Thursday, March 19, 2015

I feel sorry for the dog, Bormenthal. He was naughty but I couldn't help liking him.

Subject of experiment: Male dog aged approx. 2 years.
Breed: Mongrel.
Name: 'Sharik'.
Coat sparse, in tufts, brownish with traces of singeing. Tail the colour of baked milk. On right flank traces of healed second-degree burn. Previous nutritional state -poor. After a week's stay with Prof. Preobrazhensky -extremely well nourished. Weight: 8 kilograms (!). Heart: . . . Lungs: . . . Stomach: . . . Temperature: . . .
December 23rd At 8.05pm Prof. Preobrazhensky commenced the first operation of its kind to be performed in Europe: removal under anaesthesia of the dog's testicles and their replacement by implanted human testes, with appendages and seminal ducts, taken from a 28-year-old human male, dead 4 hours and 4 minutes before the operation and kept by Prof. Preobrazhensky in sterilised physiological fluid.
Immediately thereafter, following a trepanning operation on the cranial roof, the pituitary gland was removed and replaced by a human pituitary originating from the above-mentioned human male. Drugs used: Chloroform - 8 cc.
Camphor - 1 syringe.
Adrenalin - 2 syringes (by cardiac injection ).
Purpose of operation: Experimental observation by Prof. Preobrazhensky of the effect of combined transplantation of the pituitary and testes in order to study both the functional viability in a host-organism and its role in cellular etc. rejuvenation.
Operation performed by; Prof. P. P. Preobrazhensky. Assisted by: Dr I. A. Bormenthal. During the night following the operation, frequent and grave weakening of the pulse. Dog apparently in terminal state.
The dog in question, Sharik, survives the operation. The replacement of his canine glands with those of a criminal who died in custody causes the dog to metamorphose into a short, ugly, brutish human who calls himself Polygraph Polygraphovich Sharikov.
The creature walked round the flat today for the first time. Laughed in the corridor after looking at the electric light. Then, accompanied by Philip Philipovich and myself, he went into the study. Stands firmly on his hind (deleted) ... his legs and gives the impression of a short, ill-knit human male.
Laughed in the study. His smile is disagreeable and somehow artificial. Then he scratched the back of his head, looked round and registered a further, clearly-pronounced word: 'Bourgeois'. Swore. His swearing is methodical, uninterrupted and apparently totally meaningless. There is something mechanical about it - it is as if this creature had heard all this bad language at an earlier phase, automatically recorded it in his subconscious and now regurgitates it wholesale. However, I am no psychiatrist.
The swearing somehow has a very depressing effect on Philip Philipovich. There are moments when he abandons his cool, unemotional observation of new phenomena and appears to lose patience. Once when the creature was swearing, for instance, he suddenly burst out impulsively: 'Shut up!' This had no effect.
After his visit to the study Sharik was shut up in the consulting-room by our joint efforts. Philip Philipovich and I then held a conference. I confess that this was the first time I had seen this self assured and highly intelligent man at a loss. He hummed a little, as he is in the habit of doing, then asked: 'What are we going to do now?'
I'm talking about Mikhail Bulgakov's 1925 novel Heart of a Dog, quoting Michael Glenny's translation. In a way Bulgakov is rewriting Frankenstein, but mostly he's satirizing the Soviet state. Heart of a Dog was repressed in the USSR until the 1960s. At the time Bulgakov was writing the novel, however, it was not at all clear that the Soviet regime would outlast the year. Bulgakov had no reason to believe he would die long before his novel was published in Russian. There was censorship in the Soviet Union, but there'd been censorship in Russia for a century already, before the October Revolution. It turned out that Stalin had less of a sense of humor than the tsars. Bulgakov presents the dog/man, Sharikov, as the result of Soviet cultural reformations:
'No more sleeping in the kitchen. [Philip Philipovich said.] Understand? I've never heard of such behaviour. You're a nuisance there and the women don't like it.'
The man scowled and his lips began to pout.
'So what? Those women act as though they owned the place. They're just maids, but you'd think they were commissars. It's Zina - she's always bellyaching about me.'
Philip Philipovich gave him a stern look.
'Don't you dare talk about Zina in that tone of voice! Understand?'
'I'm asking you - do you understand?'
'Yes, I understand.'
'Take that trash off your neck. Sha . . . if you saw yourself in a mirror you'd realise what a fright it makes you look. You look like a clown. For the hundredth time - don't throw cigarette ends on to the floor. And I don't want to hear any more swearing in this flat! And don't spit everywhere! The spittoon's over there. Kindly take better aim when you pee. Cease all further conversation with Zina. She complains that you lurk round her room at night. And don't be rude to my patients! Where do'you think you are - in some dive?'
'Don't be so hard on me. Dad,' the man suddenly said in a tearful whine.
Philip Philipovich turned red and his spectacles flashed.
'Who are you calling "Dad"? What impertinent familiarity! I never want to hear that word again! You will address me by my name and patronymic!'
The man flared up impudently: 'Oh, why can't you lay off? Don't spit . . . don't smoke . . .don't go there, don't do this, don't do that . . . sounds like the rules in a tram. Why don't you leave me alone, for God's sake? And why shouldn't I call you "Dad", anyway? I didn't ask you to do the operation, did I?' - the man barked indignantly - 'A nice business -you get an animal, slice his head open and now you're sick of him. Perhaps I wouldn't have given permission for the operation. Nor would . . . (the man stared up at the ceiling as though trying to remember a phrase he had been taught) . . . nor would my relatives. I bet I could sue you if I wanted to.'
Sharikov is one great literary invention.

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