Klimowski/Schejbal - The Master and Margarita
SelfMadeHero, an imprint of Metro Media, is a UK-based book publisher specializing in manga and graphic novels.
In April 2008, SelfMadeHero launched its Classical Eye series, which features classics in graphic novel form, a combination of manga and classic dramatic texts. According to the publisher, the Classical Eye series aims to transform classics into another art form. The books feature acknowledged leaders in the world of graphic novels and bandes dessinées, using illustrators and writers whose work is widely admired internationally.
The first titles include The Master and Margarita, adapted by Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal.
Klimowski has exhibited internationally, with work collected by museums in Europe and the United States. His acclaimed career has seen Klimowski designing film and theatre posters as well as directing short animated films in Warsaw plus designing covers for Penguin, Faber & Faber, Everyman Library and Oberon Books, as well as contributing drawings to The Guardian. His graphic novels The Depository and The Secret have been published by Faber, who published his book Horace Dorlan in 2007. Klimowski is Professor of Illustration at the Royal College of Art, London.
Schejbal has exhibited her critically acclaimed paintings in exhibitions across Europe. Born in London, she was awarded a British Council Scholarship to study Stage Design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Poland. From 1976 to 1981, she designed sets and costumes for various theatres in Poland. Her career has subsequently seen her as a designer for the Cherub Theatre Company (1981 Sunday Telegraph Award for best production at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for Macbeth). For The Master and Margarita, Schejbal paints the Passion story and the magical stories within the novel, delicately in gouache.
Frankly speaking, with this graphic novel, Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal did not do a better job than the Russian authors Askold Akishine and Misha Zaslavsky did with their comic strip Le Maître et Marguerite in 2005. Like the comic strip, it is almost impossible to read this graphic novel without knowing Bulgakov's novel very well. When you try to read the album of Klimowski and Schejbal without prior knowledge, you will ask yourself from the beginning what it's all about. The texts are far too concise to situate the characters and the context, or to follow the story line. Some essential scenes are shown only very briefly or even interrupted abruptly. Woland's ball, for instance, takes only one frame, which is rather surprising for a key scene of the novel. In addition, there are some pretty weird leaps in the scenario, as it was in the strip of Akishine and Zaslavsky.
What else can be said about this book? Well... Klimowski and Schejbal seem to know Vladimir Bortko's TV-series from 2005 pretty well, because they show the Moscow scenes in black and white, and the biblical scenes in colour, like Bortko did. The black and white drawings are not impressive, but slightly better than the coloured gouaches, which are painted without any depth.
In short: The Master and Margarita, by Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejba is not a good graphic novel. Graphically it is far from outstanding, and the narrative is stuttering and juddering throughout the book. Sometimes comic strips can convince people, who rarely read novels, to grasp the original book, but I'm afraid that it will not work with this graphic novel. Those who want to learn to know Bulgakov's masterpiece, should read the original novel straight away.
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