“A Country Doctor” was initially published in its original German in Franz Kafka’s collection of stories Ein Landartz: Kleine Erzählungen in 1919. An English translation first appeared in the 1945 in the volume The Country Doctor: A Collection of Fourteen Stories.
At the outset, the narrative seems to be every bit as conventional and mundane as its title might imply: a doctor in a rural area must make his way through a blizzard to attend to a child nearing death. As this simple story unfolds, however, certain details begin to add up that endow it with a bit of melancholy and mystery. For instance, horses seem to appear from nowhere. The child to which the doctor is called to treat suffers from a bizarre wound made all the stranger by the infestation of worms. Then there is the truly absurd episode in which the country folk set upon the doctor and strip him of his clothing. The doctor, naked, winds up freezing to death because those mysterious horses which seemed to be speedy steeds before have transformed into sluggish brutes just when he feels the need for speed most urgently.
The absurdity of those elements that make “A Country Doctor” very much a prototypical Kafkaesque experience was utilized in a scientific study that concluded that humans are born with an inherent propensity to attempt an imposition of order upon even those narratives that most stubbornly defy a logical meaning.