Ulitzkaya, Lyudmila "Imago" or "The Big Green Tent" (Russian: Zelenyi shater/Зеленый шатер) - 2010
I love Russian literature. This is a new, modern author I discovered when I found the book. A brilliant book. The author describes life in the Soviet Union and begins with the death of Stalin and what it meant for the people and how their lives went on after that. I don't think it's a big spoiler if I tell you that it's not getting any better.
We learn about the lives of a group of friends, three boys who have a brilliant literature teacher and how he influences the rest of their lives, how they live or don't live with the inflictions put upon them by the regime of their country. The boys come from very different backgrounds but their lives in the Soviet Union all bring them the same kind of problems. And three girls, as well, their path crosses that of the boys later in life when they are older.
All of them love reading and there are many great books they mention in the novel (list follows at the end). I think most of them are really worth reading.
Whether you like big tomes (almost 600 pages) or short stories, this is a combination of both, although the short stories are linked to each other. A brilliant writer who explains life under the KGB to outsiders, us. A great storyline, carefully described characters, even any smaller character comes to life and brings in their own tragedy.
I am always on the lookout for new writers that I love and here I have found a real gem. A story you can't put down which will stay with you forever. A brilliant fiction book that explains history in a way no non-fiction book is able to.
I read the German translation "Das grüne Zelt" (The Green Tent)
From the back cover:
"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."
She also mentions so many other books - some of which I've read, others I have put on my wishlist - and authors that are certainly worth looking at:
Aksakow, Sergei Timofejewitsch " Childhood Years of Bagrov Grandson" (Детские годы Багрова-внука/Detskie gody Bagrowa-wnuka)
Arzhak, Nikolay (real name: Yuli Markovich Danie) "Report from Moscow" (Говорит Москва)
Dostoevsky, Fyodor "Crime and Punishment"
Kropotkin, Pyotr "Memoirs of a Revolutionist" (Записки революционера)
Nabokov, Vladimir (called Sirin in the novel) "Glory" (Podvig)
Pasternak, Boris "Doctor Zhivago"
Tolstoy, Leo "Anna Karenina"
Tolstoy, Leo "Childhood", "Boyhood", and "Youth" (Детство, Отрочество, Юность)
Tolstoy, Leo "War and Peace"
Yerofeyev, Venedikt "Moscow-Petushki" (or Moscow to the End of the Line, Moscow Stations, and Moscow Circles) (Москва - Петушки)
Zamyatin, Yevgeny "We" (Мы/роман)