A young doctor, recently assigned to a country hospital, is fraught with anxiety, especially over his lack of experience with obstetrical problems. One night the midwives call him; a woman is having a difficult labor. The fetus is presenting in a transverse position. The doctor must reach internally and “turn it around by the foot,” as Anna Nikolaevna, the seasoned midwife, reminds him.

The doctor has never performed this procedure. He buys time by going back to his room to consult the textbook (under the pretext of going for cigarettes). Finally, he can't avoid it any longer. He performs the rotation. It works! Both mother and baby are saved.


Bulgakov was sent to a country hospital like the one in this story (without having done an internship) after graduating in medicine from Kiev University in 1916. He spent 18 months in this difficult, isolated practice, before returning to Kiev to specialize in venereal diseases.

This tale, like his other “doctor stories,” was written in the mid-1920's, after Bulgakov gave up medical practice for a career in writing. This story presents a gripping portrait of a young doctor being initiated into the rigors and responsibilities of his profession. He has to act, to do the best he can, even when he doesn't really know how to do what he is supposed to do. When things ultimately go well, his sense of accomplishment is evident.


First published: 1925-27. Translated by Michael Glenny.

Primary Source

A Country Doctor's Notebook


Collins & Harvill

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