Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov (5/5)

First published: 1925
Original title: Собачье сердце, Sobach'e serdtse
Original language: Russian
Translation to English by: Michael Glenny, 1968

Page count: 128

The back says: A rich, successful Moscow professor befriends a stray dog and attempts a scientific first by transplanting into it the testicles and pituitary gland of a recently deceased man. A distinctly worryingly human animal is now on the loose, and the professor’s hitherto respectable life becomes a nightmare beyond endurance. An absurd and superbly comic story, this classic novel can also be read as a fierce parable of the Russian Revolution.

I say: This is a masterpiece of magnificent proportions. Everything about it was perfection, and I genuinely want to start reading it all over again right now.

But I’ll save it for when some of the plot isn’t so clear in my head.

As the synopsis says, Professor Preobrazhensky picks up a stray dog, Sharikov, and after having fatted him up enough (or maybe he was just waiting for a corpse) he transplants the dead man’s testicles and pituitary gland into the dog. After a short while the dog transforms into a man that starts to wreak havoc in the professor’s home.

What I loved most about this, apart from the humour and absurdity of it all, was the allegory of not just the Russian Revolution, but of the social structures of modern society and the struggle for, and abuse of, power. Its masterfulness lies in the fact that it lends itself to fit more than just the one framework.

And it’s hilarious.

5/5 because this is the reason I am so obsessed with the Russians (and need to read more of them).

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