Saturday, January 03, 2009

Five best: books about Cold War culture

Daniel Johnson, the editor of Standpoint and author of White King and Red Queen: How the Cold War Was Fought on the Chessboard, named a five best list of books about Cold War culture for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on his list:
The Master and Margarita
by Mikhail Bulgakov
Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky; Penguin, 1997

In many respects, Mikhail Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita" is a Cold War book, even though it was written between 1928 and the author's death in 1940. The novel was not published until 1966-67 in the Russian journal Moskva (Moscow), and even then the editors cut about 60 pages, which soon enough made their way into samizdat publications. This scathing satire on every aspect of life under Stalin immediately caused a sensation. Today, Bulgakov's riotously funny Faustian tale of the Devil arriving in Moscow has lost none of its freshness. The boldness of the conception is demonstrated by the contrast Bulgakov provides between the phantasmagorical nightmare of Soviet totalitarianism and the stark reality of the execution of Jesus as seen through the eyes of Pontius Pilate -- a story within the novel's story.
Read about the book that topped Johnson's list.

--Marshal Zeringue