2012 | 61 | 1 | 65-80
Article title

Spiritual, Cultural and Political in Mikhail Bulgakov’s tale Собачье сердце

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Mikhail Bulgakov’s tale Heart of a Dog deals with the theme of a dangerous medical experiment on a canine. The author sends a strong political message to the Russian reader of the 1920s in the form of sharp satire against Soviet power and against socialist ideas. The political-allegorical reading insinuates that the canine-human transformation process in the tale symbolizes the social Revolution of 1917, its failure, and the ugly face of the proletariat and of the Bolshevik regime. However, while satirizing Soviet reality, the tale also deals with religious, linguistic and domestic aspects. In the 1920s a wide discussion was open around the essentials of proletarian culture. Bulgakov uses food imagery and eating metaphors as a way to express some of the gray misgivings he harboured about the deleterious effects that the Bolshevik Revolution and the concomitant victory of the proletariat were having upon the level of culture in Soviet Russia. Following in the rich satiric tradition established by Moliere, Gogol’ and Chekhov, Bulgakov tends throughout his work to exploit the comic possibilities of food motifs, very often humorously contrasting physical with spiritual ingestion: that is, he frequently treats eating both as mimesis and as metaphor. By painting a poor cultural picture, Bulgakov simply points out the fact that it would be impossible to demand a cultural or physical satisfaction from the bankrupt ideology of the Bolshevik party. Cultural and moral malnutrition is followed by physical malnutrition, which the Bolsheviks bring. Bulgakov’s story remains remarkably up-to-date and is applicable today. The ethic failure — meanness, personal ambitions, lust for power, betrayals, experiments with nature, cruel treatment of animals, culture wars as well as failure of the social system — all of which have been transcending the limits of time and space for centuries, have found their place in Mikhail Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog.
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  • Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3G1, Canada
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Publication order reference
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