The Big Green Tent
by Ludmila Ulitskaya
Pub Date 10 Nov 2015
An absorbing novel of dissident life in the Soviet Union, by one of Russia's most popular writers
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 Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and Pasternak: a work of politics, love, and belief that is a revelation of life in dark times.