Cute book about the novel

July 4, 2007

The books with explanations of The Master and Margarita come out in quick succession. Only a few months after the Russian book from Irina Belobrovtseva and Svetlana Kulyus we can now read a Dutch booklet written by Emmanuel Waegemans, professor at the Catholic University of my hometown Leuven. It is called  De meester en Margarita. Een sleutel tot de roman (The Master and Margarita . A key to the novel) and, according to the publisher’s imprint, Wim Coudenys and Vladimir Ronin were part of the editorial staff too. On the back cover is written in a somewhat swaggering way that this book is "the first attempt in Dutch to make the greatest novel of the Russian literature in the 20th century accessible". Sorry professor, but I was first! But in spite of this slip up I enjoyed reading it.

Two thirds of the booklet – some eighty of the 127 pages – are the “key” meant in the title. Visitors of this website are familiar to the concept of the Annotations per chapter. Following the chronology of the chapters, all concepts, names of people and places, quotations and expressions are explained and situated in their historical, social, economical or cultural context. Of course, a book has got less space than a website, which explains why Waegemans covers fewer items than can be found here, but yet it is fascinating reading matter. Sometimes the professor has another approach, sometimes he selects sentences you won’t find on this site.

Another constraint of printed material is, obviously, caused by topicality. That’s why Waegemans writes that the stairwell of the Bulgakov house is embellished with graffiti, while it is repainted neatily in uncomfortable pallid green since the attack of last December. And in the booklet can be read that Andrew Lloyd Webber will make a musical of the novel while readers of this website know that this idea has been postponed for a while..

In his introduction Waegemans writes that his booklet was written without pretentions, but he certainly succeeded in offering material for a meaningful reading of the novel. More in particular, I enjoyed how he described the climate in the Soviet Union in 1966 in which The Master and Margarita could eventually be published, and how the novel was welcomed then.

I’m looking forward to the seminar on The Master and Margarita which will be organised by Emmanuel Waegemans on November 8, 2007 in Leuven. You’ll be kept posted!

De meester en Margarita
Michail Boelgakov - Een sleutel tot de roman
Emmanuel Waegemans
Antwerpen, Benerus, 2007,  127 p.
ISBN 9789080636361

The book can be ordered by payment of 12,00 € (no shipment fee in Belgium) on bank account nr. 431-0616981-31 of Benerus vzw, Ballaerstraat 106, 2018 Antwerpen, phone and fax +32-3-237.80.10 - And if, after reading, you can't get enough of it, you can find much more explanations in the Annotations per chapter section on this website.

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