Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fate with a document? A rare combination

Mikhail Bulgakov is one of my favorite authors. His best known work, The Master and Margarita, has remained my number one favorite book for years. The Fatal Eggs is a lesser known work of his; my dad picked this up overseas and gave it to me. It is about the same length as his Heart of a Dog, which I reviewed early last year.

There are a lot of similarities between The Fatal Eggs and Heart of a Dog. Both are about scientists that perform controversial experiments that go horribly wrong by going right. In The Fatal Eggs, our scientist, Persikov, discovers a ray of light that increases growth in frog eggs exponentially. Frogs the size of cats are hopping around his laboratory. Persikov is a character that can't see the larger implications of what he is doing and is very annoyed when anyone asks him to think about them.

Because this takes place in communist Russia, the government, represented by Comrade Alexander Semyonovich Faight, takes the ray into their own hands. Faight does this because all of the chickens in Russia have died off from some unknown illness and the other countries are laughing at Russia. However, what hatches from Faight's eggs is not quite the Frankenstein chicken I expected. It's better.

"Alexander Semyonovich brought the flute up to his lips, have a horse squeak and, gasping for breath at every second, started to play the waltz from Eugene Onegin. The eyes in the greenery immediately began to burn with an implacable hatred for that opera."

I thought that this book was very good. This book seemed to have more direct government influence than Heart of a Dog and in this book the scientist doesn't learn anything from his actions. This edition of the book has a great foreword by Doris Lessing and is translated by Hugh Aplin. Normally I am a bit of a snob when it comes to Russian translations and like to stick with Pevear and Volokhonsky, but I thought that Aplin's translation was well done. There were some footnotes that were helpful, however to get a full understanding of the work I think you need at least a basic understanding of what was happening at Russia during this time.

"All Moscow rose, and the white sheets of the newspapers dressed it, like birds."

This is a quick read, only about a hundred pages. If nothing else, it teaches the importance of reading the shipping list on all packages delivered to you, especially if you are a crazy scientist.

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