Literature Annotations


Bulgakov, Mikhail
The Heart of a Dog


Genre Novel (128 pp.)
KeywordsBody Self-Image, Human Worth, Humor and Illness/Disability, Individuality, Medical Advances, Medical Ethics, Medical Research, Power Relations, Science Fiction, Society, Surgery
Summary

A bedraggled street dog is about to perish in the cold winter night, after having been scalded by boiling water earlier in the day. Suddenly, an elegant man feeds him and takes him home. The dog's savior is a famous and wealthy medical professor who rejuvenates people by hormonal manipulations.

As soon as the dog becomes accustomed to his new life of plenty, he finds himself the subject of a strange experiment--the professor and his assistant implant the testicles and pituitary gland of a dead criminal into the dog's body. After a rocky post-operative course, the dog gradually begins to change into an animal in human form and names himself Poligraph Poligraphovich Sharik. The half-beast-half-man, who gets along very well in the prevailing proletarian society, turns his creator's life into a nightmare--until the professor manages to reverse the procedure.

Commentary

Bulgakov wrote The Heart of a Dog in 1925, but it was not published in the Soviet Union until 1987. The Harvill Press first published an English edition in 1968. This absurdly comical short novel is a satire on the Russian revolution and Soviet society in the early 1920's.

The professor's experiment also reminds the reader of Dr. Frankenstein's famous experiment (see annotation in this database). In the latter case, the creature Frankenstein produced is so unnatural that everyone he encounters rejects him. Bulgakov's dog-man is equally unnatural, but so is Soviet society--Sharik fits right in. He bites the hand that created him.

PublisherHarvill
Edition1999
Place PublishedLondon
MiscellaneousTranslated from the Russian by Michael Glenny.
Annotated by Coulehan, Jack
Date of Entry 11/09/99
Last Revised 10/28/03