Hi everybody! It’s Tanya and welcome to today’s video.
This video is going to be my review for A Country Doctor’s Notebook by Mikhail Afanasievich Bulgakov.
Because I recently read this book, finished it, loved it and I really wanted to talk about it.
Initially, I planned this video as a reading vlog. But the reading vlog didn’t happen.
because I’m terrible at filming them.
I only filmed the intro part and I forgot to film the rest of the vlog
that’s why it’s just a review today.
So recently I finished reading A Country Doctor’s Notebook and Morphine by M. Bulgakov.
A Country Doctor’s Notebook is, let’s say, a collection of short stories
it’s not really a novella
All of these stories are connected to each other by the characters, the place, but I wouldn’t call it a novella
it’s just a collection of anecdotes, situations, and experiences of this young doctor
just out of school who is being sent to a remote Russian village
to get some practical experience as a doctor.
And then Morphine is a short story. It’s only 50 pages in my Russian edition.
I’m not sure how long it’s in English, in Russian, it’s 50 pages.
It doesn’t belong to the collection of A
And the main character of Morphine knows the main character of A Country Doctor’s Notebook
because they studied together in the same university.
So yes, the main characters are different even though, they know each other.
Let’s start with A Country Doctor’s Notebook. I’ll put a picture of an English edition here. I’m holding my Russian edition.
I really enjoyed this collection of short stories.
It’s such an easy and quick read and at the same time so incredibly interesting.
It is a semi-autobiographical collection of short stories
M. Bulgakov started writing it approximately at the same time when he himself graduated from a medical university
and was sent to practice medicine as a “zemsky” (country) doctor.
It was that stage of public medicine in Russia when we had this position of so-called “zemsky” doctor.
They were doctors who practiced medicine in villages.
And the normal thing for them was that they had to be pretty much everybody.
Nowadays we have so many different spheres of medicine.
We have surgery, gynecology, pediatric sphere
we have so many different doctors for all the aspects and diseases of the human body
and in the case of “zemsky” doctors, they had to do everything
because there would be no other doctors. Usually, there were 1 or 2 doctors for a few villages
and they had to deal with everything
they had to help women in labor, conduct surgeries, even pull out people’s teeth.
And this collection is pretty much M. Bulgakov’s own experiences as a young country doctor
who is just out of school, having no practical experiences whatsoever
having only this theoretical knowledge. He graduated from the university as an excellent student
he had a good record, he was a good student and a talented doctor, but he had no practical experience
and in this book, you get a glimpse into what’s going on in his head
when he is for the first time confronted with an actual case and an actual disease which he has to treat now
I will not be telling you about all the stories and what happens in them, but
one of the stories had to do with a woman delivering a baby
and that story is very closely connected to what happened to M. Bulgakov in real life
His first wife – Tatiana Nikolaevna
she went with him to the village where he was supposed to work
so she went with him and she was there
she remembered that when they first arrived at that village hospital, pretty much as soon as they arrived
there was a woman brought to the hospital and she was in labor.
And the position of the baby was a bad position
Normally the baby should go head first. And then a bad position would be legs first. And the worst position is when a baby is blocking his own way out.
And the terrifying thing was that the husband … this is a real-life scenario, what happened to M. Bulgakov in real life
The husband who brought his wife to the hospital was like: “If she dies, you aren’t going to live either. I’ll kill you if she dies”.
Can you imagine? A young doctor, just came, no experience
and people are already threatening his life if he doesn’t deliver the baby or if the woman dies
and all of this with the worst possible position of the baby
and then Tatiana Nikolayevna, his wife, remembered that she pulled out the textbook with the material on how to deliver children
and all the material on gynecology
M. Bulgakov was telling her pages. Like “Open the page number.. and read what it says in there”.
And she read passages from the textbook for him and he tried to deliver a baby.
Luckily in that case everything was resolved well. So the baby and the woman survived and Mikhail Afanasievich survived as well.
And in this book as well there’s a similar story to that.
He doesn’t mention a wife here. In this book, our main protagonist arrives in the village not being married.
M. Bulgakov was married to his first wife – Tatiana Nikolayevna – in this book, the protagonist is not married.
So in the book, he arrives at the hospital alone. And just like in real life, there were supposed to be two doctors.
but the second doctor wasn’t there.
So M. Bulgakov and his protagonist were the only doctors in this hospital for a lot of villages.
In the book, he mentioned that at first when he had just arrived, he had only a few patients throughout the day
but then it became known that he’s a good doctor, he’s helping, people felt better after his treatment
and eventually, he would see up to 100 people a day.
so people from many villages would arrive to see him
this was also what happened to M. Bulgakov. What Tatiana Nikolaevna was remembering.
That M. Bulgakov would also see up to 100 people a day.
So you see there’re a lot of similarities between what happened to him and what happened to the protagonist of the book.
This book was inspired by this book.
by Vikenty Vikentievich Veresaev’s Notes of a Doctor (or Notes of a Physician).
This book, what it was first published, became a bestseller. It was really popular.
AIt was written 15 years before Bulgakov started writing his Notes of a Country Doctor.
Bulgakov was hoping to repeat the success of this book.
And that’s why he started writing his collection of stories.
His collection of short stories is actually very interesting and easy to read.
He shows you so many different situations that a country doctor would face in his career.
So many different people. Mostly, of course, simple people, village people
with no education, no understanding of the human body, medicine, and how it works.
they have absolutely no idea, they do ridiculous things, and they believe ridiculous things
for example, he described in this book, that sometimes when a woman couldn’t deliver
when it wasn’t in a hospital when they decided not to go to a doctor and use the services and help of the village midwives
sometimes, these midwives would ask the men in the family to lift the woman in delivery
then they would suspend her from the ceiling on some kind of ropes
and they would be shaking her, so the baby would fall out of her
and he talks about a few such ridiculous practices that were happening in villages at that time
when I was reading it, I couldn’t believe that people would do that
but then you understand that these people are… what do they know?
they have never been to a school, they probably can’t even read
so they have these very strange and simple ideas.
There’re different stories in here. Some of them are sad and terrifying. But then there’s a story that is actually very lighthearted
and that is very heartwarming in a way.
It has to do with villagers and their perception of medicine and how it works.
And it showed lighter scenarios which caused the doctor and other medical staff at the hospital a laugh but didn’t cause any severe consequences.
So this short collection contains a lot of funny, but sometimes also terrifying and scary moments.
One of the stories had to do with syphilis and how much syphilis was spread in Russian villages at that time and how it spread.
It was really interesting to read.
So I really enjoyed this collection of short stories.
And then the other short story I was talking about at the beginning of the video – Morphine. This is also a very autobiographical story
I guess you could call it semi-autobiographical
because M. Bulgakov, when he was practicing medicine in that village, he got addicted to morphine.
It happened just by accident.
He was conducting surgery on a newborn baby with typhus.
Typhus, from what I understand, I’m not a doctor.
Typhus is a disease when some kind of a thin film is created in the throat of a child or of a person
And this film prevents the person from breathing and then the person dies of suffocation.
The way they treated it at that time was that they would cut the throat open
and they would remove the film from the troat
ad often doctors themselves would get this infection during this surgery because the film would get into their eyes or somewhere else
and that’s how the virus would be transmitted to a doctor.
So M. Bulgakov was conducting this type of operation on a newborn baby with typhus
and in order to protect himself from the disease, he injected something similar to a vaccine
it wasn’t yet a vaccine, they called it “syvorotka”.
It acts similarly to a vaccine, but it isn’t as safe.
It has a lot of side effects.
After injecting this “syvorotka” to himself, he had severe pain in his limbs.
So he was suffering a lot and in order to ease the suffering, he injected morphine once.
and after this one injection, he got addicted.
His wife Tatiana was a nurse and she was the one who was diluting and preparing the drug for him.
So this short story Morphine is based on M. Bulgakov’s own experiences as a drug addict.
And again it’s very similar to what Tatiana Nikolaevna was remembering of that time. At first, M. Bulgakov didn’t believe that he was a drug addict.
He was convinced that doctors couldn’t be drug addicts because they know how addiction works and what drugs can do.
He thought that he could easily stop, but then of course he couldn’t.
And you see the same situation in this short story with the protagonist.
He was also convinced that he could stop using at any time. And there’s also a nurse in this story who was preparing the drug for him and who was telling him to stop
and he was like “I can stop, I’m not addicted… bla bla bla.”
so it’s very closely connected to M. Bulgakov’s own experiences.
I will not tell you what happens in the short story
but in the case of M. Bulgakov, he got rid of the addiction with the help of his wife.
In some sources, they write that it happened with the help of his wife, but then in other sources, they write that it happened with the help of his father-in-law.
So with the help of either of these two people… maybe the father-in-law recommended and the wife actually executed it.