Category Archives: Country Doctor’s Notebook, A

A Country Doctor’s Notebook: December 28, 2013 to January 08, 2014

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.

88% done with A Country Doctor’s Notebook

From watching the television show I was curious as to how they came up with the subplot of the morphine.

Now I understand.

That whole chapter was very sad to read about. He kept talking about how being at the hospital was like being on a desert island, totally isolated, and this story did an impressive job of conveying a type of isolation much more terrible.

I wonder if that’s what the revolution was like?

56% done with A Country Doctor’s Notebook

It would be easy to laugh at the simple peasants in theses stories as backwards and ignorant because of their reluctance to embrace the advice of even a respected doctor. However, Bulgakov, I believe, is making a bigger point about all people and how reluctant we all are to progress despite excellent evidence contrary.

Some people can be reached, many more cannot. This is not a new dilemma, it is human nature.

36% done with A Country Doctor’s Notebook

Looking at a bigger picture than just Russia, a doctor anywhere during the early 20th century, far from a major city, and even with a good education, would still be a far cry from modern medicine. Though hygiene and anesthesia are used, more often than not brute-force would be the most common treatment. Scientific progress is slow, both for the doctors and especially for the patients.

21% done with A Country Doctor’s Notebook

I stated reading this because of the wonderful TV show.

I’ve never read Bulgakov before but after the very first line on the first story I’m hooked on him. That sense of humor and simple, easy style is brilliant.

His having been a doctor adds to the color of the stories greatly, too. The steel windpipe tale (2nd story) made me really squeamish but also drove home how isolated the hospital is.