Sunday, February 22, 2009

It's my jaw not the government's!

Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov

This is the second book by Bulgakov I have read. His the Master and Margarita is, by far, my favorite book. So I was very excited to read this novella.

The story is about a dog, Sharik, who is taken in by a doctor. This doctor, Philip Philippovich, does some very interesting surgeries in attempt to keep his paients young. He transplants some of their organs with animal ones. However, with Sharik, he replaces the dogs testes and pituitary gland with that of a criminal who has recently died. Sharik becomes more and more human much to the alarm of Philip Philippovich and his assistant Dr. Bormenthal.

This story connected in my mind not only to Frankenstien, but also to A Clockwork Orange, for not only does Philip turn Sharik into a "human" but he also is trying very much to change the nature of this human, albeit not with the certain force used in Clockwork. Also, the more I think about it you could also see a little of My Fair Lady in there as well, since they do their best to turn Sharikov into a gentleman.

There is also a great deal of issue over "rights" in this novella: the right of the upper class over the lowe and how this is transitioning at that point in Russia, the right over the educated over the uneducated, human rights over animal rights, doctor's rights over patient's rights and creator's rights over the creation'r rights. Can you tell that I am drooling to write a paper on this book?

This book was translated by Mirra Ginsburg. I've never read any of her translations before. I think that some of the finer points of the story might be lost on readers without a background on Russian life at the time, since there are no footnotes in this edition explaining things. One thing that just didn't click with me was that there were several instances of young men who turn out to be young women, I'm not quite sure what the deal is since they are only talked about for a
moment or two.

This book is very short, only 118 pages, but gives you a lot to think about. What makes a man and what the purpose is of human/animal testing are things that Philip Philippovich struggles with.

There were so many quotes that I wrote down; I'll just share a few.

" The whole horror, you see, is that his heart is no longer a dog's heart, but a human one. And the viliest one you could find." pg 105

"The doctor's eyes resembled two black muzzles of guns aimed straigt at Sharikov." pg 110. I love that image.

"You are a creature just in the process of formation, with a feeble intellect. All your actions are the actions of an animal. Yet you permit yourself to speak with utterly insufferable impudence in the presence of two people with a university education - to offer advice on a cosmic scale and of equally cosmic stupidity on how to divide everything..." pg 91

And because I find this to be humorous:
"I am not a mister, all the misters are in Paris!" pg 96.

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