The Big Green Tent
Author: Luidmila Ulitskaya(Translated from Russion by Polly Gannon)
Sloughing through a Cold War, The Big Green Tent combines a sweeping tale of three Russian friends from Moscow with a panorama of the politics, ethics, literature and Russian experience as the characters all wind their way through childhood, school and adulthood. The boys are Outliers of a sort; they are an orphan who is a poet, a talented pianist, and a photographer with passion. Ulitskaya covers them all with an historical fiction that remains realist and hopeful, as she wanders Cold War era Russia through her narrator and her characters. This is an artistic attempt that works, as well as a novel that comprehends its own stories and transmits them with wit and movement, poetry and fact. If you want an easy read, you can be superficial with this novel, or you can take the novel in all of its facets and three dimensions and engulf yourself in the engagement of characters of a certain time in history.
With that said, and I am usually not so verbose, this is just a good read, as it is written with lust and compassion, intelligence and humor.
Stalin has fallen and life is better for three Russian boys whose parents have suffered the old ways of which they are aware but not worried over. Ilya (photohgrapher) and Sanya (pianist) have been friends since the first grade. Mikha (poet) joined them to make a triage a little later. As they each take up their talents, they find a mentor in 6th grade at school who specializes in literature and make him their hero: Victor Yulievich Shengeli is the literature teacher who teaches the boys with love, and they return his love with vigor. The three learn all the important poets and writers not just Russian but of the times and Victor takes them under his wing like a father.
As the novel moves with a rush and a whir through the new Moscow, the 1950s as seen through the boys’ eyes, comes to life. The dissident Russia is lived through the characters, as well as through their families, in a collage of dissonant stories that comprise the political atmosphere of great fear as well as the evidence of Ilya, Sanya and Mikha as they stumble into adulthood and attempt individualism in a country that counters them at every turn.
Fascinating, enduring, and brilliant The Big Green Tent encompasses a time and society that does not just cover the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s in After Stalin Russia; it shows what we are up against today in our own countries. This is one of those novels that swims with the sharks and beaches with the dolphins for every emotional nuance of an entire peoples is caught up in Ulitskaya’s poignant stories and prose. This is a NOT TO MISS novel of our times.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A”
We received a product to facilitate our review. All opinions are our own
- You can pick up this book on Amazon.com here: The Big Green Tent: A Novelor at a bookseller near you.