I was just reading Carol Palmer’s translation (pdf, Google cache) of Vladimir Lakshin’s courageous 1968 Novy Mir article “Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita” (which not only treated the novel, banned until only a year earlier, as a masterpiece, but mocked the “professors of literature” who resisted its reinstatement), and I hit the following description of the book’s wild variety of characters:
People in contemporary jackets and ancient tunics, in caps and in golden helmets with plumes, people with briefcases under their arms and with lances atilt, people of various epochs and ages, professions and circumstances: a writer, a bookkeeper, a house manager, the Procurator of Judea, a high priest, a centurion, the Variety Theater’s barman, a master of ceremonies, a railway conductor, a literary critic, Roman soldiers, robbers, martyrs, civil servants, actors, administrators, doctors, waiters, housewives, detectives, cab drivers, ticket takers, policemen, vendors of carbonated water, members of the management of a housing cooperative, editors, nurses, firemen—it is hardly possible to name them all. And yet the main characters have not been mentioned here, nor those whom one hesitates to call dramatis personae—the Devil and his retinue, witches, corpses, water nymphs, demons of all aspects and of every stripe, and finally an enormous talking car with a cavalry mustache.
If you haven’t read the novel, I imagine you’d hardly raise your eyebrows at the final item in the list; if the devil and witches and water nymphs, why not a talking, mustachioed car? But if you have, you know “car” is a mistake for “cat.” (Astonishingly, the mistake has not been fixed in the online version; has no one noticed it in the last 30-odd years? The original of the section following the final em dash is “дьявол и его свита, ведьмы, покойники, русалки, демоны и черти всех видов и мастей и, наконец, огромный говорящий кот с кавалерийскими усами.”)