Friday Fun: International Book Covers

It’s not just about cute animals and home interiors, you know. I am a very serious literary blog, I’ll have you know. So let me demonstrate just how highbrow I can be by dedicating a whole post to book covers. Here are some international editions of one of my favourite books, The Master and Margarita. No, it’s not just the preponderance of cats that I like about these book covers… How very dare you!?

Amazing Russian cover which encapsulates the book’s themes very well and has been turned into a T-shirt.
Classic scene from the book, Margarita with her bouquet of yellow flowers. Romanian edition.
The French cover has me in stitches: I mean, a ginger cat? Who had that idea?
No, no, no, Italian publisher, what were you thinking? This is NOT a children’s book!
Italy redeeming itself here with a cover that captures that Russian feel…
Another Romanian cover with a nice sense of menace and minimalist colour scheme.
You can see that this book was extremely popular in Romania: this is the third cover, another recent one.
A sinister and gloomy cover from the UK.
By way of contrast, this modernist interpretation of the cover.
Highly stylized and stylish, another contemporary UK cover.
Created as a playbill rather than a book cover, I think this would work well for both. From France.
A 50th anniversary edition from Penguin – a work of art. But it’s translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky, who are not always my favourites.

32 thoughts on “Friday Fun: International Book Covers”

  1. One of my fave pbk covers is an old one by Fred Troller to _The Rationalists_. It is a mint-green tripod on a gray-blue background. Lemme see if I can insert a link:

    I doubt if this will work. You can always paste it into your browser. Thanks.

  2. Book covers ARE serious! A bad or inappropriate one can sink a book. Fascinating to see the different approaches of the designers here. The first and last are my favourites.

    1. I have forgiven many a rubbish book cover if I really wanted to read the book (in libraries), but I would certainly hesitate to buy one with a bad cover. That anniversary edition does look yummy, doesn’t it? But I have two editions of this book already, plus another in Romanian, so…

  3. Oh, I love those covers! I tried to think which ones I preferred, but really I love them as a group. They would look very fine framed up as a group. Strong images.
    Of course I am a cat fanatic. My cat, Duffy, that I had for 11 years, just died in May. Can’t bear to think of him, but eventually we will get another kitty.

    1. So sorry to hear about your loss. Cats really have a way of getting under your skin, don’t they? I’ve had my beloved Zoe for 4 years now and can’t imagine being without her. Of course, the cat in The Master and Margarita is anything but cuddly…
      And I really like the idea of having an art collection of book covers. Hmmm… maybe a collage of postcards. That would make a lovely decoration for the study!

    1. Alas, yes, these anniversary editions do not come cheap. Although I did treat myself once to an anniversary edition of The Little Prince in French, which is another of my absolute favourite books and had hand-coloured drawings, plus a few extra original drawings by the author.

  4. The perfect post for me, and what a strange and intriguing array. I love the Penguin 50th cover, but P/V nearly killed the book for me, so I certainly won’t be buying it – which is a shame…

    1. Did you read their translation? They are a bit marmite – I’ve heard they are OK for Tolstoy, but not so good for Dostoevsky. As for Bulgakov… well…

      1. I did, on my first read of the book when I knew no better. I struggled with it at places, although Bulgakov carried me through. But my second read, of a different translation, was so much better. I don’t like the way they work, I don’t like their arrogance and their dismissal of other translators, and I wouldn’t touch their Dostoevsky with a bargepole. I’ve read comments from English/Russian speakers about how awful their work is and also seen some articles about their awful howlers. Frankly I don’t need their versions in my life!! 🙂

  5. What I love about these covers, Marina Sofia, is the differences among them. There really is a different ‘feel’ to each cover. The UK and Italian covers seem perhaps the most menacing to me – a hint of what’s inside. But I like the Romanian cover very much.

  6. What fun, MS. I like them all, with the obvious Italian and French exceptions. Every time I settle in a favorite, one of the others grabs my affections, so . . .

    it’s translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky, who are not always my favourites.

    Interesting you should say this. I’ve been lethargically looking around in s/h bookstores and the like for a copy of the Michael Glenny translation, which is the one I first read. I’ve been halfway inclined to pick up a copy of the new translation instead, but you’ve steeled my resolve.

    1. Glenny is the translation I have. And I have to admit that P&V are supposed to be good translators for Tolstoy, for instance (not that I speak Russian, but so people tell me), but I personally did not enjoy them for Dostoevsky.

    1. Which of the Penguins? The special anniversary one? In which case, I’m jealous. Or the Penguin Classics – which I have somewhere in the loft. The one I do have on my bedside table is the Harvill Press rather sinister shadowy cover, translation by Michael Glenny (not featured above). Funny sidenote: WB received this from a friend and admirer a long time ago. He never read it all the way through and didn’t mind at all my keeping it.

  7. Love this post! How could I not, with all those cats to look at? I have never considered reading The Master and Margarita before and I usually think I’m not influenced by book covers – but these definitely catch my eye and make me wonder what the book is all about. I shall have to find out.

  8. I like a lot of these covers, so imaginative … the French, Russian, Italian, Romanian. And the 50th anniversary one, wow!
    The cats are so well-placed.
    Really great covers. It makes me wonder why so many U.S. covers are so boring and uncreative in recent years.

    1. I’ve noticed book covers jumping on trends at the moment: receding back of a person in a colourful coat against a sombre background for crime, or fancy writing against a flower background for feelgood literary fiction, for example. Is that for instant recognition and classification, I wonder?

  9. Hey Marina,
    One of my profs had is read this in grad school. It’s a wild ride all right, and the talking cat always reminds me of the Cheshire Cat on Alice in Wonderland!
    I dig the French cover/playbill, and the dark, brroding UK cover too!

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