Dealing with the Devil with SelfMadeHero’s sublime ‘The Master and Margarita’

Mikhail Bulgakov’s controversial masterpiece ’The Master and Margarita’ has enamoured readers for years with it’s dark tale of the devil wreaking havoc in Russia.

Initially banned and subsequently censored extensively, the book is renowned to have been one of the most important stories in Russian literary history with it’s evident satire of Stalin’s regime. Now as a release under renowned graphic novel publisher SelfMadeHero’s ‘Eye Classics’ series, the story has been adapted as a graphic novel by Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal.  The key question posed by such an adaptation of a classic novel into a graphic novel is how does the final book stand up? We’re very pleased to say, fantastically!

Following the story of ‘The Master’ a writer in dire straits attempting to recover from the terrible criticisms surrounding his novel and his love for Margarita. Unfortunately for the master, Margarita is very much in the sights of the devil himself, who has a dark scheme for Margarita for himself.

The Master and Margarita carries almost a feel of ‘dark reverence’ now with it’s history as a book. Supposedly having inspired The Rolling Stones’ song Sympathy for the Devil and Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. That feeling very much comes across in it’s stunning artwork.  It’s easy to forget just how horrific some of story genuinely is. That unnerving feeling when reading the original hasn’t been lost in the slightest within the adaptation. Clearly picking up the mood of soviet era Moscow when Stalin ruled with an iron fist. That feeling of malevolence is clear throughout. Except in the medium of the graphic novel the illustration take that mood and run wild with it. You’ll be blown away by the hellish / nightmarish scenes that await you

Andrzej Klimowski is an artistic genius  in his own right, well known for his evocative gothic poster work. This style fits  perfectly with the tone of the story.  The story itself is shown in a style resembling black and white watercolour and colour pastels for both depicting reality and delusional fantasy. It’s a unique styling throughout the story but one which really helps emphasise the chaos and surrealism of the tale and offers a wonderful juxtaposition which keeps the book thoroughly engaging.


In terms of the written adaptation itself, Klimowski has chosen a very minimalist approach in it’s translation, which is no bad thing. Letting the illustrations really talk for themselves and the tones seep across the panels if anything helps set a feel for the story and really let’s the surrealist style take centre stage.

A phenomenally hard task to adapt such a legendary story, SelfMadeHero’s adaptation of ‘The Master and Margarita’ is a great example of how the most classic pieces of literature can be given a whole new life in the medium of the graphic novel. A must have for any fan.

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