‘The Master and Margarita:’ Cover, for New, English Language Translation of Bulgakov’s Classic Novel.

This is the Master and Margarita cover I made for my translation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s awesome tale of the extraordinary in 1930s Moscow, which will be published before the end of of 2017:

The Master and Margarita
Cover of soon-to-be published new, English translation by John Dougherty of Mikhail Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita ©2017

As I was in the final stages of editing, proof-reading and formatting this translation of ‘The Master and Margarita, I agonized over how to get a good but inexpensive cover to put on it. I initially considered using the graphics services provided through the website fiverr. In the process of coming up with a proposal to a graphic designer for the creation of this cover, I considered a sort of collage that would include some of the themes and iconic images that are presented in the novel again and again. After putting a list together of these things, I thought “hey, I can do this.” Not having any experience with this sort of design, other than a brief flirtation with the free image manipulation program Gimp, I decided it was time to purchase and learn to use Adobe Photoshop. I asked my brilliant and artistic photographer friend Jen if she had any tips, and she pointed me to Adobe Creative Cloud. This was appealing to me for its option to do a trial use, and not have to buy a software package up front.

So now I can photoshop! This translation project started out as an occasional exercise to keep up my Russian language skills, but has turned into a project that has unexpectedly led me to learn a whole host of new skills and software applications: use of Adobe Photoshop and InDesign, Calibre and Sigil; how to get an ISBN and register a book with Bowker. Fun stuff.

3 thoughts on “‘The Master and Margarita:’ Cover, for New, English Language Translation of Bulgakov’s Classic Novel.”

  1. Very impressive, Mr. Dougherty!
    My name is Elena and I come from Siberia.
    I am just about to start reading your translation. I’ve been writing my bachelor thesis on different versions of translating “The Master and Margarita”.
    Could I ask you a question? What was the most difficult part about translating the novel? As I haven’t gotten your book yet, did you use any footnotes (or, what they’re called, not sure:) with extra information for your readers to understand it better?

    Thank you so much in advance!

    1. Thank you, Elena. Translating this book was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. I felt like I was reading it in slow-motion, which was fantastic because it allowed me to appreciate and savor every detail of this beautifully crafted tale. I think that some of the most difficult things about writing the English translation involved deciding how to render certain Russian idioms and idiomatic phrases. In some cases I could come up with English equivalents that worked, but in others I found loved the Russian phrasings so much, and how they show different ways of seeing the world, that I felt compelled to translate them more literally.
      I did add some foot notes to my translation: 20 of them. Mostly these are intended for the English language reader who might not get some of the references to things distinctly Russian (or Soviet); for example: Kulak, “False Dmitri,” Torgsin, Starka, and that “one of Moscow’s institutions” overlooking Lyubyanka Square. I also included a translator’s introduction, where I try to acquaint the English language reader with some of the political, social, religious and cultural peculiarities of life in Moscow in the 1930s. A draft of this introduction can be found on this Russian Tumble site.
      Good luck with you thesis, Elena. I would be happy to answer any other questions you might have. And please feel free to offer any comments or critiques on my translation.

  2. Thank you so much for your reply!
    You know, I find the foot notes really helpful even for myself. Especially in the version translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky because there are a lot of them. Whenever something seems not clear to me even in Russian, I look through the notes and find what I need. There is no chance to do so in original:) So, I hope to read your translation ASAP to go any deeper into understanding this ‘beautifully crafted tale’.
    Good luck on everything!

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