‘Heart of a Dog’ is a satirical novel which attacks Bolshevism. It was written a year after Lenin’s death and at the height of the NEP period, when communism appeared to be relaxing in the Soviet Union. It wasn’t published in the Soviet Union until 1987, but in the “underground” it circulated nevertheless.
In the story, a professor takes care of a stray dog, from whose perspective the story is being told initially. It soon turns out the professor didn’t take in the dog, which he names Sharik, out of pity, but because he wants to conduct an experiment with him. On his operation table, he gives the dog a human pituitary gland, as well as human testicles which were taken from a homeless guy with bolshevist sympathies….. After the operation, the rest of the story is being told by the professor’s assistant, Bormenthal. In the days and weeks following the operation, the dog’s manners and his looks begin to transform, until he is a human being (albeit quite a primitive version of one). The professor and Bormenthal attempt to teach him manners, but they fail dramatically. Rather, Sharik, who renamed himself Poligraf Poligrafovich Sharikov, turns out to become an aggressive Bolshevist.
The novel is quite hilarious, I grinned at Bormenthal’s desperation several times. Of course it reminded me of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau, though that one is more of a horror story whereas this has quite a dose of satire. 4 stars.