The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov
The Master - so-called by his besotted and illicit lover Margarita - is a struggling writer in Stalin's Moscow. The novel he has slaved over obsessively relates the events of Pontius Pilate as he executes Yeshua Ha-Nozri - a peaceful philosopher whose every movement and word is commited (with questionable accuracy) to parchment by the former tax collector Matthew Levi. But Soviet critics tear his work to shreds, and the Master has a breakdown, disappearing completely from Margarita's life.
Fortunately, the Devil has just arrived in Moscow in the guise of a foreign magician, along with a retinue of supernatural oddballs including a talking cat and a naked, vampiric witch. They're certainly up to no good, but they also offer a ray of hope to Margarita: if she'll agree to be hostess for Satan's Ball on Walpurgis Night, perhaps she can restore the Master - and the manuscript he threw on the fire.
All this is related in a narrative voice that veers between prim documentarian and chatty pal, occasionally taking on a character of its own. Certainly, much of the first half of the book would probably be cut out by a modern editor, but once things got going, The Master and Margarita carried me away with its imaginative surrealism, its sly and provocative wit, and its tender moments of humanity.