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“Favorite”

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Do you have a favorite book? What do you say when people ask you? (This question always flummoxes me because how can you pick just one, so I’m eager to hear what you folks have to say.)
And, has your favorite book changed over the years??

My all-time favorite book is, as I have mentioned on numerous occasions here, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. It actually popped up this morning over coffee when someone asked me the same question. The book is a combination of history, fairy tale, folklore, and political polemic. Bulgakov was trained as a physician, but he found his forte as a playwright and novelist. In his time he was banned for works lambasting Joseph Stalin. The banned The Master and Margarita was not published until after his death, which achieved posthumous fame. Today this novel is widely read in Russia and Bulgakov is revered. The book is Bulgakov’s embittered and sarcastic response (and indictment) to his era’s denial of imagination and its wish to strip the world of divine qualities. Not God, but His anti-being quickly springs to defense, in the disguise of a magician. One hot spring, devil arrives in Moscow, accompanied by a retinue that includes a beautiful naked witch and a talking black cat with a fondness for chess and vodka. That the city is so rooted in its atheist conviction renders it an easy target of the visitors’ hypnotic trickery and blatant criminality.

My other favorites include The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, a quietly beautiful novel about the human condition: A desire to exceed one’s limitations. Not only is Stevens loyal to a fault, his former employer, Lord Darlington, however decent, honest, and well-meaning he was, was also playing a dangerous game by allowing himself to be used as a pawn in Hitler’s schemes. Another one is Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. It’s really a love story, not in the sense that it explores romantic dialogues and actions, but in the sense that it explores private lives. In the guise of friendship, sustained through births, outdoor adventures, job losses, war, moving, unrealized dreams, and thwarted ambition, Stegner offers, with an uncanny sensitivity, a glimpse of the physical and emotional intimacy in marriage that go largely unspoken out of respect and loyalty.

2 Responses

  1. I think The Master and Margarita is quite probably my favourite book of all time as well. Definitely in TOP3. It’s just so diverse, as you say, and also the humour for me was really spot on. I don’t think one could ever get bored when reading this book🙂

    • The Master and Margarita is just the most well-rounded book I’ve read. It’s definitely high-brow literature but Bulgakov doesn’t flaunt erudition. He blends in humor, sarcasm, history, and religious perspective in telling a story that reflected a crucial time period. This book never exhausts its possibilities.

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