Heart of a Dog

Bulgakov deplored the loss of civilized values that sometimes resulted from the housing shortage in his comic novella, Heart of a Dog (1925) In one scene from the novel, Professor Philipp Philippovich Preobrazhensky has asked for an extra room, and four members of the housing committee, led by Shvonder, reject his request:


"The general meeting looked over your question and came to the conclusion that in general and overall you occupy excessive space. Completely excessive. You live alone in seven rooms."

"I live and work alone in seven rooms, answered Philipp Philippovich, "and would like to have an eighth. I absolutely require it for a library."

The four were struck dumb.

"An eighth! that's great!"

"This is indescribable!"

"I have a reception room, note, which is also the library, the dining room and my office -- 3. The examination room -- 4. The operating room -- 5. My bedroom -- 6, and the maid's room -- 7. In general, it's not enough but that's of no importance. My apartment is free of restrictions, and that's the end of the discussion. May I go dine?"

"I beg your pardon," said one man.

"I beg your pardon," interrupted Shvonder, "but it's precisely about the dining room and the examination room we've come to talk to you. The general meeting requests that you voluntarily, as a demonstration of worker's discipline, give up the dining room. No one in Moscow has a dining room.

"Even Isadora Duncan," cried the woman resoundingly.

Something happened to Philipp Philippovich, as a result of which his face gently turned crimson and he didn't make a sound, waiting to see what would happen next.

"And give up the examination room as well," continued Shvonder, "the examination room can easily be combined with the office."

"Aha," said Philipp Philippovich in some strange voice, "and where should I dine?"

"In the bedroom," responded all four in a chorus.

Philipp Philippovich's crimson color took on a grayish tint.

"Dine in the bedroom," he began with a slightly suppressed voice, "read in the examination room, dress in the reception room, operate in the maid's room, and examine patients in the dining room. It's quite possible that's exactly what Isadora Duncan does. Perhaps she has dinner in the office and dissects rabbits in the bathroom. Perhaps. But I am not Isadora Duncan!" he suddenly burst out and his crimson color became yellow. "I will dine in the dining room and operate in the operating room! Pass this on to the general meeting and I humbly request that you return to your affairs and allow me the opportunity to dine where all normal people dine, that is, in the dining room, and not in the hall or the nursery."

In later years people got around restrictions through apartment exchanges.