The stories collected here represent a sampling of the prose that first established Bulgakov as a major figure in the literary renaissance of Moscow in the 1920s, long before he became known as an influential playwright and novelist.
The centerpiece of this collection is the long story "Notes on the Cuff," a comically autobiographical account of how the tenacious young writer managed to begin his literary career despite famine, typhus, civil war, the wrong political affiliation, and the Byzantine Moscow bureaucracy. This stylistically brilliant work was only partially published during Bulgakov's lifetime due to censorship, but was immediately recognized by the literati as an important work.
The other stories collected here range from a sequence about the Civil War to Bulgakov's early reportage on the rebuilding of Moscow in the early 1920s, stories which now have a strikingly contemporary ring. Bulgakov describes the swindlers who arrived along with NEP, a program for the limited return to a market economy, as well as the vast reconstruction as the city is brought back from the destruction of civil war.
Bulgakov, who burst on the world literary scene in the 1960s with the publication of his long-suppressed The Master and Margarita, has continued to enjoy tremendous success both in and out of Russia where productions of his plays and adaptations of his prose works have found new audiences.