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The Heart of a Dog

Michael Glenny with an introduction by Andrey Kurkov

Attempting a medical first, a scientist transplants the glands of a petty criminal into a scroungy Moscow mongrel named Sharik. The creature that results is a hairy, lecherous, vulgar, vodka-swilling comrade who wreaks havoc on the scientist’s apartment, chases cats as head of the “sub-department of the Moscow Cleansing Department responsible for eliminating vagrant quadrupeds,” and threatens to expose his creator as a counterrevolutionary.

First translated into English by Michael Glenny in 1968, twenty years before it would be officially published in the Soviet Union, The Heart of a Dog is a blistering satire on the Communist efforts to create a “new Soviet man.” It’s also superbly funny and narratively bold, told partly from the point of view of the dog—a novel that yaps, barks, and still bites.

MIKHAIL BULGAKOV (1891-1940) was born in Kiev. Schooled as a doctor, he gave up the practice of medicine in 1920 to devote himself to writing. He went on to write some of the greatest novels in twentieth-century Russian literature, including White Guard and Black Snow. Though Bulgakov’s work was often censored, Stalin showed his personal favor by protecting him from imprisonment and finding a job for him at the Moscow Art Theatre, where the writer would work as a director and playwright for many years. He died at the age of forty-nine from a kidney disorder. His masterpiece, The Master and Margarita, would not be published until twenty-six years after his death.

MICHAEL GLENNY (1927-1990) was at one point a British army officer, an intelligence agent in Wester Berlin, and a traveling salesman for Wedgwood china, which first took him to the Soviet Union. He eventually became most well-known as one of the world’s leading translators of Russian literature, and particularly famous for bringing dissident writers to the fore, including Aleksander Solzhenitsyn and Georgi Vladimov. He was the first to translate Mikhail Bulgakov into English, and his translations remain the definitive editions.

ANDREY KURKOV is a Ukranian writer born in Russia. A linguist by training, he resisted pressure to be a KGB translator for his military service by opting instead to be a prison guard. Becoming a journalist afterward, he sold copies of his self-published books on the streets of Kiev until his career took off. Today, he is one of the most acclaimed and bestselling writers in Ukrainian history.

”One of the greatest of modern Russian writers, perhaps the greatest.” —The Independent

”As high-spirited as it is pointed. Unlike so much satire, it has a splendid sense of fun.” —Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times

”Bulgakov here assaults the dour, utilitarian lives of Soviet citizens with a defiant, boisterous display of nonsense.” —The Times (London)

”Spirited and entertaining.” —The Times Literary Supplement

”As timely a piece of literary excellence as one could wish for… The author is mordant and very funny. His style, through Michael Glenny’s fine translation, has great strength and simplicity; the recommendation is unreserved.” —The New Statesman

”Such is Bulgakov’s unobtrusive skill that it all seems quite believable… The psychology is sound, the illusion is remarkably well sustained, the humor is never forced, and implicit always is a passionate and severe humanity.” —The New York Times Book Review

”Bulgakov was unique, with a voice all his own… Humorous rather than witty, horrifying rather than bitter, he was, in his daemonic fantasy and his uproarious laughter, akin to Gogol.” —The New York Review of Books