tend to do the usual. I fall back on a familiar literary friend. In this case one of my very favourite reads - Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. The best books remain constantly the same, but also show a new side of themselves, and this is exactly what Master and Margarita does.

The first time I read it, I was struck by the fantasy elements, and the novel's struggle with oppression (both internally within the story itself, and also the remarkable story of its explosion into Russian society). The second time I realised how funny it was, and chortled my way through swathes of the book. And the third time....

I still admire it hugely, I think I found it even funnier than on earlier readings. But most of all I was struck by the love that shines out of this novel. The love between Pilate and his dog (I too wanted to stroke the neck of my much loved hound while reading), the love between Ha-Nozri and his hapless, but well-meaning disciple, the lengths to which Margarita is prepared to go to save the Master, and his love for her.

Master and Margarita was written during a very dark period of Russian history, and finally found its way into the world at the height of the Cold War. It should be dark and brooding and sad, but this tale of the devil walking the streets of Moscow is anything but. It bursts forth with love and light and the sheer joy of life. It grabs you and tells you that however dark life may seem, it will get better. While there is love and life there will always be the opportunity to be taken unaware by joy. It's a beautiful life-affirming read. I suspect that if there was a fire and there was only one book that I could grab, this would probably be it.


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