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The Enigmatic Tome: A Source of Inspiration for Mick Jagger, a Source of Terror for Vladimir Putin, and Perhaps, Cursed

  • Culture
  • Friday, 17 November 2023 12:13

In the wintry embrace of the year 2000, Eamon Flack, then a 21-year-old student in Brisbane, found solace in the form of a Russian novel gifted by his friend Paul Hankinson, a pianist now residing in Berlin. Little did Flack know that this serendipitous encounter, within the cocoon of his closeted life with his parents, would be a pivotal moment of "salvation." The book, none other than Mikhail Bulgakov’s masterpiece, "The Master and Margarita," unfolded before him—a tale of the Devil and his mischievous entourage, navigating the tumultuous streets of communist Moscow. Within its pages, a writer grapples with despair, driven to the brink by the rejection of his novel centered around Pontius Pilate.

Fast forward to the present, and Eamon Flack, now the artistic director of Belvoir St Theatre, draws inspiration from Bulgakov's literary marvel for one of Belvoir's most audacious productions to date. In the midst of rehearsals for "The Master and Margarita," Flack reflects on the book's profound impact, stating, "It’s really about why we must go on exercising our imaginations in order to save ourselves from crushing oblivion." Although the world no longer labors under the weight of a Stalinist regime, Flack sees parallels in our current existence—an overarching ideology, a hyper-rationalist certainty vying for dominance.

This enigmatic novel has proven to be a wellspring of inspiration for artists across disciplines. Mick Jagger, stirred by its narrative, penned "Sympathy for the Devil," while Salman Rushdie found creative fuel for "The Satanic Verses." Andrew Lloyd Webber's ambitious plans to adapt the book into a musical were short-lived, and Baz Luhrmann, the visionary director of "Elvis," secured the film rights in December 2019. Meanwhile, a Russian adaptation by director Michael Lockshin is poised for release in the coming year.

In the echoing corridors of artistic interpretation and adaptation, "The Master and Margarita" emerges not only as a literary masterpiece but as a captivating enigma that refuses to be easily transcribed onto screens or stages. Eamon Flack's journey from the wintry days of 2000 to the rehearsals of Belvoir's ambitious production is a testament to the enduring power of Bulgakov's narrative—a power that resonates across continents and through the creative minds of Mick Jagger, Salman Rushdie, and Baz Luhrmann, each finding inspiration in its pages.

As the allure of this devilish tale continues to weave its spell, one cannot help but recognize the parallels it draws between the bygone era of Stalinist Moscow and the complexities of our modern world, where ideologies vie for supremacy. Flack's poignant reflection on the necessity of exercising our imaginations in the face of potential oblivion serves as a timely reminder of the enduring relevance of literature as a mirror to societal struggles.

And yet, the road to bringing "The Master and Margarita" to life on screen or stage is fraught with its own brand of mystique—abandoned projects, unforeseen complications, and the eerie presence of a stray black cat. The very essence that makes Bulgakov's work resistant to adaptation is perhaps what makes it all the more alluring—a testament to the inexplicable and magical qualities that literature possesses.

In the end, as the curtain rises on Belvoir's ambitious production and the echoes of Mick Jagger's lyrics linger, "The Master and Margarita" stands not just as a novel or a play but as a testament to the enduring power of storytelling. It is a reminder that some stories, like elusive specters, resist easy classification and demand to be experienced in all their enigmatic glory.