I decided to read Master and Margarita for a third time, but this time in Russian. One of my favorite things about this book is the devil’s motto, “manuscripts don’t burn”. When this line was uttered in the wild stage production of the novel I saw in St. Petersburg two summers ago, a mass of luminous pages tumbled from the stage’s high ceiling. (The pages were the pages of a novel written by the Master, who believed his work would never see the light of day… a lot like Bulgakov and this book).
Another great thing about this book is that one of the characters, a member of the devil’s retinue, is an enormous, evil talking cat named Behemoth. Graphic below:
So this book is even funnier in Russian, especially the descriptions of this cat, who seems to go back and forth from being a cattish man to a humanesque beast. Russian itself being a very funny language, Bulgakov’s rendering of the traits and deeds of my favorite bizarro literature character are just that much better in Russian. And that is why we learn foreign languages.
That, and “to have a second language is to have a second soul”. Charlemagne said that, according to an awesome article in the WSJ about how different languages make people think and see differently.