Friday, July 22, 2016

Sarah, The Master and Margarita

Yesterday I highlighted Sarah's tattoo inspired by a cover of a Neil Gaiman collection.

Normally, I wouldn't split a post unless it was long, but I felt Sarah's other tattoo that I took pictures of on the Broad Street platform warranted its own post.

First, the tattoo:

Inked on Sarah's inner arm, this is an image of a large black cat, swinging from a chandelier. It appears to be holding a gun. Below is the inscription "manuscripts don't burn."

The explanation is simple, this is another literary tattoo inscribed on Sarah, hearkening this time to Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. The cat is named Behemoth and the scene depicted is one of the more memorable in the novel. The phrase "manuscripts don't burn" is uttered by a major character and is an integral message, both literally and figuratively, that permeates the text.

Before proceeding, a shout-out to Gerald Feliciano (@geraldfelciano) at East Side Ink (@eastsideink), who captured this scene so wonderfully.

When Sarah told me it was inspired by Bulgakov, I was familiar with the author's name, but had not read anything by him. Sarah emphatically insisted it was one of the great novels of all time. Not a huge fan of Russian literature, I was skeptical, but intrigued. Anyone who shares tattoos with me gives us something, but when that tattoo opens the door to curiosity and a feeding of the mind, it is truly something special.

By the following week, I was into the book, but I read it slowly. It is multi-layered and fantastical, peppered with history and satire. I'd point to one review that helped with perspective (here) and encourage reading the Penguin Classics edition which speaks to the history of the novel, published decades after Bulgakov had died, and includes pages of notes to assist with obscure references, making for a clearer reading experience.

This is one of those novels that changes you. Would I say it is the greatest novel of all time? No, probably not, but it's the first one I've read in a while that has threatened to break into my top twenty. And I think further consideration warrants inclusion.

The character Behemoth is a shining point of dark comic humor in The Master and Margarita. When the chandelier scene finally danced in front of my eyes, I was euphoric. I felt fulfilled. The novel is masterful and carries a wallop.

And quite honestly, with all the amazing books in the world, past and present, I don't know if I ever would have cracked the cover of this one had my path not crossed with Sarah's, had she not been so kind as to share her tattoos, to share them with us here on Tattoosday.

So thank you, Sarah, from the bottom of my book and tattoo-loving heart, for sharing this special tattoo with us here on Tattoosday. I hope that at least one Tattoosday reader will follow my lead and pick up the book and see why Behemoth is so special, why this novel is so important, and how a stranger's tattoo can change lives.

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