It’s been a busy week on the novel-reading front, as the bedridden can only escape through the powers of words and the magic of cinematography. Earlier in the week I had finished ‘The Iron King‘ by Maurice Druon which had not lived up to my expectations as I failed to see what G.R.R. Martin saw in it when he described it as ‘the original Game of Thrones’.
Thus I turned back to Russian literature, and back to Mikhail Bulgakov, for his famous short novel ‘Heart of a Dog‘. A deliciously dark and satirical work, I devoured the text in two settings, delighting in the inserted pseudo-scientific observation notes, the change in the narrators, and the shifting yet similar voices of Sharik as he transforms throughout the tale.
The novel, which again addresses the issue of have and have nots in Soviet Russia, the housing problem, and features a scathing depiction of ‘the housing committee’, centres around the happenings in an apartment in Moscow. The professor who lives and works in this seven room apartment specializes in surgery which revitalized the human body, and searches for further advancements in the fields of eugenics.
The novel traces his most successful and yet least useful experiment: the ability to turn a dog (named Sharik) from the street into a human being. This human exhibits signs of alcoholism, theft and displays a sense of entitlement that begins to drive the professor mad. As Sharik turns into the model ‘comrade’, while living entirely off of the good will of the professor and sometimes by the blatant theft of the professor’s belongings, Bulgakov returns to his critical stance on the Soviet Union- showing how entitled, self-righteous men use ideology not only to steal from and terrorize others, but also how this system undermines scientific advancement and working conditions for all.
Finally, the professor stands accused of not only taking up far too much space with his seven rooms, but also of ‘counter-revolutionary speeches’, threats against the house-committee’s lives, and even of murder… how will he get out of this situation?
Spend a few enjoyable hours and find out!