Wednesday, March 27, 2002
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita. A novel of theology and Stalinism. It swings from farce to meditation, with unsettling suppressed hints of Communist political repression. I found it hard to get a footing in this novel--it only came together for me toward the very end. But the musical structure of the book (recurring motifs and allusions), the moving distinction between those who attain light and those who only attain peace, and the vivid characterization of Margarita were compelling. And the "seventh proof of God" (the Devil exists, therefore God must exist) resonates with books like Walker Percy's terrific Lancelot, which is a film-noir quest for a sin.
posted by Eve 1:23 PM
Augustine of Hippo, Confessions. I finally read this. The last few books, in which Augustine wrestles with various conundrums inspired by the Book of Genesis, left me cold. But there's so much insight here. Augustine's descriptions of childhood are unsentimental and accurate--you get the impression that he really remembers what it was like. A great antidote to the cult of carefree childhood. His reaction to the death of his friend is justly famous. And it's startling to imagine what it must have been like to be a Christian in the age of the gladiator games. The games recur throughout the Confessions; I saw some parallels to modern-day porn. Augustine comes off as a man well-acquainted with the way the darkest passions can seep into even everyday events, tainting memories, edging life with regrets. But he is also a deeply hopeful and loving writer. Peter Brown's biography is fascinating. There's a movie here, but who could make it?
posted by Eve 1:17 PM