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In this article, I propose a new reading of Heart of a Dog, one that takes seriously Professor Preobrazhenskii's claim that his real interest is "eugenics, the improvement of the human species." The Professor's eugenics project is not limited to a cosmetic, physical improvement of human subjects; it anticipates urging humankind toward a higher stage of intellectual and spiritual development as well. Therefore, when he mistakenly transforms a dog into a man instead of a more intelligent dog, he considers the experiment an abject failure because the new man "no longer has a dog's heart, but a human one, and the vilest one you could find." This does not deter the Professor from further research; on the contrary, at the end of the book he is still searching for the mysterious mechanism that connects the secrets of the brain to the secrets of the heart. The science that makes rejuvenation procedures and genetic engineering possible is no longer as fictional as it was in Bulgakov's time, thus, an analysis that highlights the novel's exploration of how science, politics, and ideology interact is long overdue. I propose that the novel's enduring significance lies not in its overworked interpretation as an anti-Soviet satire or as a warning against scientific hubris. Rather, it remains a brilliant exploration of the conundrum of where nature meets nurture in efforts to enhance humankind.

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Copyright © 2006, Association for Slavic, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies. This article first appeared in Slavic Review: 65:3 (2006), 544-564.

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