Call Number
Material Type
Big Flats Library 1 FICTION Adult Fiction Book
Corning - Southeast Steuben County Library 1 FIC ULI Adult NonFiction Book

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The Big Green Tent is the kind of book the term "Russian novel" was invented for. A sweeping saga, it tells the story of three school friends who meet in Moscow in the 1950s and go on to embody the heroism, folly, compromise, and hope of the Soviet dissident experience. These three boys-an orphaned poet; a gifted, fragile pianist; and a budding photographer with a talent for collecting secrets-struggle to reach adulthood in a society where their heroes have been censored and exiled. Rich with love stories, intrigue, and a cast of dissenters and spies, The Big Green Tent offers a panoramic survey of life after Stalin and a dramatic investigation into the prospects for integrity in a society defined by the KGB. Each of the central characters seeks to transcend an oppressive regime through art, a love of Russian literature, and activism. And each of them ends up face-to-face with a secret police that is highly skilled at fomenting paranoia, division, and self-betrayal. An artist is chased into the woods, where he remains in hiding for four years; a researcher is forced to deem a patient insane, damning him to torture in a psychiatric ward; a man and his wife each become collaborators, without the other knowing. Ludmila Ulitskaya's big yet intimate novel belongs to the tradition of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Pasternak: a work of politics, love, and belief that is a revelation of life in dark times.

Author Notes

Ludmila Ulitskaya was born in Russia and trained as a geneticist, she turned to writing after she had been stripped of her scientific credentials in the 1970's for translating a banned novel - Leon Uris's Exodus - into Russian. She lives in Moscow.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* This sprawling novel offers a wide-angle view of life among intellectual urbanites in the Soviet Union, from the death of Stalin in 1953 to the 1970s and beyond. Three young men meet as Moscow schoolboys and, under the influence of a charismatic teacher, form a group called the LoRLS (Lovers of Russian Literature). Later, Ilya and his wife, Olga, become active in the samizdat movement. Mikhal has a passion for literature and a questionable status because he is a Jew. Fragile Sanya immerses himself in music. Also populating the novel are scientists, artists, educators, retired generals, apparatchiks, dissenters, KGB agents, and KGB informants, many of them grappling with how difficult it was to combine decency and flexibility toward the whims of the authorities. The book is as much a collection of stories, several of which can stand on their own, as it is a sustained narrative. Taken as a whole, it loops back on itself, using a bendable approach to chronology to reveal characters and flesh out events. The stark realities of life under a repressive regime are vividly portrayed, as are life's daily joys and satisfactions. Give this to readers who like Russian literature and big, realistic fiction.--Quinn, Mary Ellen Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

The latest from Ulitskaya (The Funeral Party) is a massive, swirling epic, stretching across half a century and chronicling the lives and adventures of three artistic childhood friends: Ilya, the photographer; Mikha, the poet and literature hound; and Sanya, the musician. The trio, considered outcasts by their peers, grow up in the Soviet Union in the 1950s and find common ground as members of the "Lovers of Russian Letters" group, founded by their teacher, Victor Yulievich, a WWII veteran. As they age, they drift in and out of each others' lives. Ilya turns radical and begins a secret bookbinding business, trafficking illegal texts into the U.S.S.R. Mikha, hoping to do good, finds himself in trouble with the law after he attempts to help exiled writers. And Sanya, after an injury to his hand, loses his drive to play piano. Ulitskaya weaves narratives both brief and prolonged into these stories, introducing, among others, Olga, Ilya's second wife, and her two lifelong chums, Tamara-brilliant, destined for medical work-and Galya, who ends up wed to a man investigating Ilya's unlawful activities. The author crafts an enthralling world, encapsulating many characters' entire lives succinctly before slowly revealing biographical details in later chapters. The effect is mazelike, with the story jumping back and forth on various time lines. The prose is dense, but readers will come away wholly satisfied. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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