A Country Doctor's Notebook

Mikhail Bulgakov

translated from the Russian by Michael Glenny
Harvill Press 1975
A book review by Danny Yee © 2011 http://dannyreviews.com/
A freshly graduated doctor, the protagonist of A Country Doctor's Notebook arrives in a remote village with no electricity, a long day by coach from the nearest town. He has a well-equipped medical centre, a good library and competent assistants, but he carries immense responsibility as the only doctor.

Many of the stories in the collection involve the protagonist facing a medical challenge of some kind. With no practical experience he faces up to this and (usually) succeeds without exposing his fears or uncertainties. Recurring themes include the severity of the cold and the blizzards, the isolation, and the backwardness of peasant attitudes to health and medical care.

The last two stories have different settings. The longest, "Morphine", is the first person journal of a doctor descending into the hell of morphine addiction. And "The Murderer" is set in Kiev during the Russian Civil War, just before its capture by the Bolsheviks.

The setting and presumably some of the plot elements of A Country Doctor's Notebook are largely autobiographical, with Bulgakov himself having qualified as a doctor in 1916 and having worked in Kiev and in the Caucasus. This may contribute to the realism and detail of the stories. That is rather different to the satirical fantasy in The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov's best known work, but these are effective and appealing stories.

May 2011

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%T A Country Doctor's Notebook
%A Bulgakov, Mikhail
%M Russian
%F Glenny, Michael
%I Harvill Press
%D 1975
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9781860461651
%P 158pp