Master and Margarita #21: Passion Week in Two Towns

by Mikhail Bulgakov

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Master and Margarita #21: Passion Week in Two Towns

Unread postby fireflydances » Tue Oct 02, 2012 10:07 pm

Here are three short excerpts from Chapter 2 – Pontius Pilate. All three feature different questions that Pilate asks and Yeshua answers.

“Don’t you know these people,” continued Pilate, keeping his eyes fixed on the prisoner. A certain Dismas, Gestes, and Bar-rabban?"

“I do not know these good people,” answered the prisoner.

“Is that the truth?

“Yes, it is.”

“And now tell me, why do you keep using the words ‘good people?’ Do you call everyone that?”

“Yes, everyone,” replied the prisoner. “There are no evil people in the world.”
-----------------

“Listen, Ha-Notsri,” began the procurator, looking at Yeshua rather strangely: the procurator’s face was menacing, but his eyes were anxious. “Did you ever say anything about the great Caesar? Answer! Did you? Or….did you…not?” Pilate drew out the word “not” a bit longer than was appropriate at a trial, and his eyes transmitted a certain thought to Yeshua, which he seemed to want to suggest to the prisoner.

“It is easy and pleasant to tell the truth,” observed the prisoner.
------------------

“And what did you say,” asked Pilate through his teeth, speaking in the same tone of voice as the prisoner, his eyes glittering.

“Yes, continued Yeshua, somewhat surprised by how well-informed the procurator was. “He asked me to express my views on the power of the state. That question was of great interest to him.”

“And what did you say?” asked Pilate. “Or will you reply that you forgot what you said?” But hopelessness already sounded in Pilate’s voice.

“Among other things, “continued the prisoner, “I said that every kind of power is a form of violence against people and that there will come a time when neither the power of the Caesars, nor any other kind of power will exist. Man will enter the kingdom of truth and justice where no such power will be necessary.”

Now let's consider the connections between Moscow and Yerushalaim. There is no need to respond to all. Instead, use them to set your own thoughts in gear about connections.

We have spent time in two distant cities, seemingly separated by millennia but actually layered on top of each other, so that in both places it’s Passion Week, the same small set of days. Woland and his fun-loving crew run rampage through one city; a “vagrant philosopher” is put to the death in another.

What type of connections did you see? Are there characters in one city that have counterparts in the other city?

What is it about the events in a Roman Empire Yerushalaim that has relevance for a Moscow under the thumb of a dictator? Are there historical parallels? Are there spiritual parallels?

Of course we know that Bulgakov was obsessed by the Passion Story. In this book he chose to assign three different voices to tell his Passion story: one a devil, one an anxious poet, and the third a woman – all three, non Christians convinced there is something essential about the story which needs to be shared.

How are the answers that Yeshua gave to Pilate relevant to Moscow in the 1930s?

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

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Re: Master and Margarita #21: Passion Week in Two Towns

Unread postby nebraska » Wed Oct 03, 2012 12:08 pm

When I began reading the book, the first bit about Yerushalaim confused and baffled me. If this book had not been required ONBC reading, I am sure I would have closed it right there and then and never opened it again. The only reason any of this makes any semblance of sense to me is because of reading outside information, the tidbits here, and the insights from ONBC members during the discussion. Sometimes our tendency to over-think things (do we? ;) ) can lend double meanings and deeper meanings than might have been intended by the author -- which is ok, because reading is really about the experience of the reader in the end. And I am sure there will be some brilliant answers about how all this gels and how characters mirror each other and all of that. But I struggled to make sense of it all; even now, it seems to me Bulgakov wrote two really good stand-alone separate stories -- either of which would have made his satirical point about Moscow -- and then cut the two stories into pieces and shuffled them like a deck of cards to create a very jumbled single tale.

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Re: Master and Margarita #21: Passion Week in Two Towns

Unread postby Liz » Wed Oct 03, 2012 10:56 pm

I have a follow up question to this. But I am going to wait until tomorrow to see what sort of answers we get on this, if that's OK.

Of course, I need to answer this myself, don't I?
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Re: Master and Margarita #21: Passion Week in Two Towns

Unread postby RamblinRebel » Thu Oct 04, 2012 3:12 am

nebraska wrote: Sometimes our tendency to over-think things (do we? ;) ) can lend double meanings and deeper meanings than might have been intended by the author -- which is ok, because reading is really about the experience of the reader in the end.
Absolutely guilty as charged here!! :lol: Honestly I hadn’t thought much about the parallels between characters and cities until it was first mentioned earlier in the discussion. Or who the narrator might be, or the symbolism, etc. But then in trying to the answer the questions, my mind starts rolling and digging - yup, probably too much - and it will eventually come up with something, even if that something is a wild guess. I should probably read more of the online analyses. :blush:

So, parallels. I’ve been talking a lot about Levi and Ivan being parallel characters, but I guess maybe that should have been John the Baptist and Ivan! :lol: I’m not really sure about other parallel characters but I’ll take a guess. I think you could say that Pilate and Stalin are parallel figures, or maybe Ceasar and Stalin would be a better match. As Pilate is questioning Yeshua, he is almost pleading with him to just go along with the program and say the right thing so that Pilate doesn’t have to execute him. But Yeshua instead tells the truth and proclaims that power is a form of violence against people. He goes against the status quo, against the party line, and for that he is executed. Which certainly mirrors Moscow at that time.

I could go out on a limb and guess some others: Yeshua and the Master, Levi and Margarita, Judas and Latunsky. The Master wants to tell the truth in his novel, but he is crushed by the critics and the establishment; he is spiritually killed. Levi and Margarita will both do anything for the one they believe in. Both wanted to kill the one who was responsible for the downfall of their love, though in the end neither did. Judas and Latunsky, they were both betrayers. I’m not sure if I’m right, but there’s a start...

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Re: Master and Margarita #21: Passion Week in Two Towns

Unread postby nebraska » Thu Oct 04, 2012 8:02 am

RamblinRebel wrote: I think you could say that Pilate and Stalin are parallel figures, or maybe Ceasar and Stalin would be a better match. As Pilate is questioning Yeshua, he is almost pleading with him to just go along with the program and say the right thing so that Pilate doesn’t have to execute him. But Yeshua instead tells the truth and proclaims that power is a form of violence against people. He goes against the status quo, against the party line, and for that he is executed. Which certainly mirrors Moscow at that time.


That much definitely sounds right to me! :cool:

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Re: Master and Margarita #21: Passion Week in Two Towns

Unread postby Liz » Thu Oct 04, 2012 4:13 pm

nebraska wrote:
RamblinRebel wrote: I think you could say that Pilate and Stalin are parallel figures, or maybe Ceasar and Stalin would be a better match. As Pilate is questioning Yeshua, he is almost pleading with him to just go along with the program and say the right thing so that Pilate doesn’t have to execute him. But Yeshua instead tells the truth and proclaims that power is a form of violence against people. He goes against the status quo, against the party line, and for that he is executed. Which certainly mirrors Moscow at that time.


That much definitely sounds right to me! :cool:

I agree - Stalin and Ceasar.

But who is Pilate's parallel? The Master?

I would say the Sanhedrin represents the Communist Party.
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Re: Master and Margarita #21: Passion Week in Two Towns

Unread postby Liz » Thu Oct 04, 2012 4:30 pm

RamblinRebel wrote: But Yeshua instead tells the truth and proclaims that power is a form of violence against people. He goes against the status quo, against the party line, and for that he is executed. Which certainly mirrors Moscow at that time.

I could go out on a limb and guess some others: Yeshua and the Master, Levi and Margarita, Judas and Latunsky. The Master wants to tell the truth in his novel, but he is crushed by the critics and the establishment; he is spiritually killed. Levi and Margarita will both do anything for the one they believe in. Both wanted to kill the one who was responsible for the downfall of their love, though in the end neither did. Judas and Latunsky, they were both betrayers. I’m not sure if I’m right, but there’s a start...

Yes! Margarita and Levi, definitely!

I never would have made the connection between Judas and Latunsky, but yes, both betrayers, and both those that Margarita and Levi wanted to take revenge on.

Yes, I think Yeshua represents a group of people.....all those who are not cowards and who are true to themselves - those like the writers, Dostoevsky, Zamyatin, Mandelstam and Akhmatova.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

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Re: Master and Margarita #21: Passion Week in Two Towns

Unread postby Buster » Thu Oct 04, 2012 7:33 pm

But who is Pilate's parallel? The Master?

I can see this, sort of - in the sense that they both betrayed themselves, or their own consciences, but it don't quite resonate with me.

I must fess up here that I have done absolutely no outside reading on the novel - The tidbits have been wonderful and incredibly informative, and I figured I'd leave it at that...so all of my opinions are based entirely on my own ignorant interpretation.
I am very grateful for all of the informed and well-researched points of view - isn't this a wonderful forum?

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Re: Master and Margarita #21: Passion Week in Two Towns

Unread postby fireflydances » Thu Oct 04, 2012 7:50 pm

First, I have no answer book, so I have no solution to provide, and in fact, there is a whole army of Bulgakovites who've spent decades trying to unravel the "complete truth".

Which is wonderful for us -- because every one of our answers is as good as their answers.

Now, what do I think? I agree about Yeshua and the Master; I hadn't thought of pairing Levi and Margarita, but clearly there are significant parallels, so I would agree. Of course to Stalin and Caesar, and to Latunsky and Judas.

I almost gasped when I read Liz's remark about Pilate...I don't know, at all.

Suggestions:

The guilt of Pilate and the guilt of the Master?

Pilate may have a real-life historic counterpart in Russia -- the head of some department devoted to the persecution of writers? Far over the head of any Latunsky, someone like Maxim Gorky.

But Pilate is so central --- and his sorrow, his regret, is so deep, I simply don't know how to pair him with anyone.

Here's one thought: Woland knew Pilate, and I swear that Woland came to Moscow in part to talk to Margarita, to test her. Would that mean that God wanted a closer eye on both of these souls?

And finally, let's return to the author: Bulgakov. Perhaps this book can't ever show 'the complete truth' because, after all, it is written by the Devil.
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Re: Master and Margarita #21: Passion Week in Two Towns

Unread postby Liz » Thu Oct 04, 2012 9:14 pm

Buster wrote:
But who is Pilate's parallel? The Master?

I can see this, sort of - in the sense that they both betrayed themselves, or their own consciences, but it don't quite resonate with me.

I must fess up here that I have done absolutely no outside reading on the novel - The tidbits have been wonderful and incredibly informative, and I figured I'd leave it at that...so all of my opinions are based entirely on my own ignorant interpretation.
I am very grateful for all of the informed and well-researched points of view - isn't this a wonderful forum?

I have also tried to avoid much of the outside analysis aside from the tidbits and the commentary and afterward. I wanted to see if I could figure it out myself. Even now, with the questions, I try to answer without knowing. The John the Baptist parallel really threw me for a loop. Once we've gotten into it more, I might look a little bit further, after I feel like everyone has given their opinion.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Master and Margarita #21: Passion Week in Two Towns

Unread postby Liz » Thu Oct 04, 2012 9:18 pm

fireflydances wrote:The guilt of Pilate and the guilt of the Master?

Yes, but not just that. Without getting too much into the ending (and today's question, which hasn't been posted yet :lol: ), both were given "peace." And it was the Master who wrote the Pilate story. And as I type that I wonder if there is a connection here to his not wanting to write anymore.
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Re: Master and Margarita #21: Passion Week in Two Towns

Unread postby Liz » Thu Oct 04, 2012 9:21 pm

fireflydances wrote:Pilate may have a real-life historic counterpart in Russia -- the head of some department devoted to the persecution of writers? Far over the head of any Latunsky, someone like Maxim Gorky.

This is a tough one to know. Oh Angelina, where are you? We could use a little help over here? :grin:
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Re: Master and Margarita #21: Passion Week in Two Towns

Unread postby RamblinRebel » Thu Oct 04, 2012 10:54 pm

Liz wrote:
Buster wrote:
But who is Pilate's parallel? The Master?

I can see this, sort of - in the sense that they both betrayed themselves, or their own consciences, but it don't quite resonate with me.

I must fess up here that I have done absolutely no outside reading on the novel - The tidbits have been wonderful and incredibly informative, and I figured I'd leave it at that...so all of my opinions are based entirely on my own ignorant interpretation.
I am very grateful for all of the informed and well-researched points of view - isn't this a wonderful forum?

I have also tried to avoid much of the outside analysis aside from the tidbits and the commentary and afterward. I wanted to see if I could figure it out myself. Even now, with the questions, I try to answer without knowing. The John the Baptist parallel really threw me for a loop. Once we've gotten into it more, I might look a little bit further, after I feel like everyone has given their opinion.


Oh Liz and Buster, I am so glad to hear that! I was starting to think that I was the only one not doing outside reading. I too really enjoy trying to unravel the puzzle on my own first.

So I have a new theory on Ivan. :biggrin: I'll be back to post a little later.

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Re: Master and Margarita #21: Passion Week in Two Towns

Unread postby fireflydances » Thu Oct 04, 2012 11:14 pm

RamblinRebel wrote:
Liz wrote:
Buster wrote:I can see this, sort of - in the sense that they both betrayed themselves, or their own consciences, but it don't quite resonate with me.

I must fess up here that I have done absolutely no outside reading on the novel - The tidbits have been wonderful and incredibly informative, and I figured I'd leave it at that...so all of my opinions are based entirely on my own ignorant interpretation.
I am very grateful for all of the informed and well-researched points of view - isn't this a wonderful forum?

I have also tried to avoid much of the outside analysis aside from the tidbits and the commentary and afterward. I wanted to see if I could figure it out myself. Even now, with the questions, I try to answer without knowing. The John the Baptist parallel really threw me for a loop. Once we've gotten into it more, I might look a little bit further, after I feel like everyone has given their opinion.


Oh Liz and Buster, I am so glad to hear that! I was starting to think that I was the only one not doing outside reading. I too really enjoy trying to unravel the puzzle on my own first.

So I have a new theory on Ivan. :biggrin: I'll be back to post a little later.


Aww, geeze! I'm such a bloody information freak. The old "please lock me in the library, feed me under the door, I'll be fine" type.

Buster's right. We make a nice group. :biggrin:
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

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Re: Master and Margarita #21: Passion Week in Two Towns

Unread postby Liz » Thu Oct 04, 2012 11:19 pm

RamblinRebel wrote:So I have a new theory on Ivan. :biggrin: I'll be back to post a little later.

Looking forward to it. :bounce:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.


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