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The Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov

The Heart of a Dog (original 1925; edition 1997)

by Mikhail Bulgakov, Michael Glenny

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1,859303,721 (3.84)1 / 72
Title:The Heart of a Dog
Authors:Mikhail Bulgakov
Other authors:Michael Glenny
Info:Harvill Press (1997), Paperback
Collections:Your library

Work details

Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov (1925)

  1. 30
    The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (Daimyo)
  2. 10
    Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis (knomad)
  3. 00
    The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells (Michael.Rimmer)
  4. 00
    Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord by Olaf Stapledon (Michael.Rimmer)
    Michael.Rimmer: Both feature dogs endowed with human intelligence, though they seem to inhabit different ends of the moral spectrum.

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English (25)  French (2)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Serge Voronoff is a surgeon born in Voronezh, Russia and later a naturalised French citizen, famous for experiments implanting animal testicles into humans. This was during a time when xenotransplantation research was trending and in 1889 he injected himself under the skin with a combination of ground-up dog and guinea pig testicles. He theorised that the animal implants will help increases the hormonal effects to retard ageing. However his methods quickly lost favour when it was discovered any improvements were a result of the placebo effect. This real life scientist helped inspire Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel A Dog’s Heart (also known as Heart of a Dog).

While foraging through the garbage on winter night in Moscow, 1924 a stray dog is found by a cook and given a scrubbing with hot water. While waiting his end, the dog lies there in self-pity, but to his surprise a successful surgeon Filip Preobrazhensk comes and gives him a piece of sausage. The dog followed Filip home where he is give the name Sharik, which is a word to describe a well pampered dog. Very experiments were performed on Sharik, including various transplants of human organs until he was transformed into an unkempt human and given the name Poligraf Poligrafovich Sharikov.

Having read a few books by Mikhail Bulgakov, I have come to expect one thing; social satire on the state of Communist Russia. A Dog’s Heart has this in spades, satirising the Communist ideal of the New Soviet man, while even criticising eugenics. The New Soviet man was an idolised version of what the Communist Party of the Soviet Union believe all citizens should be like. Leon Trotsky wrote about this in his 1924 book Literature and Revolution; “Man will make it his purpose to master his own feelings, to raise his instincts to the heights of consciousness, to make them transparent, to extend the wires of his will into hidden recesses, and thereby to raise himself to a new plane, to create a higher social biologic type, or, if you please, a superman.” The New Soviet man (or woman) was selfless, learned, healthy, muscular, and enthusiastic in spreading the socialist Revolution, this was the ideal citizen needed to grow the Soviet nation.

The plot of A Dog’s Heart parodies Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein while it looks at the idea of the New Soviet man. This gives Bulgakov the ability to look at eugenics as well. Take for example the practices of Serge Voronoff and compare them with Victor Frankenstein. This paints a vivid picture and if the Soviets knew how to create their ideal citizen in a lab there is no doubt in my mind they would be working towards; it is possibly, they were researching a way in secret.

Mikhail Bulgakov seems to have started a tradition of doubling names with patronymic; Poligraf Poligrafovich in A Dog’s Heart and Leopold Leopoldovitch in A Young Doctor’s Notebook. This could be considered a nod to Nikolai Gogol’s with his hero Akakii Akakievich in “The Overcoat”. However I have come to learn this is also satirising the new naming conventions adopted during the early Soviet Union. A large number of Soviet children were given atypical names to show their Revolutionary support. This included initialisms, for example; Мэл (Mel named after Marx, Engels and Lenin), Марлен (Marlene named after Marx and Lenin) and Стэн (Stan named after Stalin and Engels).

The more I read from Mikhail Bulgakov, the more I think he was one of Russia’s best satirist. I have been slowly working my way through Manuscripts Don’t Burn, which is a collection of Bulgakov’s letters and diary entries compiled by J.A.E. Curtis. This has been beneficial in gaining insight to the start’of the Soviet Union at the time of writing his novels. A Dog’s Heart is one of Bulgakov’s better known novels and I am glad to have read it with an understanding of the personal and historical context. I believe The Master and Margarita is Mikhail Bulgakov’s best novel but A Dog’s Heart is worth checking out too.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://www.knowledgelost.org/uncategorized/a-dogs-heart-by-mikhail-bulgakov/ ( )
  knowledge_lost | Sep 20, 2015 |
Finished this with tears in my eyes at 1:54 in the morning, and anxiously awaiting my lecture on it tomorrow afternoon. It's THAT good.

In this short novel, written in the mid 1920's in Soviet Russia and not published until the 80's, Bulgakov manages a few different levels of awareness. The surface level is a moderately comedic story about a scientist that transplants a human's brain into a dog's body, at which point the dog (Sharikov) begins to become progressively "human". The human-like creature, though, still has dog tendencies (chasing after cats in the small apartment, etc) which create the funny scenes.

On a deeper level, though, Bulgakov pens a scatching critique of Soviet Russian society. He knows that Sharikov is lacking what makes a human being, well, a human: a heart. Not the physical surgeon la-dee-da heart, but the moral heart that tells you when something's right or wrong. Not-so-coincidentally, pulling a few various pieces together reveals that Bulgakov thought that this was what the Soviets were repressing in the population--morals, good choices, individually, all sorts of "heart"-related concepts.

Essentially, it's Sharikov's lack of morals and feelings that make us realize how very important these qualities are in humans to make us who we are.

To pack just that bit of extra punch to the story, we receive the dog's perspective in both the beginning AND the end of the novel. In the beginning we keep in mind the innocent dog's expressions and interpreations of the human world around him. They are undoubtedly endearing passages. After going through the whole novel, once Sharikov the dog/human undergoes his transformation and loses his narrative voice, we again at the end are permitted a short glimpse at the dog's thoughts. THIS is what made me cry. The loss of innocence. Or, perhaps, the regaining of it after all that had been said and done.

I give this my highest marks and fondest love !! ( )
  Proustitutes | Jun 11, 2015 |
Exactly 3 years after obtaining the book I finally read it :-)

A great little book, that I read in one sitting and, if it hadn't been 140 pages, even in one breath. That's how much I liked the book.
It starts with the prelude to an experiment on a dog, the experiment itself and the aftermath. The whole story is told with the Russian Revolution going on / just passed. It is a horriffic story , both because of the thought of such an experiment, as well as the description of the strangeness of the period in time.

I wish I had read it earlier.

Recommended for those who like to read Russians and also like a bit of horror. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Sep 25, 2014 |
It is not even reasonable to expect me to pass this book on the library shelves. First of all, it's by the author of The Master and Margarita, which I loved. Second, it's published by my darling Melville House Press. I very nearly purchased it during my last spree on their website. (Actually, I can't be certain that I didn't, as that last purchase is still sitting, unwrapped, on my kitchen table. Don't ask. I have issues.)

Heart of a Dog is a Frankenstein-type story set in early post-Soviet revolution Russia, in a doctor's home office that seems to be the last island of aristocratic life surrounded by a rising sea of comrade proletariat. In this story, the doctor's monster is a stray dog, rescued from the street to the lap of luxury before being implanted with human glands in an experimental surgery -- resulting in his shocking transformation to a vulgar, impulsive, vodka-swilling man.

I couldn't help feeling for every one of the characters in this book (at least at times), even when some of them were behaving very badly. Delightful, clever, and fun. Highly recommended. ( )
  greeniezona | Sep 20, 2014 |
A biological experiment carried out by an eminent Moscow scientist goes horribly wrong and turns a likeable mongrel into an obnoxious human being and would-be follower of the Communist party. This novella reads like a satirical, darkly comic parody of Frankenstein. Like Shostakovich, Bulgakov kept an ambiguous relationship with the Soviet authorities. If his magnum opus The Master and Margarita were to be compared to one of Shostakovich's symphonies (the bleak 4th, perhaps, or the enigmatic 5th), Heart of a Dog would be one of the jazz or ballet suites - slighter, lighter but no less hard-hitting. ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Sep 9, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (58 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mikhail Bulgakovprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aplin, HughTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bromfield, AndrewTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fondse, MarkoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ginsburg, MirraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Glenny, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Henstra, FrisoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Melander, VivecaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802150594, Paperback)

This early novella from Mikhail Bulgakov, published in 1925, already shows the surreal comic genius that later produced The Master and Margarita, the writer's masterpiece. A kind of Frankenstein parable, Heart of a Dog is the story of a stray dog that gains a human intelligence after a prominent Moscow professor transplants human glands into the unfortunate canine's body.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:36 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

This hilarious, brilliantly inventive novel by the author of The Master and Margarita tells the story of a scroungy Moscow mongrel named Sharik. Thanks to the skills of a renowned Soviet scientist and the transplanted pituitary gland and testes of a petty criminal, Sharik is transformed into a lecherous, vulgar man who spouts Engels and inevitably finds his niche in the bureaucracy as the government official in charge of purging the city of cats.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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