The Pequod Review:
A Country Doctor's Notebook is a collection of nine quasi-autobiographical short stories based on Mikhail Bulgakov's own experiences as a 24-year-old physician in a rural Russian town (“thirty-two miles from the nearest electric light”). Written for a mix of medical journals and general interest publications, Bulgakov's stories are full of youthful passion and intensity, as he struggles through moments of self-doubt and inexperience as a newly-hired general physician in a region skeptical of modern medicine. As a result, the book has broader lessons into how learning takes place, how doctors think ("Die. Die quickly. Otherwise, what I am to do?" he says to himself on seeing a terminally ill patient), and how to make decisions under pressure and uncertainty. And all of it is told with great humor and wisdom: “I won't call doctors murderers, that would be too harsh, but I will call them casual untalented hacks.” Bulgakov is more famous for his surrealist novel The Master and Margarita (1967), but this is one of his most powerful and personal works.