Askold Akishine - Le Maître et Marguerite

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Askold Akishine and Misha Zaslavsky are two Russian comic strip artists not known in the western world yet. Zaslavsky wrote to me that, in 1992-1993, when he and Akishine made the strip, the creative heritage of Bulgakov was intensively exploited in various wild commercial ways. They objected to that and tried to use a different approach. Definitely, Zaslavsky said, it is more graphic exploration than adaptation of the novel. They were even surprised when Actes Sud offered to publish the adaptation in French.

Despite my appreciation for Misha Zaslavsky, I don't like this adaptation. The style is unclear and confusing. There's no coherence in the drawings and this is so striking that it's difficult to follow the characters through the story. The master on page 104, for instance, doesn't resemble the one of page 59 at all. And this counts for many other characters as well.

It's almost impossible to follow this album if you don't know the novel very well. More: you need a certain level of Bulgakov expertise if you don't want to get lost in the many shifts of scenes and the barely elaborated fragments. Akishin and Zastavsky may have been driven by their love for Bulgakov, they miss his narrative skills. They limited themselves to an inaccurate collection of textual fragments from the novel, interwoven with some sloganesque salf-made dialogues. And that's a pity because, to me, it is possible to make an excellent comic strip of The Master and Margarita, but we need other talents to do it.

Technical details

Le maître et Marguerite

Askold Akishine (drawings)
Misja Zaslavsky (script)
Hélène Remaud (translation)

Actes Sud Arles/Paris, 2005
ISBN 2-7427-5439-3

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