I’m utterly convinced that David Lynch is the reincarnation of Mikhail Bulgakov. I’m about halfway through The Master and Margarita, and everything is so surreal that I can’t tell who is crazy and who isn’t. There are skips in time, supernatural occurrences, and people with cryptic and prescient messages (though not armed with chunks of driftwood). Like Lynch’s, sometimes Bulgakov’s story is whimsical, sometimes it’s dark. The only difference is, with Lynch, I root for the good guys, and with Bulgakov, I’m on the side of Satan. I’m not totally sure what that says about me. But in my defense, the trio of Satan, his, um, “manager,” and his Cheshire cat companion victimize people who are selfish, obtuse, frivolous, and generally hateable, and it’s pretty hilarious when they get manipulated.
For instance, Satan puts on a black magic show for a Moscow audience. The crowd has seen Satan’s cat rip off the head of the master of ceremonies and reattach it. Whether the act is an illusion or not, to the audience, it’s a portentous sign. Most audience members are fairly shaken, especially the women. Yet, the next “trick” is to open up a ladies’ shop onstage and invite women to come partake of the Parisian dresses, lavender shoes, and jeweled bottles of perfume, and, after a moment’s hesitation, all previously-seen violence is forgotten. The women storm the stage, demanding all sorts of luxury items. One woman can be heard berating her husband for his reluctance to let her join the legion of clucking hens fussing over froof onstage. I found the scene an accurate reflection of society’s goldfish-proportioned capacity for memory. And I was absolutely DELIGHTED to find that, when the women left the theater in their new finery, it began to disappear, leaving them on the street in their underwear. Score one for Satan.
I think it might be interesting to examine Satan’s role in this book as an administer of justice. Maybe that will be a task for when I finish the book. And maybe that’s where Lynch and Bulgakov differ. Lynch’s evil is simply chaos personified, or maybe, more accurately, an entity that thrives on the pain of decent people. Satan in The Master and Margarita perhaps deals out harsher punishments than people really deserved (the ladies in the theater get off by far the easiest, as far as TMATM punishments go), but I will tentatively say that all the people who suffer are greedy, pompous, or just horribly stupid.