For years I wanted to read Heart of a Dog, finally I found the time to do so and I am not disappointed. Bulgakov presents a great satirical novella in which he asks quite a few uncomfortable questions about the freedom and limits of science, about responsibility for one’s creation, personal happiness, and, last but not least, about the influence and corruption of the communist/bolshevik system.
Since I usually find a constantly changing perspective rather annoying and/or distracting, I am surprised, that I really enjoyed this mixture of the dog’s perspective, third person narration and pieces of Bormental’s diary. I especially appreciate the fact that the story starts from Šarik’s point of view (that is the dog’s) and that Bulgakov concentrates much on scent, smell and sensations of details that are in general irrelevant for humans. Therein also lies the explanation for Šarik’s later fondness of flashy patent leather shoes.
I love the fact, that all characters in here are quite coherent in their behavioural traits, even Šarik – while being a dog, while transforming into a human and while being the human Šarikov. That’s quite an achievement in my opinion!
Besides the social satire that can be found in Heart of a Dog, Bulgakov imposes some further existential questions like what makes one human? How does one behave towards his/her own creator? How does one behave towards his/her own creation? Or what ultimately makes us who we are?
Overall, this is less surreal and phantasmagorical than most of Bulgakov’s other writings – and I like it!