Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940)
- from Kiev in Ukraine
- the son of a theology professor, educated to be a physician
- He served in the White Army during the Civil War.
- At age 25, he gave up medicine to become a writer.
- Government censors tried to silence him beginning in 1924 with the publication of his novel The White Guard, recounting his experiences with the White Army. His works were repressed until 1932 when, wonder of wonders, Stalin ordered a production of the dramatized version of The White Guard. He found it hilarious and politically correct!
- Put The Master and Margarita on your summer reading list!
Heart of a Dog (1925)
- a novella inspired by Frankenstein but refracted through the fantastic consciousness of a writer in the tradition of Gogol.
- A mad scientist, Professor Preobajansky (Dr. Transformer) implants a human pituitary gland (and testes) on to a mongrel dog that he has found roaming the winter streets of Moscow, 1925. The doctor is refining a procedure which hopefully will reverse the aging process (for all those willing to pay his exorbitant fee). Unfortunately, this experiment produces disastrous results!
- During the 1920’s post-NEP, pre-5 Year Plan, the Bolsheviks encouraged a remarkable period of social experimentation, partly to help obliterate any political remnants of capitalist culture. Utopian Marxists believed that they could remodel society in ways which would give birth to a new socialist citizen: homo sovieticus. Bulgakov lampoons this effort in Heart of a Dog.
Deconstructing Bulgakov’s Gogol Vision in Heart of a Dog (1925)
1. (pp. 13-15) a scalded mutt freezing on Moscow’s wintry streets
2. (pp. 19-22) Professor Preobrajensky’s mad experiments in reanimation
3. (pp. 22-23) the Marxist Apartment Committee’s policy of tenant compression
4. (pp. 28-29) Professor Preobrajansky’s pessimism about socialism
5. (pp. 36-38) The Journal of a Laboratory Dog
6. (pp. 39-41) Comrade Sharik’s embarrassing couture
7. (pp. 45-48) Sharik’s crude faux-pas at the dinner table
8. (pp. 49-53) Sharik and the Department of Animal Information
9. (pp. 54-55) Spinoza’s Brain
10. (pp. 58-59) Lobotomizing the Proletariat
11. (pp. 59-60) The thymus of a yessum