Part autobiography, part fiction, this early work by the author of The Master and Margarita shows a master at the dawn of his craft, and a nation divided by centuries of unequal progress.
In 1916 a 25-year-old, newly qualified doctor named Mikhail Bulgakov was posted to the remote Russian countryside. He brought to his position a diploma and a complete lack of field experience. And the challenges he faced didn’t end there: he was assigned to cover a vast and sprawling territory that was as yet unvisited by modern conveniences such as the motor car, the telephone, and electric lights.
The stories in A Country Doctor’s Notebook are based on this two-year window in the life of the great modernist. Bulgakov candidly speaks of his own feelings of inadequacy, and warmly and wittily conjures episodes such as peasants applying medicine to their outer clothing rather than their skin, and finding himself charged with delivering a baby—having only read about the procedure in text books.
Not yet marked by the dark fantasy of his later writing, this early work features a realistic and wonderfully engaging narrative voice—the voice, indeed, of twentieth century Russia’s greatest writer.
About the Author
Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940) was born in Kiev, Ukraine, and lived most of his adult life in Stalinist Russia. A journalist, playwright, novelist, and short story writer, he is best known in the West for his novel "The Master and Margarita," Marian Schwartz is a prize-winning Russian translator who recently received her second Translation Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts to translate Olga Slavnikova's newest novel, "2017," She has translated classic literary works by Nina Berberova and Yuri Olesha, as well as Edvard Radzinsky's "The Last Tsar," She lives in Austin, TX.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature, was born in 1918. In February 1945, while he was captain of a reconnaissance battery of the Soviet Army, he was arrested and sentenced to an eight-year term in a labor camp and permanent internal exile, which was cut short by Khrushchev's reforms, allowing him to return from Kazakhstan to Central Russia in 1956. Although permitted to publish "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" in 1962--which remained his only full-length work to have appeared in his homeland until 1990--Solzhenitsyn was by 1969 expelled from the Writers' Union. The publication in the West of his other novels and, in particular, of "The Gulag Archipelago", brought retaliation from the authorities. In 1974, Solzhenitsyn was arrested, stripped of his Soviet citizenship, and forcibly flown to Frankfurt. Solzhenitsyn and his wife and children moved to the United States in 1976. In September 1991, the Soviet government dismissed treason charges against him; Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia in 1994. He died in Moscow in 2008.
"These straightforward yet extraordinary sketches gain their strength from also being the account of a young man's growth. One begins to see that he became a novelist not because he had material but because he was storing up passion and temperament." -- V.S. Pritchett, New Statesman
“…they don’t read outdated, musty or strange today. Instead, they evoke archetypal situations we experience in contemporary medical storytelling.” —The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Bulgakov casts a wonderfully wry, self-deprecating humour. His compassion for human folly is unfailing ... These stories stand testament both to human resilience and a remarkable literary talent." -- The Independent
"Stories as keen and bright as a scalpel ... Courage shines from every angle of this profoundly human collection by the greatest of modern Russian writers." -- Sunday Times