The writing of Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940) is a fascinating and potent mixture of wit, fantasy and satire which cannot fail to engage the reader. This book contains some of his most important early prose. The novellas Diabotiad, The Fateful Eggs and The Heart of a Dog show a masterly blending of the real and the fantastic and contain in embryo many of the themes developed in his later work.
The famous scientist Professor Persikov in The Fateful Eggs accidentally discovers a ray of life which rapidly increases the proliferation rate, size (and viciousness) of organisms exposed to it. His discovery falls into the wrong hands, however, and soon the ray of life turns into its opposite, sowing death and destruction.
In The Heart of a Dog we find similar elements of science fiction combined with satire of everyday life. Here too Bulgakov raises important questions concerning the misuse of scientific discoveries and the dangers of tampering with nature. The plot centres round an experiment which turns a dog into a man.
The collection opens with Notes Off the Cuff which contains many fascinating details taken from Bulgakov's own life, the period immediately preceding and following his arrival in Moscow in the autumn of 1921. Diaboliad, a comic story with a tragic ending, based on the misunderstandings caused by two sets of doubles, also contains much that is autobiographical and evokes the flavour of Moscow in the early twenties.
Mikhail Bulgakov died fifty years ago without seeing most of his works appear in print or on the stage. Today, however, he is known and read throughout the world and his writings are translated into many languages. The epigraph which he chose for his play about Moliere is equally applicable to him: "Rien ne manque a sa gloire, II manquait a la noire."