The Soviet Union collapsed 22 years ago and we now have the whole generation of writers in Russia thinking about the recent Russian history and trying to understand and portray the Soviet phenomenon in their stories.
Ludmila Ulitskaya is probably the brightest representative of this generation. Geneticist by her first degree, she came into the limelight of the literary world with a publication of her novella Sonechka in 1992. There followed her major works – Medea and Her Children, The Funeral Party and Kukotsky’s Case.
Ulitskaya immediately attracted broad readership with her warm, beautiful prose and a mocumentary style of writing, a chronicle of the Soviet life. In her books Ulitskaya explores relationships in the family and the society across generations.
Medea and her Children was the first Ulitskaya’s book I read, which reminded me Gabriel Márquez’s storytelling in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Set in the Crimea (a peninsula region in the South Ukraine), the story is focused on a childless widow Medea and her big family’s dramatic life.
Ulitskaya latest works are a biopic Daniel Stein, Interpreter, a story of Holocaust survivor, and The Green Tent, a novel about Russian dissidents. It would be great to see Kukotsky’s Case, Ulitskaya’s main novel that won 2002 Russian Booker Prize, translated into English soon. Long overdue!
Below, is PEN America last year’s Q&A with the writer: Ulitskaya is talking about her stories and the recent Russian history.
Ulitskaya openly expresses her political views, including her support for imprisoned Russian oligarch Khodorkovsky. When asked in one of the interviews if she feared to live in Russia, she replied,
“I am a Russian writer. This is my native country. This is the language I speak and write. So, there is nowhere for me to hide.”