The Dog-Fabulist: Glimpses of the Posthuman in A Dog’s Heart (1925) by Mikhail Bulgakov
Mikhail Bulgakov’s science-fiction novella A Dog’s Heart (Собачье сердце, 1925) is a brilliantly wry account of an experiment to graft human organs onto the body of a stray mutt, with unexpected consequences. The dog turns into a despicable, unruly hominid that wreaks havoc in Professor Preobrazhensky’s already endangered bourgeois existence. Critics have seen the story mostly as a prophecy predicting the downfall of the homo sovieticus: the uncontaminated, witty voice of the dog-narrator does not spare either the aristocratic opportunists of the new regime, or the violent, unruly proletarians. However, from an animal studies perspective, Bulgakov’s story, along with examples from Mikhail Zoschchenko’s and William Golding’s anti-utopian fiction, may also be investigated as an exhortation to discover new narratives of “intra-action” (Barad) among all sorts of living agencies, and as an enactment of what Joseph Meeker calls the “play ethic,” where more-than-human and human beings participate on equal terms in the game of survival and co-evolution. Through a comparative analysis of the three main characters, Sharik, Sharikov and Preobrazhensky, this article shows how Bulgakov’s story is not only a fable about human fallibility and political conflicts, but also opens a window onto a posthuman alternative.
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