Trivia Quiz for The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
(written 1928-1940; published posthumously in 1966)
For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 1/22/23
A. The Literary Hybrid: Satire + Origin Tale + Cityscape + Supernatural Adventure
1. A Biting Satire. As a doctor, writer, and member of the intelligentsia, Mikhail Bulgakov witnessed first-hand the terrors of the Stalinist regime (1927-1953), and, assuming his work would never get published, he pokes fun at many aspects of the era’s impact on ordinary lives. Which one of the following is not criticized in the novel?
a. the government-sanctioned housing shortage in Moscow
b. the “politically dangerous” issue of having foreign currencies in your possession
c. the total absence of censorship, which gave rise to a media free-for-all promoting anarchy, xenophobia, and mob rule
d. the graft, bribe-taking, and other unscrupulous behaviors practiced by official Soviet bureaucrats
2. An Ambiguous Easter Novel. Bulgakov’s biographer calls this book an “Easter novel” for all but one of the following reasons. Which one of the following does not occur in The Master and Margarita?
a. The novel describes the day when Procurator Pontius Pilate proceeded over the trial in which Jesus was condemned to death on the cross, and the following days.
b. The novel is an evangelical’s spiritual autobiography, in which he describes finding faith on a special Easter.
c. The story takes place in the springtime.
d. The novel has 33 chapters (or 32 plus an epilogue about an afterlife): the same age as Jesus when he died.
3. A Cityscape. Even those who have never ventured to Moscow will develop some familiarity with the city by the end of this novel, due to its precise locations and relatively small focus. Which one of the following sites is not a center of the action?
a. Patriarch’s Ponds
b. Griboyedov House
c. The Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace of the Imperial Family)
d. Sparrow Hills
4. Strange occurrences and supernatural travel run through the second part of the book, in which all but one of the following events transpire. Identify it.
a. Margarita becomes a witch and flies across the night sky.
b. A cat demands, “Passport !” and stretches out a chubby paw to receive it.
c. Margarita attends a ball where she meets a number of criminals, poisoners, and madmen from history.
d. The Master’s novel is published to great acclaim in a foreign country far from Moscow.
B. A Strange Worldview
5. Characters blurt out phrases that sound outlandish, but merely reflect political realities of the time. Which one of the following is not from The Master and Margarita ?
a. “Money … should be kept in the State Bank, in special, moisture-free safe-deposit boxes, and not in your aunty’s cellar where the rats can get at it!”
b. “Have you come to arrest me?”
c. “Take care how you cut yourself. It is more dangerous than you think in this country.”
d. “One really shouldn’t make big plans for oneself, dear neighbor.”
6. Laughter: the Ultimate Weapon? Bulgakov’s humor emerges slyly in this novel; which one of the following is not an example?
a. “And it was then, as the chairman insisted afterwards, that the miracle took place: the wad of bills crawled into his briefcase all on its own.”
b. “The foreigner leaned back on the bench and practically squealed with curiosity as he asked, ‘You mean you’re atheists?!’ … “Oh, how delightful!”
c. “Neither the conductress nor the passengers were amazed by the most important thing of all, namely, that a cat was not merely getting on a streetcar, which wasn’t so bad, but that he intended to pay his fare!”
d. Woland’s show includes a “Ballet of the Bureaucrats” wherein clerks become angels and dance in unison.
7. Advice on living, or how not to disappear. Which maxim is not from Bulgakov’s book?
a. “Submission, self-denial, diligent work, are the preparations for a life.”
b. “Today I’m unofficial, but tomorrow I might be official! And vice versa, of course, or even something worse.”
c. “Insults are the usual reward for good work.”
d. “What are smart people for, if not to untangle tangled things?”
C. Miscellaneous Insights
8. Death is a central theme and end of this book. Which one of the following is not from The Master and Margarita?
a. “Chess became an incurable addiction that tormented him until the day of his death.”
b. “A round dark object was propelled under the railing … it began bouncing over the cobblestones of Bronnaya Street. It was Berlioz’s severed head.”
c. “’Crash! Bang! Over falls the baron!’” ‘I was practically hysterical,’ put in the cat, licking a spoonful of caviar.”
d. “Needless to say, truly mature and cultivated people did not tell these tales about an evil power’s visit to the capital.”
9. Mikhail Bulgakov was also a playwright and some dialogue is remarkable. Which one of the following is not from his novel?
a. “’I shouldn’t be blamed too severely—after all, it’s not everyday you meet up with an evil power!’ / ‘That’s for sure! How nice it would be if it were everyday!’”
b. “What more can a bear want?” [the mother asks]. / “Love, I think to myself, like the warmth in the cowshed of all those breathing cattle with a common goal—survival.”
c. “’The sturgeon’s not the issue.’ / ‘How can it not be the issue if it’s spoiled?’ / ‘They sent us sturgeon that’s second-grade fresh’ said the bartender.”
d. “’When people have been stripped of everything, as you and I have been, they look to otherworldly powers for salvation! Well all right, I’m willing to do it.’ / ‘That’s it, now you’re your old self again’.”
10. The message? Which of the following is not a quote from this book?
a. “And so, almost everything was explained, and the investigation came to an end, just as, in general, all things do.”
b. “It’s worth everything isn’t it, to keep one’s intellectual liberty; not to enslave one’s powers of appreciation, one’s critical independence?”
3. c. The Hermitage Museum is in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
5. c. That quote is from Bram Stoker, Dracula.
7.a. That quote is from Charles Dickens, Bleak House.
8. a. That quote is from Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera.
9. b. That quote is from Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, The Discomfort of Evening.
10. b That quote is from Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence.
Come back in February for the quiz on Vanity Fair (1847-48) by English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray.