As wonderful as these stories are, I feel the whole work would have benefited from their being more stories told so as to make a more cohesive whole. Granted, what’s here is excellent and I enjoyed each story more than the previous one but considering where this story leads to I felt disappointed this character wasn’t explored more.
My reason for thinking there should be more is based on the final two stories. Both the Murderer and Morphine are not told by the main character, we are told these stories indirectly by another narrator. Both stories are very dark in their subject matter but have little to do with the character we spent all our time with previously – they are merely stories that he would have come across as a doctor. Had these stories been about the main character and not some unknown third person I feel Bulgakov would have a real masterpiece on his hands.
Perhaps this is why the television series gave the main character the morphine addiction because they understood the need to combine the various themes covered in these stories into one, dramatic character. In other words, it’s more interesting if the drama happens to the main character.
However, this is still an excellent book. Learning about medical conditions in Russia in the 19 teens, about the peasants (both through humor and sadness), and what it must be like for such a young person to be responsible for the lives of other human beings and being terrified with all that responsibility is written clearly, with humor and insight, and was always interesting. In fact Bulgakov’s humor, in particular, shines through on every page. He’s a little cynical and world weary, but never callous or without empathy – his humor cuts through to the reality and absurdity of the events he writes about – it’s just like Gogol.
This is my first experience with Bulgakov; I cant wait to read The Master and Margarita next.