Showing posts from September, 2009

The Master and Margarita

A visit to Murmansk, the grimly fascinating Soviet-era port, leaves you marked in two ways. First, with a healthy radioactive glow. Second, with a desire to read Russian literature. Actually, the second is not strictly true. What I really wanted to read was a thrilling Arctic adventure featuring submarines and derring-do, something like an early Tom Clancy, minus the American triumphalism. And I still do. Suggestions please.

Unfortunately, our local library was understocked with Soviet naval thrillers, so I raided Mrs Tomsk's library instead, and came up with The Master and Margarita. While it may not tell you how to break through the GIUK gap, it does illuminate the everyday nightmare of life under Stalin. It does this through a mixture of comedy, satire, religion and fantasy, a concoction so subversive that the introduction focuses mainly on how amazing it was that it ever got published, even if it did have to wait 26 years for the privilege.

The most arresting characters in th…