The Master and Margarita (Russian: «Ма́стер и Маргари́та») is a 1937 (not published until 1967) novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, woven around the premise of a visit by the Devil to the fervently atheistic Soviet Union. Many critics consider it to be one of the best novels of the 20th century.
The novel alternates between two settings. The first is 1930s Moscow, which is visited by Satan in the guise of “Professor” Woland, a mysterious gentleman “magician” of uncertain origin, who arrives with a retinue that includes the grotesquely dressed “ex-choirmaster” valet Koroviev, a mischievous, gun-happy, fast-talking black cat Behemoth, the fanged hitman Azazello, the pale-faced Abadonna with a death-inflicting stare, and the witch Hella.
The second setting is the Jerusalem of Pontius Pilate, described by Woland talking to Berlioz and later echoed in the pages of the Master’s novel. It concerns Pontius Pilate’s trial of Yeshua Ha-Notsri (Jesus the Nazarene), his recognition of an affinity with and spiritual need for Yeshua, and his reluctant but resigned submission to Yeshua’s execution.
The Master is an embittered author, the petty-minded rejection of whose historical novel about Pontius Pilate and Christ led him to such despair that he burns his manuscript and turns his back on the “real” world, including his devoted lover, Margarita. Margarita refuses to despair of her lover or his work. She is invited to the Devil’s midnight ball, where Satan (Woland) offers her the chance to become a witch.