Heart of a Dogby Mikhail Bulgakov
I first read Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita on a balcony of the Hotel Metropole in Saigon on three summer evenings in 1971. The tropical air was heavy and full of the smells of cordite and motorcycle exhaust and rotting fish and wood-fire stoves, and the horizon flared ambiguously, perhaps from heat lightning, perhaps from bombs. Later each night, as… See more details below
I first read Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita on a balcony of the Hotel Metropole in Saigon on three summer evenings in 1971. The tropical air was heavy and full of the smells of cordite and motorcycle exhaust and rotting fish and wood-fire stoves, and the horizon flared ambiguously, perhaps from heat lightning, perhaps from bombs. Later each night, as was my custom, I would wander out into the steamy back alleys of the city, where no one ever seemed to sleep, and crouch in doorways with the people and listen to the stories of their culture and their ancestors and their ongoing lives. Bulgakov taught me to hear something in those stories that I had not yet clearly heard. One could call it, in terms that would soon thereafter gain wide currency, "magical realism". The deadpan mix of the fantastic and the realistic was at the heart of the Vietnamese mythos. It is at the heart of the present zeitgeist. And it was not invented by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as wonderful as his One Hundred Years of Solitude is. Garcia Marquez's landmark work of magical realism was predated by nearly three decades by Bulgakov's brilliant masterpiece of a novel. That summer in Saigon a vodka-swilling, talking black cat, a coven of beautiful naked witches, Pontius Pilate, and a whole cast of benighted writers of Stalinist Moscow and Satan himself all took up permanent residence in my creative unconscious. Their presence, perhaps more than anything else from the realm of literature, has helped shape the work I am most proud of. I'm often asked for a list of favorite authors. Here is my advice. Read Bulgakov. Look around you at the new century. He will show you things you need to see.
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this book is really hilarious - but may not appeal to people who are not familiar or comfortable with the sense of humor that was common back in the Soviet era. i loved the character of the dog, who gave voice to things that people in the USSR would dar never say back then. a real winner.
Bulgakov is well-known for his wonderful novel THE MASTER AND MARGARITA, and I have read that book several times and always been entertained. I and my friend the playwright Howard Pflanzer even went to the trouble of outlining a screen treatment and a score for it, but it is so huge (not in profundity like THE FIRST CIRCLE , for example) bit in settings and the necessity for special effects, that we could find no one to clamber on board with us. But if you want to read the comedic and scintillating apex of this author's work, HEART OF A DOG is for you. It is only a 100 pages or so, and it will always remain among the greatest examples of the world's literature for me. I'll try for an opera with this one.
Of all Bulgakov's works, and he was a wonderful writer, this one stands out the most for me. It is so good that (and I am sure I am not the first person to try it) I will try and make an operatic score out of it. Mirra Ginsburg's translation is topflight too. A note to those completely unfamiliar with this novella: when I was teaching some of the great wave of Russian emigrés who came here in the eighties, a student said to me: "When an American reads HEART OF A DOG he laughs. When a Russian reads it he cries." Find out why . A clue for you: it takes place in the early days of Stalinism. Remember. Enjoy.
I had no idea that this is in the Russian language; nothing in the reviews or the title of the book revealed that fact, and B&N said they can not do anything for me to either translate it or at least give me a copy that is in English. So, needless to say, I am quite disappointed.