Dog heart

Dog Heart (in Russian , Собачье сердце , Sobach’e serdtse ) is a novel written by Mikhail Bulgakov in 1925, during the period of apogee of the NEP , when communism seemed to relax in the Soviet Union , it is a satire of the New Man Soviet Union . 1 Generally it is interpreted like an allegory of the communist revolution and “the rude attempt of the revolution to radically transform the humanity”. 2 Initially its publication was banned in the Soviet Union, but circulated like samizdat until it was officially published in 1987. It is “one of the most appreciated works of Mikhail Bulgákov”, carried out by a vagabond dog “Sharik and that takes human form” As a careless and narcissistic incarnation of the New Soviet man. 3 The novel has become a cultural phenomenon in Russia, being known and commented by people “from school to politicians”. 4 Also it was subject matter for films, filmed in Russian and Italian, as well as adapted in English for a play and an opera. 5


The publication of the book was rejected in 1925, partly by the influence of Lev Kámenev , at that time an important official of the Party. In turn, Bulgakov wrote in 1926 a play based on the novel for the Moscow Art Theater . However, the work was canceled after the manuscript and copies were confiscated by the OGPU . Eventually Maximo Gorki intervened to have the manuscript returned. 1

The story has similarities with Faust , Frankenstein and The island of Dr. Moreau . It was only published in the Soviet Union in 1987, more than 60 years after it was completed, but was made known to the Russian readers through the samizdat. In 1968 it was published in English by Harvill Press, translated by Michael Glenny. Recently, it has been reprinted in paperback by Grove Press; ISBN 0-8021-5059-4 .

The real model for Professor Preobrazhensky was possibly the Russian-French surgeon Serge Vóronov , who became famous for his experiments of implants of testicles and animal thyroid glands in humans, although there were other surgeons who made similar operations. 6


Moscow , 1924. One winter day, while looking for food in the trash, a stray dog is discovered by a cook and scalded with boiling water. Leaning on the threshold of a door, the dog waits resignedly for its end. To his surprise, the successful surgeon Filip Filipovich Preobrazhenski appears and offers him a piece of sausage. Excitedly, the dog follows Filip to his apartment, where he is given the generic name of Sharik.

In the apartment, Sharik meets Dr Preobrazhenski’s circle, which includes Doctor Bormenthal, his disciple and protégé , as well as two servants. Despite the Professor ‘s notorious anti-communism, the frequent treatments applied to the leaders of the RCP (b) make him untouchable. As a result, he refuses to rent part of his 7-room apartment and treats the Bolsheviks of the housing committee, led by Schwonder, in a disdainful way. Impressed by his new master, Sharik fits easily into the role of “a gentleman’s dog”.

After several days, one of the servants begins to walk to Sharik by Moscow. With his new collar, Sharik ignores the taunts of another passing street dog. As his health improves, Professor finally reveals his true intentions by bringing Sharik to his apartment. While the lab is being prepared, he orders Sharik into the bathroom.

While the prospective Sharik plans to destroy the Professor’s dissected owl again, the bathroom door opens slowly and is dragged through the skin of the neck inside the lab. There it is sedated and the operation is started. While he is attending Bormenthal, Professor trepana skull Sharik and implants a pituitary gland human. Sharik’s torso is also open and human testes are implanted . Only repeated injections of adrenaline prevent the dog from dying on the operating table.

During the weeks following the operation, the inhabitants of the apartment are stunned to see how Sharik begins to transform into an incredibly careless human being. After making a pact with Schwonder, the former canine is given identity papers with the absurd name of “Poligraf Poligrafovich Sharikov”.

Subsequently, Professor and Bormenthal patiently try to teach Sharikov basic manners. Instead, Sharikov mocks manners as a relic of Tsarism . He insists that it is better to behave “naturally.” Consequently, Sharikov says insults in front of women, refuses to shave and dresses like a bum.

Meanwhile, Sharikov gradually transforms the Professor’s life into hell. One day, he accidentally opens the tap while chasing a cat. With the bathroom door closed, the whole apartment is flooded. Then he is surprised as he tries to sexually abuse one of the servants. Airing, Bormenthal knocks Sharikov and forces him to apologize. Enraged, Sharikov leaves the apartment and disappears for several days.

Later, Bormenthal begs the Professor to allow him to poison Sharikov with arsenic , saying that he is a man with “the heart of a dog.” The Professor is horrified and orders Bormenthal not to “kill the dog”. He explains that the human parts, coming from a homeless drunkard sympathizing with the Bolsheviks, are responsible for all of Sharikov’s shortcomings. Bormenthal then suggests that the operation be repeated, but using the body of a genius. The Professor opposes again, explaining that the operation was intended to improve the human race . Apart from his previous ideas, the Professor admits that any peasant can give birth to a genius and that therefore eugenics is a waste of time. In conclusion, the Professor refuses to allow the assassination of Sharikov or reverse the operation, which could equally kill him.

Shortly, Sharikov returns, explaining that the Soviet State has offered him a job. Now he spends his day strangling stray cats. The Party, he says, is transforming them into cheap fur coats for the working class. Then Sharikov brings to the apartment a co-worker, who presents her to the Professor as his co-worker.

Instead of giving them their own room, as demand Sharikov, the Professor takes the woman aside and explains that Sharikov is the result of a laboratory experiment that went horribly wrong. The woman was told that Sharikov was injured while fighting the White Army of Aleksandr Kolchak in Siberia. Upon learning the truth, she leaves the apartment in tears. With a look of hatred, Sharikov swears he will get fired. Again Bormenthal beats Sharikov and makes him promise that he will not do something like that again.

The next day, a high-ranking Party official arrives and informs the Professor that Sharikov has reported him to CHEKA . After explaining to him that nothing is going to happen to him due to the distrust of the State with respect to Sharikov, the official of the Party retires. When Sharikov returns, Professor and Bormenthal orders him to leave the apartment permanently. Instead, Sharikov opposes and pulls out a revolver . Enraged, Professor and Bormenthal throw themselves at him.

That night, a heavy silence reigns in the apartment and the lights are left on for several hours after going to sleep. In subsequent days, Professor and Bormenthal are much more relaxed than before Sharikov’s arrival. Eventually, the police arrive escorted by a vociferous Schwonder.

With a search warrant , they instruct Professor and Bormenthal to hand over Sharikov under penalty of arrest. Without being intimidated, the Professor orders Bormenthal to bring Sharikov, who is being transformed into a dog again. The Professor explains that change is a natural phenomenon, although it is obvious to the reader that he and Bormenthal simply reversed the operation. The police retreat, followed by a Schwonder about to have a stroke.

Later, the dog Sharik retakes its status of dog of a gentleman. However, he is terrified to see that Professor brings to the apartment a human brain and removes the pituitary gland …


The novel has been interpreted as both a satire of communist attempts to create the New Soviet man and as a critique of eugenics. 7 8 A usually accepted interpretation is that Bulgakov tried to show all the inconsistencies of the system in which Sharikov, a man with the intelligence of a dog, could become an important part. Sharik is seen as “a reincarnation of the repulsive proletarian” and the Professor represents a “hyperbolic vision of the bourgeois dream,” according to JAE Curtis. 1

Names and surnames have a prominent figuration in history. Preobrazhenski’s is derived from the Russian word for transfiguration. “Sharik” is a common name for dogs in Russia.

The name and patronymic “Poligraf Polygraphovich” reflects a tradition of absurd compound names in Russian literature dating back to Akakii Akakievich, star of The Overcoat , of Gogol . The name also is a satire to the new conventions on names in the primitive Soviet Union. However, the name was chosen according to the old Russian tradition of “consult the calendar , ” [ citation needed ] being the March 4 San Poligraf day.

The name of the donor of human organs, an alcoholic and vagabond, is Chugunkin (“chugun” is cast iron in Russian), and can be interpreted as a parody of Stalin’s name (“stal” is steel in Russian). [ Citation needed ]

Translation detail

In the English translation of Michael Glenny, when Preobrazhenski asks Sharikov what he and his co-workers do with dead cats, he responds: “They go to a laboratory, where they transform them into protein for the workers.” In the original Russian text (as well as Vladimir Bortko ‘s film ) Sharikov’s response is: “They will be transformed into fur collars for the coats, the workers will buy them as squirrels.” This is due to an erroneous translation of the word белок ( b and lok , Russian plural genitive of белка ( squirrel )) and белок (protein). [3] , [4] These words are distinguished only by their prosodic accentuation , which is usually not indicated in writing and both are homographically represented as белок ( belok ) in most books.

In popular culture

The comic opera The murder of Comrade Sharik , by William Bergsma (1973), is based on the plot of the novel. The novel was filmed in Italian in 1975 as Cuore di Cane and starred by Max von Sydow as Preobrazhenski. Referring to Fig.

Sobachye Serdtse ‘ , a very popular 1988 Soviet film, was filmed in sepia by Vladimir Bortko . 10 Important scenes from the film were filmed from the point of view of an unusually low dog.

In 2007, Guerrilla Opera premiered “Dog Heart”, a new opera composed by Rudolf Rojahn and directed by Sally Stunkel. In 2010, the second production was directed by Copeland Woodruff.

In 2010, De Nederlandse Opera premiered “Dog Heart”, a new opera composed by Alexander Raskatov and directed by Simon McBurney . 11 This was re-staged by the Lyon National Opera in January 2014.

In March 2011, “Dog Heart” was staged at the University of Leeds, led by James Ahearne and Matthew Beaumont. 12

In Australia a new musical adaptation of “Heart of dog” has been developed and will be premiered in May, written by Jim McGrath, composed by Marc Robertson and directed by Nick Byrne. 13


  1. ↑ Jump to:a b c Cornwell, Neil; Nicole Christian (1998). Reference Guide to Russian Literature . Taylor & Francis. P. 103. ISBN 1-884964-10-9 , ISBN 978-1-884964-10-7 .
  2. Back to top↑ Haber, Edythe C. (1998). Mikhail Bulgakov: The Early Years . Harvard University Press. Pp. 216-17. ISBN  0-674-57418-4 .
  3. Back to top↑ Schoofs, Mark (May 20, 2008). «In Moscow’s Metro, Stray Dog’s Life Is Pretty Cushy, and Zoologists Notice» . The Wall Street Journal ( Dow Jones ). Pp. A1 . Consulted on May 20, 2008 .
  4. Back to top↑ Serebriakov, Alexandr. ‘Собачье сердце как зеркало русской контрреволюции’ . (in Russian) . Consulted on May 20, 2008 .
  5. Back to top↑ Yankova, Tatiana. «Автор и герой в” Собачьем сердце ” » . (in Russian) . Consulted on May 20, 2008 .
  6. Back to top↑ Tatiana Bateneva. In the quest for longevity humans are ready to become relatives with any animals (in Russian)
  7. Back to top↑ New York Times Review Obra: Dog Heart, 01-02-1988.
  8. Back to top↑ Biography of Bulgákov on
  9. Back to top↑ Cuore di cane Internet Movie Database
  10. Back to top↑ Sobachye Serdtse Internet Movie Database
  11. Back to top↑ «2009-2010 Calendar: The Amsterdam Music Theater» .


  • Cornwell, Neil; Nicole Christian (1998). Reference Guide to Russian Literature . Taylor & Francis. P. 103. ISBN 1-884964-10-9 , ISBN 978-1-884964-10-7 .