How can someone live without having read Mikhail Bulgakov?  I simply don’t know. But I could, until a month ago.  I’ve been reading about this wonderful Russian author for quite a long time, but hadn’t had the chance to fully convince myself that this was it.  Bulgakov is THE Russian author.  Dosty, Chekhov, Tolstoy: don’t get me wrong.  You will always live in my heart.  Finding out there was someone like Bulgakov in Russia’s literary Olympus was a real revelation for me.  Thanks to my Russian friends in Couchsurfing and Goodreadings! I started my readings with The Master and Margarita and couldn’t help but keeping his track on Heart of a Dog.  Having “dog” in the title made me want to read it right away.  And it wasn’t a disappointment.  Heart of a Dog is a witty and intelligent satire of the Russian revolution and the new Soviet man.  Written in 1925, this funny novel was prohibited in Russia until 1987.  This is how good it gets!

“Why bother to learn to read when you can smell meat a mile away?”  Chapter 2

“Eyes mean a lot. Like a barometer. They tell you everything-they tell you who has a heart of stone, who would poke the toe of his boot in your ribs as soon as look at you-and who’s afraid of you. The cowards – they’re the ones whose ankles I like to snap at. If they’re scared, I go for them. Serve them right..grrr..bow-wow…” Chapter 1
“By kindness. The only possible method when dealing with a living creature. You’ll get nowhere with an animal if you use terror, no matter what its level of development may be. That I have maintained, do maintain and always will maintain. People who think you can use terror are quite wrong. No, terror’s useless, whatever its colour – white, red or even brown” Terror completely paralyses the nervous system.”  Chapter 2

“The nauseating liquid choked the dog’s breathing and his head began to spin, then his legs collapsed and he seemed to be moving sideways. This is it, he thought dreamily as he collapsed on to the sharp slivers of glass. Goodbye, Moscow! I shan’t see Chichkin or the proletarians or Cracow sausages again. I’m going to the heaven for long-suffering dogs. You butchers – why did you have to do this to me? With that he finally collapsed on to his back and passed out.”  Chapter 2

“Ah, professor, if only you had discovered a way of rejuvenating hair!” Chapter 2

“But surely, Philip Philipovich, everybody says that 30-degree vodka is quite good enough.’   ‘Vodka should be at least 40 degrees, not 30 – that’s firstly,’ Philip Philipovich interrupted him didactically, ‘and secondly – God knows what muck they make into vodka nowadays. What do you think they use?’    ‘Anything they like,’ said the other doctor firmly.     ‘I quite agree,’ said Philip Philipovich and hurled the contents of his glass down his throat in one gulp. ‘Ah . . . m’m . . . Doctor Bormenthal – please drink that at once and if you ask me what it is, I’m your enemy for life. “From Granada to Seville . . .”  Chapter 3

” ‘Food, Ivan Arnoldovich, is a subtle thing. One must know how to eat, yet just think – most people don’t know how to eat at all. One must not only know what to eat, but when and how.’  (Philip Philipovich waved his fork meaningfully.) ‘And what to say while you’re eating. Yes, my dear sir. If you care about your digestion, my advice is – don’t talk about bolshevism or medicine at table. And, God forbid – never read Soviet newspapers before dinner.’    ‘M’mm . . . But there are no other newspapers.’     ‘In that case don’t read any at all. Do you know I once made thirty tests in my clinic. And what do you think? The patients who never read newspapers felt excellent. Those whom I specially made read Pravda all lost weight.” Chapter 3

“The rule apparently is – once a social revolution takes place there’s
no need to stoke the boiler. But I ask you: why, when this whole business started, should everybody suddenly start clumping up and down the marble staircase in dirty galoshes and felt boots? Why must we now keep our galoshes under lock and key? And put a soldier on guard over them to prevent them from being stolen? Why has the carpet been removed from the front staircase? Did Marx forbid people to keep their staircases carpeted? Did Karl Marx say anywhere
that the front door of No. 2 Kalabukhov House in Prechistenka Street must be boarded up so that people have to go round and come in by the back door? What good does it do anybody? Why can’t the proletarians leave their galoshes downstairs instead of dirtying the staircase?’
‘But the proletarians don’t have any galoshes, Philip Philipovich,’ stammered the doctor.”  Chapter 3

“One can find time for everything if one is never in a hurry,’ explained his host didactically.” Chapter 3

dog

 

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