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Morphine (1926)

by Mikhail Afanasevich Bulgakov

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2187101,958 (3.73)18
Young Dr. Bromgard has come to a small country town to assume a new practice. No sooner has he arrived than he receives word that a colleague, Dr. Polyakov, has fallen gravely ill. Before Bromgard can go to his friend's aid, Polyakov is brought to his practice in the middle of the night with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and, barely conscious, gives Bromgard his journal before dying. What Bromgard uncovers in the entries is Polyakov's uncontrollable and merciless descent into morphine addiction -- his first injection to ease his back pain, the thrill of the drug as it overtakes him, the looming signs of addiction, and the feverish final entries before his death.… (more)
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» See also 18 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Diverses peripècies mèdiques contades per un metge jove i inexpert, que fa de metge rural a un cul de món a Rússia, a la primeria del segle XX. Peripècies contades des d'un punt de vista més humà que tècnic, si se'm permet una distinció políticament incorrecta.

La traducció de Jaume Creus és força bona. Llàstima que li falti tan poc per a arribar a excel·lent, perquè no hi arriba. ( )
  vturiserra | Nov 29, 2021 |
As my wife suggests: sometimes a great author's minor works are considered minor for a reason. This was my first time reading Bulgakov, for the very simple reason that I mostly get books second hand, and his books are never available second hand. An excellent sign! But this was disappointing. No doubt someone who knows more about Russia than I do might be able to turn this very sub-Dostoevskian tale of madness and addiction into an allegory for the Russian revolution. There are references to the events every now and then, and I'm sure one can make decent analogies between the country doctor's reliance on morphine to overcome a mysterious pain on the one hand, and, on the other, a country's reliance on rigid dogma to overcome a mysterious pain (i.e., the horrific injustice that preceded the revolution) on the other.

But sadly, as I was reading this I kept thinking that any familiarity with 20th century drug lit at all makes it very hard to really get interested in a *morphine* addiction that leads to little more than one hallucination and a fairly gentle seeming death. That's not Mikhail's fault, of course. It is his fault that I also kept thinking that Dostoevsky would have done it better, and earlier. Bulgakov surely has much more than this to recommend him. So, in a weird way, perhaps I'll be more likely to get a new copy of M&M.

As a side note, goodreads suggests that this is crazy popular in arabic. I'd love to read those reviews and find out why. ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |


First published in 1925, Morphine is a mini-novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, one of the giants of twenteith century Russian literature. The storyline is simple: Bromgard, a young doctor moves from the backwoods to a small country town to practice medicine in a clinic. A month passes and he receives news that Polyakov, a friend, a "very reasonable man," he knew as a student in medical school is ill and needs his help.

Bromgard plans to travel by train to his friend but before his scheduled departure Polyakov is brought to the clinic on the verge of death, resulting from a self-inflicted bullet wound. But before Polyakov dies, he hands Dr. Bromgard a diary recording his addiction to morphine. And the heart and soul of this Bulgakov tale is the contents of the diary.

Such a simple story. But please don't be fooled - through Bulgakov's literary magic we are given a gem. The author crafts with a kind of subtle perfection the step-by-step decent of an intelligent young man with a promising future in the grip of morphine addiction.

And it all starts so innocently: On the night of February 15th an otherwise perfectly healthy twenty-three year old Dr. Poyakov experiences intense stomach pain. He sends for Anna Kirillovna, a kind and intellegent nurse, and she gives him a morphine injection.

The next day, Dr. Polyakov makes a decision that will prove to be a drastic mistake, turning him into an addict. We read, "Fearing a recurrence of yesterday's attack, I injected myself in the thigh with one centigramme"

Such a penetrating observation on human psychology: the young doctor does not experience intense pain; rather, he gives himself a morphine injection because he fears intense pain. Oh my goodness: according to the wisdom of ancient Greek philosophers, a prime emotion we must overcome is our fear, most especially fear of pain and fear of death. And ff we act based solely on our fear, the consequences can quite possibly be dreadful in the extreme

A mere two weeks later, the young doctor's identity has completely transformed; he and his morphine are one. Here are his words from the diary: "I would say that a man can only work normally after an injection of morphine."

Then, we read the following March 10 entry: "Never before have I had such dreams at dawn. They are double dreams. The main one, I would say, is made of glass. It is transparent. This is what happened: I see a lighted lamp, fearfully bright, from which blazes a stream of many-colored light. Amneris, swaying like a green feather, is singing. An unearthly orchestra is playing with a full, rich sound - although I cannot really convey this in words. In short, in a normal dream music is soundless . . . but in my dream the music sounds, quite heavenly. And best of all I can make the music louder or softer at will."

Ecstasy! Ecstasy! Ecstasy! Our young doctor is completely hooked, psychologically every bit as much as physically. Incidentally, Amneris is an opera singer, the doctor's former mistress who left him weeks prior to his first morphine injection.

But such ethereal, blissful dreams have a price, a big price. On April 9th he writes, "The devil is in this phial. . . . This is the effect: on injecting one syringe of a 2% solution, you feel almost immediately a state of calm, which quickly grows into a delightful euphoria. This lasts for only a minute or two, then it vanishes without a trace as though it has never been. Then comes pain, horror, darkness."

And then a month later we read: "What overtakes the addict deprived of morphine for a mere hour or two is not a "depressed condition": it is slow death."

Ten more months of morphine addiction, alternating between injections and the slow death between injections, Dr. Polyakov takes his own life at tender age of twenty-four. Such a tragedy.

From what I've read on the net, this is a much read and consulted cautionary tale for those involved in the medical industry. And recognizing the many forms of drug addiction in our brave new twenty-first century world, Bulgakov's Morphine is a cautionary tale for each and every one of us.

( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
I was at the bookstore on a quest for a classic science fiction anthology I had seen once before. Thwarted (temporarily, sf anthologies turned out to be in a slightly stupid place), I drifted about, scanning for Melville House books, like I do. This was similar enough to the novella series design to stop me, and when I saw it was Bulgakov, I was in.

I did not realize that this was one of the stories from A Country Doctor's Notebook until after I read it. Meh. That just means I can give this copy away once I get a copy of Notebook. (But will I? This copy is so small and lovely!)

I really loved the opening -- Dr. Bromgard's relief at moving to a small city with a hospital with departments in which he is merely one cogged wheel after being a country doctor -- on call 24/7 -- the only thing between any resident of his district and death. Or so he felt. This is nicely contrasted with Dr. Polyakov's notebook, another doctor in a country post. Isolated, recently heartbroken, certainly depressed. One night he suffers severe and unexplained pain, and is given a shot of morphine. The rest of the diary is a descent into addiction and depravity. Sometimes desperate, sometimes lucid except for his insistence in those moments that everything is fine... At times directly indicting the way we treat people with mental illness and addiction, always indicting, if indirectly, and society in which people are expected to bear all their burdens on their own shoulders.

Many words for such a short book, but Bulgakov is a master. ( )
  greeniezona | Dec 6, 2017 |

First published in 1925, Morphine is a mini-novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, one of the giants of 20th century Russian literature. The storyline is simple: Bromgard, a young doctor moves from the backwoods to a small country town to practice medicine in a clinic. A month passes and he receives news that Polyakov, a friend, a `very reasonable man', he knew as a student in medical school is ill and needs his help. Bromgard plans to travel by train to his friend but before his scheduled departure Polyakov is brought to the clinic on the verge of death, resulting from a self-inflicted bullet wound. But before Polyakov dies, he hands Dr. Bromgard a diary recording his addiction to morphine. And the heart of this Bulgakov tale is the contents of the diary.

Such a simple story. But please don't be fooled - through Bulgakov's literary magic we are given a gem. The author crafts with a kind of subtle perfection the step-by-step decent of an intelligent young man with a promising future in the grip of morphine addiction. And it all starts so innocently: On the night of February 15 an otherwise perfectly healthy 23 year old Dr. Poyakov experiences intense stomach pain. He sends for Anna Kirillovna, a kind and intellegent nurse, and she gives him a morphine injection.

The next day, Dr. Polyakov makes a decision that will prove to be a drastic mistake, turning him into an addict. We read, "Fearing a recurrence of yesterday's attack, I injected myself in the thigh with one centigramme" Such a penetrating observation on human psychology: the young doctor does not experience intense pain, but he gives himself a morphine injection because he fears intense pain. Oh my goodness: according to the wisdom of ancient Greek philosophers, a prime emotion we must overcome is our fear, fear of pain and fear of death. If we act from our fear, the consequences can be dreadful.

A mere two weeks later, the young doctor's identity has completely transformed; he and his morphine are one. Here are his words from the diary: "I would say that a man can only work normally after an injection of morphine." Then, we read the following March 10 entry: "Never before have I had such dreams at dawn. They are double dreams. The main one, I would say, is made of glass. It is transparent. This is what happened: I see a lighted lamp, fearfully bright, from which blazes a stream of many-colored light. Amneris, swaying like a green feather, is singing. An unearthly orchestra is playing with a full, rich sound - although I cannot really convey this in words. In short, in a normal dream music is soundless . . . but in my dream the music sounds, quite heavenly. And best of all I can make the music louder or softer at will." Oh, such ecstasy! Our young doctor is completely hooked, psychologically every bit as much as physically. Incidentally, Amneris is an opera singer, the doctor's former mistress who left him weeks prior to his first morphine injection.

But such ethereal, blissful dreams have a price, a big price. On April 9th he writes, "The devil is in this phial. . . . This is the effect: on injecting one syringe of a 2% solution, you feel almost immediately a state of calm, which quickly grows into a delightful euphoria. This lasts for only a minute or two, then it vanishes without a trace as though it has never been. Then comes pain, horror, darkness." And then a month later we read: "What overtakes the addict deprived of morphine for a mere hour or two is not a `depressed condition': it is slow death." Ten more months of morphine addiction, alternating between injections and the slow death between injections, Dr. Polyakov takes his own life at age 24.

From what I've read on the net, this is a much read and consulted cautionary tale for those involved in the medical industry. And recognizing the many forms of drug addiction in our brave new 21st century world, Bulgakov's Morphine is a cautionary tale for each and every one of us. Available on-line: https://www.google.com/#q=morphine bulgakov pdf ( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mikhail Afanasevich Bulgakovprimary authorall editionscalculated
Creus, JaumeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gourg, MarianneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sichel, SilviaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Clever people have been pointing out for a long time that happiness is like good health: when it's there, you don't notice it. But when the years have passed, how do you remember happiness, oh, how do you remember it!
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Young Dr. Bromgard has come to a small country town to assume a new practice. No sooner has he arrived than he receives word that a colleague, Dr. Polyakov, has fallen gravely ill. Before Bromgard can go to his friend's aid, Polyakov is brought to his practice in the middle of the night with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and, barely conscious, gives Bromgard his journal before dying. What Bromgard uncovers in the entries is Polyakov's uncontrollable and merciless descent into morphine addiction -- his first injection to ease his back pain, the thrill of the drug as it overtakes him, the looming signs of addiction, and the feverish final entries before his death.

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